As children all we have dreams. As infants we lack income, property, and choice and we are fragile and slow to grow compared to the rest of the natural world. As soon as we achieve enough independence to think and wander on our own, society dictates we get an education, attend church or temple, or at least recognize a higher power. Unable to chart our own course, dreams are all that remain.
When I was a child, daydreaming was a sin. A protestant farming community expects the children to contribute. I suppose it is better than the alternative, running and hiding from predators. Never mind that the daydreamers created the civilization and society that now shunned them.
I was a rebel. I daydreamed at every opportunity. A simple garden stake became a great overland vehicle that brought technology and hope to a post-apocalyptic world. A broken frisbee became an orbital platform where the wise retreated from a barbaric horde. A left-over sheet of parchment paper became a map to a world where men transformed themselves into dragons and forbid you to love.
I had many seeds to my daydreams. Stephen R. Donaldson was one who fed my imagination with his anti-hero Thomas Covenant. Like Covenant, I did not belong to the small puritanical community where I lived. When I didn’t—or couldn’t—participate in the activities the community considered important, they called me a faggot, threatened, and beat me. I had a refrain that saved me; Be true.
When Thomas Covenant first entered the Land, he met it with doubt and unbelief. His refusal to recognize the Land as real was crucial to his survival in the world where leprosy and hate were the manifestations that mattered. The Land healed him. People in the Land loved him, despite his best efforts to deny them. In the Land he was a person, recognized for his contribution, no matter how anemic. The Land and its people forgave him. The Land was everything our world was not, and Thomas Covenant couldn’t stand it. He needed the puritanical hate of the world to fuel his survival.
When Linden Avery was summoned to the Land, she did not find a world of health, but one of rape and death. The Sunbane assaulted her heightened senses, tortured her wounded soul, and left her with a desire to kill whatever caused it. Where Thomas Covenant had once found a forbidden place of refuge, Linden Avery found a hell that welcomed the evil of our world.
For most of the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Donaldson forced us into this pit with Linden Avery. A pit where regret and pain over Linden’s past bound every action. Power was here, ready for the taking, but taking it meant confessing to the sins of the world where you watched your father die and helped your mother do the same. In White Gold Wielder we leave this pit of despair and return to the half-handed leper that started the story. We join Thomas after the failure to forge a new Staff of Law at the One Tree. His situation is a familiar mix of that old self-loathing and hope.
The mother of the woman he had raped and driven mad had said with severe compassion. In punishing yourself, you come to merit punishment. This is Despite.White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson
The One Tree is lost, Vain is crippled, and the crew of Starfare’s Gem has no choice but to return to the Land and confront the Raver in Revelstone without a new weapon. If they cannot defeat the Raver and quench the fire that feeds the Sunbane, then all the world will fall to Lord Foul’s corruption.
A corruption that is spreading. Once hidden creatures haunt the crew of the dromond and drive them into the icy north where once solitary ice beasts now hunt them like a pack of ravenous dogs. Here they meet the last vestiges of the old Land; the Waynhim continue to fight for the Land even if it means extinction.
Without Pitchwife, The First, Honniscrave, and Seadreamer Covenant and Avery would be helpless against the perils of the icy sea and the Sunbane ravaged Land. The sight of Revelstone gives hope to the Giants who—like Linden—have never known a healthy Land. The giants see Revelstone as proof that Thomas Covenant will end this evil.
What could Giants do to aid a Land in which nature itself had become the source of horror? But the sight of Revelstone restored them to themselves. They would never give up their determination to fight.White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson
The Raver defeated; Covenant uses the fire of the Sunbane as a caamora to the venom that poisons his wild-magic.
That is the grace which has been given to you. A small clear space like hope opened in his heart as he followed his dreams into the Banefire. To bear what must be borne. After a time, the blackness in him burned white.White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson
The Sunbane has so corrupted the law of the Land that it has become a law unto itself. So after a brief rest at Revelstone, the final journey to Mount Thunder and Lord Foul begins. Along the way the last protectors of the old Land commit new sacrifices. Even Caer-Caveral and the beauty of Andelain must die for Covenant to succeed.
Like a child who outgrows his community and ventures into the world, The White Gold Wielder’s final lesson is acceptance. By accepting the Land, wild-magic, and Lord Foul, Covenant transcends corruption and despite. He welcomes his death, and in death he is beyond Foul’s reach.
Acceptance transforms Covenant into the prison that keeps Lord Foul from our world. The unbeliever became the believer who—while determined to fight for the Land—was poisoned by venom and hate. Cleansed of that, Covenant knew that he could not act without giving Lord Foul the one thing he wanted more than anything else: freedom. Accepting the Land, accepting Lord Foul, accepting that he is the wild-magic, Thomas Covenant hands his white-gold wedding band to Lord Foul and surrenders.
Covenant dead, Lord Foul banished, we return to Linden Avery. In the beginning, the old beggar promised Linden that she would heal the Land. At the end, Vain’s purpose and Findail’s fate are in her hands. She joins Vain’s law and Findails chaos into a more powerful Staff of Law, ridding the Land of the Sunbane. Her task complete, she returns to this world and with a final act of acceptance the story ends with a promise.
With her right hand, Linden Avery kept a sure hold on her wedding ring.White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson