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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2067

Duny is the last of seven sons of the bronzesmith of the village of Ten Alders, on the island of Gont. His mother dies before he is one year old, and his much older brothers have already left the village. Neglected by his father, Duny runs wild, but his life...

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Duny is the last of seven sons of the bronzesmith of the village of Ten Alders, on the island of Gont. His mother dies before he is one year old, and his much older brothers have already left the village. Neglected by his father, Duny runs wild, but his life changes when he hears his aunt use a mysterious word to call a goat off a roof. When Duny uses the word, all the goats in the village follow him and refuse to go away until his aunt gets rid of them. She is the village witch, and she realizes that Duny has an affinity for magic. She explains to him that the mysterious word he used was the true name for goats; everything and everyone in Earthsea has a true, hidden name, and an everyday “use name,” and magic is the art of finding and using true names to exert power over things and people.

Duny’s aunt teaches him everything that she knows and encourages him to believe that his skills will bring him wealth and power. She does not tell Duny that his skills are far beyond her own. When the island is invaded by Kargish soldiers, Duny uses his power to protect Ten Alders by cloaking it in fog. In doing so, he overstretches himself, falling ill as a result. He is healed by Ogion the Silent, the mage (wizard) of the town of Re Albi, who recognizes Duny’s potential and offers to teach him. Later in the year, Ogion gives Duny his true name, Ged (Ged will be known to most people by his adult “use name,” Sparrowhawk). Ged returns with Ogion to Re Albi.

Ged is initially disappointed in Ogion’s teachings. While his aunt taught him spells and charms and promised him greatness, Ogion performs no unnecessary magic and teaches Ged very little of immediate, obvious value. Instead, the wizard attempts to teach Ged to see the world as a set of interrelated parts and to show him that magic has consequences of which every mage must be aware. Names represent power, and spells should not be used lightly. However, Ged is impatient to achieve great things. As a result, he is tempted by the daughter of the lord of Re Albi into finding a spell to summon the spirits of the dead. When Ged secretly consults Ogion’s books of spells, he finds the right spell, but even while simply reading it, he seems to have summoned a mysterious black shadow. The shadow is dispelled by Ogion’s arrival home, but Ogion realizes that Ged is hungry for overt training in spellcasting and sends him to the School for Wizards on Roke.

At Roke, Ged begins his formal education in the “art magic.” Again he learns quickly, his abilities are recognized, and he makes swift progress. He has few friends, however, and his pride makes him quick to see an insult when none is intended. Most of the other students avoid him, but he does not mind. However, what starts as a light-hearted magical duel one night turns to tragedy when Ged believes that he has been mocked by Jasper, another of the students. Ged agrees to summon a dead spirit and uses the spell he first read in Ogion’s book. Although he briefly summons the spirit of Elfarran, a beautiful heroine of legend, Ged also releases the black shadow into the world, and it attacks him, severely injuring him physically and mentally. The Archmage Nemmerle repairs the resulting hole in the fabric of the world, but he dies as a result. Ged is ill for many months, and when he recovers sufficiently to resume his studies he has changed greatly, desiring only peace and solitude to study and make amends for his actions.

When Ged finishes his training and becomes a wizard, he is sent to Low Torning, a place under threat from the dragons of Pendor. He lives peacefully in the village until, while trying to save a dying child, he confronts the shadow once again. From then on, it haunts his dreams, and he knows that he must find it. First, he goes to Pendor to remove the threat to the village in his charge. He is able to negotiate a peace with Yevaud, the Dragon of Pendor, because he has learned its true name. Although Yevaud offers to tell him the name of the shadow, he puts the good of the villagers ahead of his own and instead makes the dragon promise that it and its offspring will not bother the people of the Archipelago ever again.

Ged then begins a journey across the Archipelago, trying to discover the nature of the shadow that haunts him. He is led to the Court of the Terrenon on Osskil, where he meets Serret, who is married to the lord of the Terrenon. The Terrenon is a stone that contains an ancient and evil spirit, and Ged fears for the woman’s safety, until, belatedly, he recognizes her as the daughter of the lord of Re Albi, who plans to use Ged and the Terrenon for her own ends. Ged escapes, returns to Ogion at Re Albi, and finally sets out to hunt the shadow. On the way, he is shipwrecked on an island where an old man and an old woman abandoned there since childhood live in extreme poverty,. They help him, and the old woman gives him part of a ring as a gift. Finally, traveling with his old friend, Vetch, Ged meets the shadow and subdues it by calling it by his own name, having realized that it is a part of himself and that he needs to embrace it to be healed.

The broken piece of the ring leads Ged to his second adventure in The Tombs of Atuan. It is, however, narrated not from his point of view but from that of Arha, the Eaten One. Arha is an adolescent girl who is being raised as the priestess of the Nameless Ones, destined to spend her life at the Place of the Tombs. She was chosen to be the priestess when very young, taken from her family, and brought up under the guardianship of Thar, high priestess of the Twin Ones, and Kossil, high priestess of the Godking. She is also tended by Manan, a eunuch. As Arha grows older, she is trained to become the priestess and becomes aware that there are things, such as the Labyrinth of the tombs, to which she alone has access. However, she is also aware that Kossil wishes to retain as much power as she can, believing that the Nameless Ones are no longer active and that only the living Godking now has any relevance. Arha is desperate to escape because she fears Kossil (who has already forced Arha to accept the Godking’s prisoners as sacrifices), but she can only find freedom when she ventures into the parts of the temple where Kossil cannot go, in particular the Undertomb and the Labyrinth.

One day, Arha finds a young man in the Labyrinth. He is revealed as Ged, who has come to Atuan to search for the other part of the ring he had been given. He has discovered that it is a piece of the lost Ring of Erreth-Akbe. The return to Havnor of the whole ring will bring about the restoration of the Lost Rune, signaling the fulfilment of a prophecy and bringing peace to Earthsea. Ged believes that the lost half lies in the treasury of the Place of Tombs, but Arha traps him in the Labyrinth and his powers wane because of the influence of the Nameless Ones.

Arha decides to help Ged, but she conceals her decision from Kossil by claiming that the wizard has been sacrificed. Kossil, however, is suspicious, and Arha is forced to move Ged deeper into the Labyrinth. Imprisoned in the Treasury, he locates the missing piece of the ring. Arha returns, knowing that Kossil is aware that Ged has not died and that they must now leave. Ged unifies the lost ring, and the two of them escape from the Labyrinth, but the Nameless Ones bring down the Tombs. Ged has given Arha back her right name, Tenar. She agrees to travel with him to Havnor to return the ring, but Ged also agrees that afterward he will take her to Ogion on Gont, because she wishes to live quietly and atone for what she sees as her sins.

In the final part of the Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore, Ged has become the archmage at Roke. He receives a visitor, Arren, Prince of Enlad, who has been sent by his father to report that magic seems to be disappearing from the world. Sorcerers are losing the ability to cast spells, and people are also forgetting that magic ever existed in the world. As Arren’s father describes it, words seem to have lost their meaning. The mages on Roke are already aware that this is happening, but Arren is disappointed that he cannot take an explanation or solution home to his father. He determines to stay on Roke and serve the archmage in whatever way possible, but his offer, while not rejected, is not accepted.

The nine masters of Roke and the archmage meet and determine that although the Ring of the Runes of the king has been returned to Havnor, it is now necessary to find the king himself to reestablish order in the world. Ged announces that he will make the journey to discover why magic is vanishing and that Arren will accompany him. The other mages are reluctant to let him go but finally accept the need. Ged and Arren begin a journey that takes them through the Archipelago, where they find much evidence of the loss of magic. On Wathort, they meet with a wizard, Hare, who claims that he has traded his power for another power, believing that he has in some way transcended death. With the help of a drug, hazia, he travels in his own mind to other places. Ged attempts to follow him, but, while in a trance, he is attacked and robbed, and Arren is kidnapped and sold to slave traders. Ged finds and releases him, and they continue their journey through the Archipelago.

Now traveling with a companion, Sopli, they are attacked by islanders on Obehol. Sopli is drowned, Ged is wounded, and the boat, Lookfar, drifts out of control. Ged and Arren drift in the boat, dying of thirst, until they are rescued by the Children of the Open Sea, who live on giant rafts in the seas beyond any islands. They nurse Ged back to health, and the two travel with them. Arren is haunted by the fact that he did nothing to help Ged and was afraid of dying, but Ged reassures him. He understands now that magic is vanishing from the world because people are trying to shut out the fear of death, whereas he recognizes that death is a part of life. Someone is teaching them that death can be ignored or overcome. Arren serves as his guide because he is young and afraid of death, whereas Ged himself no longer is.

The dragon, Orm Embar, comes to find Ged, because his people are threatened by a dragonlord. They travel to the island of Selidor, where they confront the mysterious dragonlord, revealed as a man called Cob, whom Ged has met before, when he discovered him using spells to bring back the dead. Cob promises people eternal life but holds power over them, and has styled himself as ruler of the land of the dead. He attacks Ged, but Orm Embar sacrifices his own life for Ged. Ged and Arren follow Cob further into the dead lands, where they discover the hole he has opened between the lands of the dead and the living. Ged uses all of his power to close this hole. Cob, deprived of a way to move between the two lands, joins the ranks of the dead people. Ged and Arren journey back to the land of the living and are rescued there by Kalessin, who takes them back to Roke. Arren is recognized as the new King of All the Isles. Ged, now powerless, retires from the world of “doing,” probably to Gont.

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