@BAYLOR It's been forty years since I read Donaldson's Thomas Covenant stories. I don't have a concise concept of Lord Foul's character nor manner. Though in posting, I just realized some symbolism... Thomas means twin in ancient Greek and covenant is a formal contract between God and man. I'd have to reread to get a better understanding...
Both of them seemed to work largely through others despite their apparent power. Sauron through his Nazgul and his orcs, as well as the armies he gathered round him from the south. Foul mainly through the ravers, cavewights and ur-viles etc.
Fouls biggest show of power has to be the sunbane, but even then it was actually powered by the banefire, which itself was powered by ordinary people's blood.
Sauron's main powershow seems to have been his eye and the ring itself which never really showed much power other than corrupting people.
But similarly the other powerful characters didn't seem to do that much actual power-wielding.
I always wondered what Gandalf or Saruman could really do other than persuade people to do good or evil stuff.
And Covenant's power was always pretty local and mostly insignificant in the end.
In both stories it was others who really showed any "Magic"; The elves, the Lords. I don't remember the names of leaders of the Woodhelven (?) and the stonedowners etc.
It's what made them interesting in both cases. It was the seemingly insignificant characters who kept the stories going.
Yes. Generally at the end of each trilogy. But that seems to be the way with the apparently powerful. Sauron, Gandalf, Foul and Covenant are all described as much more powerful than anyone else, but none of them really display much power.
Galadriel and Elena, for example show much more magical power than them. Also the Nazgul and the Ur-viles, Bombadil and even the forestals.
Maybe. It's true Sauron was not one of the Valar, who were greater beings akin to Olympian 'gods' but the Valar were not the creator of all things - that was Eru (also known as Iluvatar). Eru (God) created the Ainur before the world was made, and these included the Valar (the greatest of the Ainur) and the Maiar, which were somewhat 'lesser' gods. Sauron was a Maiar spirit, so he was actually a 'god' though less powerful than Melkor.Lord Foul was the brother to the creator which implies that he is in some ways a god... Sauron was not really god himself ,True great power but, he's was a servant of Melkor/Morgoth who was in fact a God of Middle Earth.
@BAYLOR looks like you found some people who have a perspective on the topic. I was 16 when I read this series. I just read all of Tolkien, Conan, Shannara, John Carter, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin, and Lloyd Alexander. I needed more and I found Stephen Donaldson. I also discovered the only other person who read fantasy literature, and who was completely into Donaldson… my girlfriends father. He wanted to discuss the Thomas Covenant series with me, but I felt so uncomfortable doing so. I mean the story opens with the rape of a 16-year-old girl. How do you discuss that with your girlfriends father?
Interesting discussion. I've read the first six Thomas Covenant novels 4 times throughout my life and I just recently finished The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I also read the Lord of the Rings for the first time about 4 years ago and enjoyed it far more than I expected.
Possible spoilers below if you haven't read the Thomas Covenant novels
Sauron vs. Lord Foul the Despiser
In terms of raw power and what they could do if nobody opposed them then I would say that Lord Foul would be far more terrible. In the books he is described as the inverted brother or doppleganger of the Creator. While the Creator busied himself with the creation of the universe, his children (the Elohim) and the world; Lord Foul was busy tinkering behind the scenes and warping and twisting the Creator's masterpiece. This amused Foul to no end. He marred creation in ways that made a mockery of the Creator and planted terrible banes inside the Earth such as the Illearth Stone.
The Creator was appalled when he discovered what had been done while he was distracted with creation and wrestled with the Despiser and cast him down to the Earth. In an instant he put the final piece of his creation in place, The Arch of Time. Time permanently imprisoned Lord Foul inside of his enemy's creation. Foul's only hope of escape to wage war on the Creator was to procure wild white gold magic to destroy the Arch of Time. He wants nothing more than to escape, destroy the Creator and leave the universe in a perpetual state of chaos and destruction.
My understanding is that Sauron was a lesser angel (or demi-god) to some extent. A Maiar which is less powerful than even a Valar. To me it resembles the relationship between God and Lucifer. Lucifer (Sauron) was created by God (Eru) and God could rid himself of Lucifer whenever he wants but stays his hand out of love and compassion. Even Morgoth himself didn't have the gift of creation. And Morgoth was intensely jealous of Eru because of this.
Where Sauron wanted strict order and frictionless obedience, Foul desired the destruction of all things and to unleash his neverending rage and nastiness. Sauron wanted to rule the entire world but also didn't possess the power to destroy it or even hope to challenge Eru directly. Lord Foul had the power to destroy all of creation and was more than willing to exercise that power if given the chance.
Sauron was willing to negotiate with lesser races and give them a certain degree of autonomy in exchange for loyalty. Lord Foul deceived and enslaved the lesser beings of his world. Foul was Corruption incarnate and he promised certain ones (such as Covenant and the Ravers) a share of the world if they agreed to help him but this was a deception. His ultimate goal was to destroy the entire world and he couldn't care less about any allegiances.
The battle between the Creator and Foul is a manifestation of the battle between the two most primal and powerful universal elements of all. Chaos vs. Order.
I don't mean to take anything away from Sauron. He is definitely an intensely evil villain and an extremely cool one at that. There's something especially disheartening about the prospect of Middle Earth existing under the rule and watchful Eye of Sauron for the rest of eternity where Lord Foul would just obliterate the world and be done with it.
Thanks @Boaz I did put a spoiler warning in there though. I would recommend continuing to read the Thomas Covenant books though. Lord Foul's Bane is the toughest to read of the original trilogy but the next two books make up for it.
I suppose I assumed that the Land was the only place where Earthpower was so strong, and so he wasn't really interested in anywhere else. That does make the world feel much smaller than it "really" is, but that works for the kind of story it is, I think. I was never convinced by the other lands it visited.Similarly Foul is interested in the Land, but at least the country of the giants and whatever the place where Nom came from was called seem largely untouched by his desires, and we get the impression that there are far more places, continents, etc which are not even mentioned.
There are moments of real power in the last books, of a type it's hard to find, so if you were immortal I'd say yes, perhaps. But given that we're not, and that you have to wade through so much repetitive pointless stuff to get to them, I'd say probably not.(Any advice as to whether it's worth it?)
that works for the kind of story it is
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