Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Lost' and Thomas Covenant, Part II

Enter a mysterious world of unspoiled richness and spiritual purity: The Land. Our hero is a physically ravaged and broken, yet enormously stubborn man of the everyday 'real' world. He finds himself, through circumstances he does not understand, transported to this magical and verdant place. A sickness that had previously defined his existence and isolated him from any modicum of happiness is, in this new land, completely healed. He is awed by the lore and wisdom of the land's inhabitants, yet that awe is dwarfed by discomfort, as the land's people are convinced that our hero is a prophesied savior upon whom the fate of the land depends, a notion he finds ridiculous. The land is troubled by a sort of 'dark lord' who thrives upon the defilement of the land's spirit. The corrupt servants of the dark lord were not always so, but succumbed to his will by means of arrogance and temptation. The dark lord's highest wish? To escape the land.

Now class, can anyone who has watched 'Lost' for these 5 13/18 seasons note a parallel between the above story and the narratives of 'Lost'? The foregoing was a brutal and brief summation of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever.

Covenant, in our world, is a leper. His disease has robbed him of any sense of touch, and thus pain, forcing him to constantly repeat a fixed regimen of 'VSE'--visual surveillance of extremities--to ensure he does not mortally injure his already corrupted body in the course of everyday life. He loses consciousness in our world and wakes up--healed of leprosy--in a place simply called 'the Land'. The land is peopled by a collection of races (giants, goblins, etc) familiar to readers of Tolkien-influenced literature. The humans of the land are a pre-scientific society whose lives are immersed in a sort of nature-religion absent any particular deity, and to a greater or lesser degree all wield an earth-derived magic. Repeated magic ritual constitutes daily life, and performing mundane daily tasks using machinery or overly complex tools instead of magic is seen as abomination.

The inherent magic of the Land seduces Covenant into (in someone else's words) believing it to be 'not just an island!' while simultaneously goading his skepticism and bitterness regarding the truth of such a sensual place. After all, he has survived his adult life only by rigorously denying and mistrusting feeling. Covenant oscillates between 'Jack-like' and 'Locke-like' poles of belief and unbelief.

Arrayed against the land, wishing only to desecrate its nature and people, is ghoulish Lord Foul, the Despiser. Covenant is not only healed by the Land, but hailed by its people as a prophesied savior, possessor of unique powers that will be the key to defeating Lord Foul. Foul's contention though, is that through manipulation and intimidation, he will force Covenant to use his Land-bestowed power to sicken rather than save. The psychological drama of the series draws from Covenant's attempts to escape the clutches of either a benevolent (assuming the role of the Land's savior) or fiendish (succumbing to Foul's manipulations)destiny and find a way to retain his autonomy without denying the land's reality for the benefit of Foul.

The prime enemy of both Covenant sequences, Foul is also the entity responsible for bringing Covenant to the Land. Though he is a demigod-like being, he cannot achieve his final goal--***escape*** from the bounds of the land--until he utterly corrupts (claims?) Covenant. Foul works by humiliating the prideful, turning hope to spite, and manipulating the naive into desecrating what they'd formerly thought holy. The portrayal of 'evil' in such emotionally familiar terms, rather than black capes and dark castles elevate the Covenant sequence above cosmetically similar fantasies content with only costume metaphysics.

There are other books more apt for complementing the time-travel, multiple dimension aspect of 'Lost', but the Covenant sequence is a fantastic read for those touched by the heroism, foolishness, tragedy,and redemption all embodied in John Locke, surely the most original creation of the 'Lost' writers, regardless of how (un)fulfilling the finale turns out to be.

Discussing the end of the Chronicles in an attempt to reason out the possible conclusion of 'Lost' just isn't possible without spoiling the 'Chronicles', something I just can't do.
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