In Stephen R. Donaldson's series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 2, The Illearth War, chapter 25 "The Seventh Ward," High Lord Elena

using the Power of Command gained by drinking from the EarthBlood summons Kevin son of Loric from the dead with the intent that he do battle with Lord Foul

But she soon learns of the mistake:

Kevin's spectre speaking to Elena (bolding added):

"Fool!" he cried in a paroxysm of anguish. "Damned betrayer! You have broken the Law of Death to summon me—you have unleashed measureless opportunities for evil upon the Earth—and the Despiser mastered me as easily as if I were a child! The Illearth Stone consumes me. Fight, fool! I am Commanded to destroy you!"

So the question here is whether Elena:

Was ingorant of the Law of Death, since the Lords of Revelstone only had knowledge gained from the first and second wards, the seventh ward being accessed only because of Thomas Covenant's wild magic interference in awakening the krill and bringing Amok (who was the seventh ward) sooner than their knowledge should have allowed it;


Was forgetful from her passion and evil intents against Lord Foul ("The ill was in Elena, in the High Lord herself. ... And he remembered the apocalypse hidden in her gaze. That was the ill.") such that her state of mind clouded her vision (Covenant warns her "'What happens to the Oath of Peace?' But his cry did not penetrate her exaltation.") and so she perhaps forgot the Law of Death and any possible consequences related to breaking that.

In short, did Elena have knowledge of the Law of Death or did she not prior to making her decision? Is there any in-series or author insight about the level of knowledge of the Law of Death at this time in the Land's history?

1 Answer 1


I do not think this is ever specifically addressed, in any of the eleven books. It is thematically clear that Elena ought to have known better than to summon up dead Kevin. However, it is not known whether she had any specific knowledge of how the Law of Death worked. Many of the deepest mysteries of The Land were not understood even by the old lords. (For example, Amok indicates that it is unknown why the blood of the Earth exists.)

Moreover, in the context of the original trilogy only (since the first three novels stand well on their own and have some philosophical and cosmological differences from the others), it's not clear that a question like this even has an in-universe answer. If The Land is just a dream, then anything Covenant does not know about literally does not exist.

  • Well, I was afraid there may not be a clear answer to this. So unless someone comes up with a more definitive answer, this one will have to do.
    – ScottS
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:12

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