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Spoilers below. I tried to mask them, but the whole question is spoilerish as it's all about the ending of the book.

Having started the Thomas Covenant series over 3 decades ago in junior high school, I finally finished The Last Dark today. Throughout the book,

the Worm of the World's End is awake and is making his swift way toward the destruction of the world.

This is a major source of gloom and near-despair for the main characters, as it's often stated that there's nothing anyone can do to

avert the end of the world and the destruction of all they hold dear. Linden in particular is wracked with guilt because she has caused the inevitable end of the world.

Then, at the climax of the book,

'as the earthquake that has been destroying the Earth reduces Kiril Threndor to rubble, Covenant, Linden, and Jeremiah "[step] into the wake of the World's End and [rise] like glory", fixing the Arch of Time.'

(quoting this plot summary, which quotes the book).

In the epilogue, however, it's revealed that

the world has been not been destroyed, though it's been made new. And the Elohim have returned the Worm to slumber.

Wait, what? So the

end of the world wasn't inevitable after all? The Elohim were able to return the Worm to slumber? Then why didn't they do so in the first place? Why were we told there was nothing anyone could do to stop the end of the world? Was the "Worm of the World's End" actually just the Worm of World's Remodeling? Was there a clue to all this somewhere that I missed?

Also, what's this that Wikipedia said about

fixing the Arch of Time -- it wasn't in the book. Did they really manage to do that, and if so, how did they (suddenly) get the ability to do so? How did the world get made new, and everyone alive survive, despite the earthquake that was in the process of destroying the world?

It seemed to me that the greatest and most insurmountable problem they were facing

just suddenly melted away without explanation. After all the other problems they fought through with great courage and sacrifice, this one was disappointing.

I hope I'm missing something here.

  • I read The Last Dark in a sort of despair/disgust after the pointlessness of the previous book (900 pages of Linden agonising over what to do), but I don't remember anything about the Elohim or the Arch of Time. I thought that Jeremiah built a door which magically fixed everything. – Daniel Roseman Aug 7 '18 at 8:52
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    After taking a final action against Foul (Since I can't spoiler in a comment, I'll say it that way), Covenant gained all his encyclopedic knowledge, and eliminated his opposition. That coupled with the power of two white-gold wielders plus Jeremy with his odd skills (and Raver knowledge) allowed them to follow as the worm went along destroying, with Covenant, Jeremy and Linden remaking what it destroyed until the Elohim managed to lull it to sleep again. It didn't destroy everything, but what it destroyed would have resulted in everything being destroyed, but they cleaned-up/fixed behind it. – K-H-W Aug 7 '18 at 14:55
  • @K-H-W: Why don't you make your comment an answer? – LarsH Aug 7 '18 at 15:00
  • Also can you cite a source for the part about them "follow[ing] as the worm went along destroying, with Covenant, Jeremy and Linden remaking"? I should probably read the whole epilogue again. – LarsH Aug 7 '18 at 16:17
  • @LarsH - Done. And the source is the quote from Covenant right before they start on their mission :) – K-H-W Aug 7 '18 at 19:49
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After defeating Foul, by

taking him into himself, accepting him as a part of himself, and thus defeating him

Covenant gained all of Foul's unmatched knowledge of the land and theurgy.

Linden, also, had learned an un-described but significant amount from seeing She Who Must Not be Named in her true state (without her the agony and bitterness), and Jeremiah, holding the Staff of Law, had learned a massive amount from the Raver that had possessed him. (He is able to simply evict him; something almost unheard of.)

So we have Covenant and Linden, both legitimate wielders of White Gold, and their adopted son, holder of the Staff of Law, and a MASSIVE amount of knowledge about how the world is, how it may be taken apart, and how it was built. And even the Krill, a tool meant to be used to channel Wild Magic.

They can't stop the worm by fighting it; it is too powerful to destroy without destruction of the Arch. But, repairing behind the Worm is another matter.

As Covenant says:

"This is our chance. We can't stop what's happening, but that doesn't mean we can't try to save the Earth. I know that sounds impossible, but maybe it isn't. We don't have to create an entire reality from scratch. We just have to put the pieces of this one back together." "If we follow the Worm - and if we pick up the pieces fast enough - and if we know where they belong-"

Perhaps the Arch and the world could be rebuilt from the fragments of their destruction.

"We have everything we need", he assured Jeremiah. "Two white gold wielders. The Staff of Law. Linden's health-sense. Your talent. Hell, we still have the krill. And I think-" His face twisted with pain and chagrin and hope. "I'm not sure, but I think I know everything Lord Foul knows."

The Worm continued to destroy while they undid its destruction (as much as they could) behind it. That couldn't un-kill the many who died, but the land was restored and much (if not most, since the Worm seemed to be destroying the world at a deeper level than killing off the people, consuming the very powers that sustained the world and the Arch of Time) of the population survived. The Elohim helped with putting the Worm back to sleep.

"Indeed, Timewarden," she said like the chiming of faraway bells. "We who were preserved from the Worm have given our aid, though our diminishment has been grievous. Chiefly we have concerned ourselves with guiding the Worm's return to its proper slumber. Doing so, we have assisted in the restoration of the One Tree to it's full leaf and bloom. Yet these were lesser tasks gladly undertaken. The greatest deeds were yours, Timewarden, and yours, Wildwielder, and also yours, Chosen-son. Your achievements transcend us."

"You have made the world new."

The details aren't really given; I think we can assume that's intentional, but the basic idea is they, no longer fought against by Foul, and with the new knowledge they gained, had enough power and ability to keep pace with the Worm, restoring what it destroyed, while the Elohim put it back to sleep.

Things had already past the point where the world (and the arch) was collapsing; it was no instant process, but it still took time; still, the Elohim wouldn't have had a world to exist in (much less put the Worm to sleep in) had Covenant and family not been undoing it's harm as quickly as it could cause it, as well as shoring up and then fixing the destruction to the fundamental structures of the world (Earthpower, the Arch of Time itself, etc.) Again, no details are given, but they had the knowledge of how it was made, an almost unlimited amount of power to work with, and tools to help them; they managed.

  • Now, if you want to get REALLY meta.. you can look at the entire Land, and its existence, as a metaphor for a Writer attempting world building and story creation, perhaps in a series.. The Worm then becomes an unavoidable idea that derails the base concept, Foul becomes the writer's own self-doubt and self-hatred (for all fictional writers ARE the villains in their own stories, as they are behind all the suffering that their characters go through).. AND consider that the main character is a writer himself... But all that is for another question :) – K-H-W Aug 7 '18 at 20:24
  • Well I think you're pretty much right that this is what the book gives us. When I read the end of the book, I had skipped over some of what you quoted as too implausible to accept "we might well be able to do this" as "this is what happened," without further explanation of how it happened. But I can't hold you responsible for whether the ending makes sense. :-) For example, the entire throneroom of Kiril Threndor "became rubble" just as they started their repair mission. This is 2/3 of the Land away from the Worm. (cont'd) – LarsH Aug 8 '18 at 15:31
  • If everything in the same radius was damaged about the same amount, almost everyone in the upper land (and in Mt Thunder) would be dead before they even got started. ... Oh well. The end of the 2nd trilogy was about equally deus-ex-machina. – LarsH Aug 8 '18 at 15:37
  • @LarsH - Well.. that's exactly what my comment was about.. if you take the whole of the Land as an ANALOGY, a lot of it makes more sense. That said, going to the 'inside view' again, the Worm, arguably, was attacking more than the physical world; it was attacking on a Metaphysical sense, too. Consuming the Earthblood, for example could be argued to be having a similar effect on The Land that draining a human's blood would on their body. Again, I think a lot is intentionally left to the reader to interpret, but that seems pretty logical to me :) – K-H-W Aug 8 '18 at 18:23

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