“Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.”
From the Creation of Éa
I read the first Tales of Earthsea book a few years ago and soon became obsessed. Desperate to stay in that world, I hungrily read everything I could related to the Earthsea universe.
I first came across the books after seeing the Ghibli film (which isn’t much like the books but still brilliant in its own way) I had also recently read Eragon and had read somewhere that it was inspired by Le Guin’s novels.
Once I had entered the complex, beautifully drawn world of Earthsea, there was no going back. Like Ged, once he was through the sacred doors of the school of wizardry, my world would never be the same.
The intricacies and the many colours of this world are revealed slowly, like a mural being painted as you walk by. I love that about good fantasy fiction, that anything is possible, dragons, magic rings, shadow monsters, could just be around the bend.
Ged himself is a complicated and fascinating character; we journey with him as a youngster until he is an old man. During the story, and as real people do, he changes subtly in many different ways. From the bright eyed arrogance of youth to the gruff but powerful old man. His life is so deftly written you feel he is an old friend.
One of the things that has haunted me since reading these books was the terrible wasteland which Ged and Arren venture into. They must close a breach between the Dry Lands and Earthsea as it leeches magic and joy from the world. Just thinking about this barren land now fills me with inert despair. Such a slow, bone-wracking sad vision of hell that will stay with me forever.
Each story is full of adventure and mystery; fierce dragons, arrogant wizards and brave princes but they are also so much more. The tenderness between the characters is what stays with you. You find yourself immersed in Earthsea and its characters; travelling with Ged throughout his life and the true, beautiful relationships he forges. It is a world that breaks your heart to leave.
“Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
And what an incredible story-teller Ursula Le Guin was and because of her, my soul is forever stronger, brighter and deeper.