Earthsea Analysis

The Plot (Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Earthsea begins on the island of Gont, a land famous for wizards. There, a young goatherd named Ged, called Duny as a boy and called Sparrowhawk familiarly, overhears his aunt using a common, rustic spell on the animals. Ged duplicates the words, but without any understanding of them. The spell works, and the goats come running around Ged. He is terrified, because he has no knowledge of how to undo the spell.

The event is revealing. Ged has powers, but as a teenage boy he is naïve about those powers. He has no knowledge and thus no mastery, and power without knowledge is a dangerous thing. At first, Ged is in love with power itself. The island Mage, Ogion, recognizes the power within Ged and attempts to nurture it with understanding.

Restless in his training, Ged eventually is sent to the island of Roke, the spiritual locus for all Earthsea and training ground for mastery of magical power. Ged learns it all too well. In his competition with an older student, Jasper, Ged succumbs to the use of his arts for mere personal power. In an effort to summon the spirit of a dead woman, he unleashes a shadowlike creature into the world of Earthsea. The creature comes to represent the dark uses of magical power as a shadow self of Ged himself, lured to personal glorification. A Wizard of Earthsea concludes with Geds defeat of the shadow. The defeat is only a temporary abeyance of its threat, however, for Ged has neither fully understood...

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Earthsea Bibliography (Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Bittner, James W. Approaches to the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1984.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Ursula K. Le Guin. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Cadden, Michael. Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Davis, Laurence, and Peter G. Stillman. The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed.” Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2005.

Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth. Presenting Ursula K. Le Guin. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Rochelle, Warren. Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2001.

Spivack, Charlotte. Ursula K. Le Guin. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Web Site. www.ursulakleguin.com/UKL_info.html

Wayne, Kathryn Ross. Redefining Moral Education: Life, Le Guin, and Language. San Francisco: Austin & Winfield, 1996.

White, Donna R. Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1999.