Saturday, December 12, 2009

Looking at Tolkien v.s. Donaldson (liar, liar pants on fire)

“Ah, where to begin? Let me say first that I shudder every
time anybody compares / contrasts COVENANT with LORD OF THE RINGS.”
-Stephen R. Donaldson

Let the shuddering begin Mr. Donaldson, let it begin. Despite saying that the Thomas Covenant series is all his own creation there are a lot of similarities to J.R.R. Tolkien’s adventure of a hobbit and a ring in his Lord of the Ring trilogy.
Let’s start with the most obvious, the ring of course. Both books center on a character having a golden ring. Frodo is put in charge of destroying the ring where Covenant must learn to control the ring.

Both Covenant and Frodo seemed like unlikely heroes to me. Perhaps I was biased against Covenant but I was hard pressed to see a rapist as a hero. He was also uncaring about the Land and pretty self-centered for the majority of the first book. He was obviously supposed to be the hero though. To the people of the Land, Covenant was the second coming of Berek Halfhand and he had the ring of white gold. Frodo was perhaps not the obvious hero like Aragorn but I still count him as a hero. He bore and destroyed the ring despite being a small hobbit in a very big world with a very big evil. Frodo cares about Middle Earth more than Covenant could ever care about the people in the Land. With both Covenant and Frodo the other characters in the books supported them and made sure their missions were possible to be carried out.

The peoples in both books are very similar. The people of Mithil Stonedown could easily be compared to the dwarves of Middle Earth. Both work with stone. The people of Soaring Woodhelven could be compared to the elves. They are both very connected with nature especially trees. Their physical features are similar to elves as well, being fair and tall. The Ramen could be compared to the Rohan. Both are races of men connected to horses, although the Ramen’s connection to the Ranyhyn is deeper than the peoples of Middle Earth to their horses.

Covenant and Frodo are not leaders of great armies so there must be someone to lead the army of good against evil. Hile Troy and Aragorn can be seen as the battle leading heroes. These are the men that we think of when we picture those great leaders gathering their army to trudge off to battle against evil doers. Also the Troy and Aragorn always seem to be split from Covenant and Frodo. They lead the big battles while in another part of the world Covenant and Frodo are completing quieter missions.

Tolkien I felt was the better writer. Yes, parts of the trilogy are slow and sometimes there is almost too much description. I don’t mind that though because I would rather have that description that slows me down than the description of the Land we were given. I wanted to know more what the people of the Land looked like and how the Land looked. I was more connected with Tolkien’s characters because they reminded me of the noble character of Arthurian legends. Often I didn’t care about or for the characters in the Covenant series. I wasn’t pushing for Covenant to win. I would’ve been fine if Triock killed Covenant in the eighth chapter. Elena’s affection for Covenant, her father, was creepy quite honestly.

So Mr. Donaldson I have to disagree with you that LOTR did not have anything to do with Thomas Covenant. It obviously influenced your writing but I’m done comparing you for now so just calm down, the shudders will stop soon.

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