A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I read my first Ursula K. Le Guin book in October when I read The Other Wind for Witch Week 2018. I started this series by reading the final book first, and although the book can be read as a stand alone book, I knew that I wanted to start at the beginning because there was obviously a lot that I was missing out on.

So, for 2019, my goal is to read through this series. I just finished reading the first book, A Wizard Of Earthsea, and enjoyed it!

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Here we are introduced to a young Ged who is full of pride and arrogance. Add to the mix anger and jealousy and when he summons someone from the dead, a shadow comes along with it, scarring and almost killing Ged, who must then figure out how to confront and defeat this evil thing.

This story is about learning and growing for Ged: learning both who he is and more about the shadow. A thing is released, not a spirit, not a being, but a creature belonging to Ged and only he can defeat it. I must say that the way this was done totally surprised me. I did not expect the story to end the way it did.

It was clear pretty early on that there is power in knowing someone’s name– one’s name is to be protected. Our protagonist is known as Sparrowhawk and only reveals his true name to those he trusts. Knowing a person’s true name gives one power over them. A few observations related to the power of a persons true name:

  • Ged was allowed to enter the school doors because of his name
  • Friendship deepened when Vetch shared his true name
  • Ged had power over a dragon by knowing his name
  • The shadow had power over Ged because it knew his name

Is the power in sorcery related to knowing the name of something? It was interesting that the sea creatures in the deep, vast unknown part of the ocean didn’t know their name and so sorcery didn’t work very well on them. Is knowing the name of something or someone the way to understand them more fully? I think so– it speaks of identity. After all, Ged believed he could defeat the shadow if he knew it’s name– if he knew it’s identity and nature he could equip himself for the battle. Knowledge is power, but understanding is key.

This was a wonderful story not only of discovery but also of friendship and the way it strengthens and restores hope when all seems lost. I look forward to reading more about Ged’s adventures and finding out where life takes him next!

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9 thoughts on “A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. I think that the Earthsea sextet/hexalogy is a remarkable series that not only stands comparison with LOTR in its breadth of geography and psychology but, unlike many fantasy sequences, refuses to merely go over the same ground in succeeding instalments. Each volume has a different focus or goes in a different direction, which I think makes the series as a whole much stronger. I think you’d enjoy (or at least find fascinating) all of the books, Laurie, such a rich maelstrom of thought-provoking ideas.

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  2. The concept of a secret or true name is wonderfully beguiling, BJ, but I think that a large part of the fascination resides in the fact that not everyone is aware of that name and therefore is unable to access the magic. The parallel in our world is the lack of self-awareness that many people have, which makes them unable to understand or empathise with those who are more self-aware—the same way that non-magical Earthsea people fear or are wary of wizards and hedge witches.

    That’s not to say that all magic users are fully self-aware in Earthsea, despite knowing their secret names, and therein lies the conflicts.

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed this as a result of Witch Week! I’d be interested in what you think of the next book, which is not what most readers at first expect… 😊

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  3. Thanks, Laurie! It may not have worked out for the readalong but you may still decide to read this at a later point. So far, I’ve enjoyed the two books I’ve read. I don’t think I would have been interested in this series as a kid, so now is definitely the right time for me to discover Earthsea. πŸ™‚

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  4. The concept of true names and what they mean is very interesting and you bring up some interesting points that I had not even considered. I’m looking forward to reading on (you have piqued my curiosity now for the next book πŸ™‚ )and I’m so glad you and Lizzie introduced me to this series!

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  5. Thanks, Lory! I’m enjoying it so far. And, I understand that each book has a different focus and a new adventure so I’m looking forward to reading more about this world and being introduced to characters I met first in The Other Wind. πŸ™‚

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  6. I’m looking forward to reading your reviews of the other books in the series, BJ. Earthsea is a marvelous fantasy world, and Le Guin so remarkable in the way she uncovers new issues each time she takes us back to it. I envy you this new journey.

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  7. Thanks, Lizzie! I’m enjoying the journey so far! I’m pausing briefly to participate in the Wales Readathon, but I’m looking forward to reading on. I’m especially excited about being introduced to Tenar. I read The Other Wind, but I’m eager to learn more about her from the beginning. I recently found out that I will get my chance with the next book. Now I can’t wait to pick up the second book! πŸ™‚

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