Monday, May 14, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #14

Continuing my posts on the “beginnings” of vintage works of fantasy fiction, I’m featuring the opening passage from Stephen R. Donaldson’s 1977 novel Lord Foul’s Bane, the first in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series. Because the story begins in the modern day, this beginning may read differently than that of the other vintage fantasy novels I’ve featured. For those unfamiliar with the story, Thomas Covenant is a leper who is magically transported from our time to a classic fantasy world whose inhabitants believe he is the reincarnation of an ancient hero that long ago saved the land from its greatest enemy, Lord Foul the Despiser.

She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the center of the walk like a mechanical derelict. For an instant, her heart quailed. Then she jumped forward, gripped her son by the arm, snatched him out of harm’s way. 
The man went by without turning his head. As his back moved away from her, she hissed at it, “Go away! Get out of here! You ought to be ashamed!” 
Thomas Covenant’s stride went on, as unfaltering as clockwork that had been wound to the hilt for just this purpose. But to himself he responded, Ashamed? Ashamed? His face contorted in a wild grimace. Beware! Outcast unclean!
– Stephen R. Donaldson, Lord Foul’s Bane


Of all the vintage fantasy novels I’ve featured so far, I believe this one comes closest to capturing the elements of a great beginning. But that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think – how good is the beginning to Lord Foul’s Bane?

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