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A Wizard of Earthsea: Shaping Destiny in a World Made of Words

book review

Sailing alongside the sprawling epics of Tolkien and Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” gingerly extends itself into a unique realm, where wisdom and magic are varnished with a humble touch. It’s a coming-of-age story thriving with Le Guin’s masterful storytelling – a gentle blooming of Self amidst a world charted with words.


“A Wizard of Earthsea” pivots around a headstrong boy, Ged, who is soon identified as a robust fountain of untamed magic. He is whisked off to a school of wizardry where he falls prey to the throbbing perils of pride and rivalry. Ged, in his reckless pursuit of power, inadvertently releases a demon onto the world. The narrative evolves into a riveting chase, following Ged as he maturely navigates through fear, remorse and the daunting task of righting his past mishap.

Notable Quotes:

  • “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”
  • “It’s good to have an end to journey towards; but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.”

Here are more notable quotes from Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” that beautifully mirror the book’s insightful, pensive spirit:

  1. “You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do…”
  2. “It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.”
  3. “There is only one power that is real and that is the power of a man’s intelligence, his courage, his wits, and his heart.”
  4. “You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose… That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?”

These quotes underline the existential philosophy and the contemplation of power and responsibility that run in the very lifeblood of “A Wizard of Earthsea”. They provide a glimpse into the discerning depth and contemplative heights that Le Guin’s narrative effortlessly reaches.

My Review

Few authors can envelop profound life lessons within riveting fantasy as gracefully as Ursula K. Le Guin does in “A Wizard of Earthsea”. The narrative nuances blend vivid imagery, a touch of humility, and the incisive exploration of the inner realm of human consciousness. The heroine’s journey narrative is swapped with something more profound – Ged’s journey towards self-realization.

Le Guin uplifts the parable style to an elevated degree, laying out a world that’s as mesmerizing in scope as it is intimate in exploration. Earthsea, in the author’s dark, ink-infused prose, burgeons into an entity of its own – a universe thriving within the bounds of a poetic cadence and the softly muffled echoes of wisdom.



Author Bio

Ursula K. Le Guin, an icon in the world of fantasy and science fiction, is known for her grounded depictions of diverse societies, transcendent philosophies, and wonderfully humanistic characters. Her intriguing blend of anthropology and Taoist philosophy resulted in a realm that offers far more than dragons and magic.

FAQ or study/book club questions:

  • Explore the theme of balance in “A Wizard of Earthsea”.
  • Discuss the role of names and language in Earthsea.
  • How are fear and power interrelated in Ged’s narrative?
  • How does Earthsea redefine the fantasy genre?

Where to buy:

“A Wizard of Earthsea” can be found here on Amazon.

The Earthsea Series in order:

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968): Introduces us to Ged, a boy with innate magical talent. His reckless use of magic in a moment of adolescent pride releases a sinister shadow creature into the world. This book primarily follows Ged’s journey as he masters his powers and seeks ways to mend his past mistakes.
  2. The Tombs of Atuan (1970): The narrative shifts to follow a young High Priestess, Tenar, trapped in the desolate Tombs of Atuan. Events take a turn when Ged, in search of half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, ventures into these dark labyrinths, leading to an unlikely alliance.
  3. The Farthest Shore (1972): Magic seems to be draining from Earthsea, disrupting its natural balance. Ged, now an Archmage, embarks on a voyage with Prince Arren to trace the source of this imbalance, leading them to confront death itself.
  4. Tehanu (1990): A darker and more personal narrative grips this installment. We return to Tenar, now living a simple life as a farmer’s widow and mother. Rescuing a terribly burned girl and Ged’s unexpected return brings about compelling questions about gender, power, and transformation.
  5. Tales from Earthsea (2001): This anthology of fables, legends, and cultural history adds breadth to Earthsea’s universe. From the tale of the founding of Roke School of Wizardry to a humble village blacksmith capturing evil, each story paints a vivid streak on Earthsea’s canvas.
  6. The Other Wind (2001): Old barriers between life and death appear porous, and the dead yearn for freedom, unsettling the living. In this final epic confrontation, Ged, Tenar, and their allies must resolve this rift between the realms of the living and the dead, changing Earthsea forever.

As the series progresses, Le Guin’s deceptively simple narrative style expands, entwining readers in stories brimming with daring adventure, deep wisdom, and a profound understanding of humanity. This is a truly timeless series; with each book acting as a prism casting vivid, multi-hued depictions of the essence of human nature.

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