Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea
Publisher: Parnassus Press, 1968 Genre: Fantasy, Bildungsroman Format: Hardcover Buy Local My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Although this book is considered by many to be a book of fantasy, A Wizard of Earthsea could very well also be considered in the self-help genre through the main character’s overcoming of his self. In the fictional archipelago of Earthsea, Ged, or “sparrowhawk” as he is also known, originally is born on the island of Gont. After practicing his mage work for some time, he decides that it is time for him to enroll in the school of wizardry. While at school, Ged engages in an argument with another student over who is the better wizard, and Ged subsequently performs a difficult spell that goes awry and releases a shadow creature. The rest of the novel contains the constant hunter v.s. hunted nature of Ged and his shadow, from which Ged hopes he will eventually be liberated.
To me, there is no better novel than one that equally applies to both children and adults. There is no need for sophisticated language or superior wording because the message and/or story is so strong, pure, and plain awesome.
The first time that I ever even took a glance at the staff picks section of the Hayden library, I found this somewhat worn out and torn book with an interesting illustration on the front cover: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book is described as “a classic fantasy epic” that brings readers into an entirely new world. In my eyes, this book is the Harry Potter before Harry Potter. One enjoyable piece from Le Guin is her inclusion of a map of the new world, Earthsea, on the first page of the book. At times I found myself flipping back and forth between the page that I was reading and the map in the beginning, as though a treasure hunt was included. When speaking about Roke or a certain sailing direction past The Hands (2 islands in the novel), I searched through the map to get a feel for where this character, Ged, was travelling towards. It is as though the inclusion of the map brings readers back to a time period without Google search or the Internet. The name of an island was not able to be typed into a search bar and subsequently “magically” pop up in front of my eyes with almost no effort. No, the travelling character’s whereabouts and direction had to be searched for. Le Guin, with this process creation, made me feel as though this foreign land was real and had been lost in time.
Along with the fantasy epic’s awesome creativity, the illustrations by Ruth Robbins in the particular edition that I read are quite badass. At the beginning of each chapter, a picture is included that appears to be a mix of a stained glass window with fantasy myth.
The physical writing brings a reader to a new land; however, no land is complete without its own culture. Le Guin did a fantastic job of giving each island and its inhabitants their own faith & beliefs. Also, there are a few overlying beliefs for the entirety of Earthsea, such as the constant need for balance in the world. This relates to our modern world in that there are an infinite number of religions and beliefs out there; however, all have at least one underlying consistency: a belief in something greater than humanity.
At the beginning of this novel I was a bit lost due to the new interestingly different cultures of those in the book, but once past this short phase I became captivated by the language and artistry used within the novel. I highly recommend it to all who are searching for their next book to pickup… Especially recommend reading the paperback or hardcover version of this book found in the Hayden library so as to include illustrations, as Mrs. Le Guin originally desired.
Guest Post courtesy of Will Hillery