A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea

infobox Book |
name = A Wizard of Earthsea
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover)
author = Ursula K. Le Guin
illustrator = Ruth Robbins
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series = The Earthsea Cycle
genre = Fantasy novel
publisher = Parnassus Press
release_date = 1968
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 205
isbn = ISBN 0395276535
oclc = 1210
preceded_by =
followed_by = The Tombs of Atuan

"A Wizard of Earthsea", first published in 1968, is the first of a series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin and set in the fantasy world archipelago of Earthsea depicting the adventures of a budding young wizard named Ged. The tale of Ged's growth and development as he travels across Earthsea continues in "The Tombs of Atuan" and "The Farthest Shore" and is supplemented in "Tehanu" and "The Other Wind". The series has won numerous literary awards, including the 1990 Nebula for "Tehanu", the 1972 Newbery Silver Medal Award "The Tombs of Atuan", 1972 National Book Award for Children's Books "The Farthest Shore", and 1979 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for A Wizard of Earthsea.

An original mini-series based very loosely on "A Wizard of Earthsea" and "The Tombs of Atuan" was broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Le Guin has stated that she was not pleased with the result. [cite web |url=http://www.slate.com/id/2111107/ |title=A Whitewashed Earthsea - How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books. |last=Le Guin |first=Ursula |publisher=slate.com |date=December 16, 2004 |accessdate=2007-08-16]

Plot summary

Duny is a young boy on Gont, one of the larger islands which dot Earthsea. His mother is dead, his much older siblings have all left home, and his father is a dour, taciturn bronze-smith with nothing in common with his son, so the boy grows up wild and headstrong. Duny discovers by accident that he has an extraordinary talent for magic. His aunt, the village witch, teaches him the little she herself knows, but his power far exceeds hers.

One day, he uses his talent and a fog-gathering spell he learned from a passing weatherworker to save his village from Karg raiders. The tale of his remarkable feat spreads far and wide, finally reaching the ear of a wise Gontish mage, Ogion the Silent. He recognizes that the boy is so powerful he must be trained so as not to become a danger to himself and others. In the rite of passage into adulthood, he gives the boy his "true name", Ged, and takes him as an apprentice. In this world, a magician who knows someone's true name has control over that person, so one's true name is revealed only to those whom one trusts implicitly. Normally, a person is referred to by his or her "use name". Ged's is Sparrowhawk.

The undisciplined young man grows restless under the gentle, patient tutelage of his master. Ogion finally gives him a choice: stay with him or go to the renowned school for wizards, on the island of Roke. Though he has grown to love the old man, the youngster is drawn irresistibly to a life of doing, rather than being.

At the school, Sparrowhawk masters his craft with amazing ease, but his pride and arrogance grow even faster than his skill and, in his hubris, he conjures a dead spirit - a perilous spell which goes awry, as he summons also an unknown creature which attacks and scars him. The being is driven off by the head of the school, the Archmage Nemmerle. Nemmerle is forced to expend all his power in the process and dies shortly thereafter.

Sparrowhawk is wracked with guilt at causing the old man's death, but after a painful and slow recovery, he graduates. Normally, Roke's wizards are sought after by princes and rich merchants, but the new Archmage sends Sparrowhawk to a poor island group, to protect the inhabitants from a powerful dragon and its maturing sons, who have been scouting the region. Sparrowhawk realizes that he cannot both defend the islanders against the dragon and himself against the nameless thing he brought into the world.

He takes a desperate gamble; old histories mention a dragon which might be the one harassing this group of islands. His guess is right; he binds the dragon, and its offspring, to never trouble the islanders again.

Then, with no idea how to deal with his other foe, Sparrowhawk tries to return to the safety of Roke, but the magical, protective Roke-wind drives away the ship on which he is a passenger. He finds what appears to be a safe haven, the domain of one of the Old Powers, but is nearly enslaved by the ancient guardian. He realizes his peril just in time and flees yet again.

He returns to Ogion, who advises him to turn about and seek his shadow. In following his master's wise guidance, the roles of Sparrowhawk and his enemy become reversed, and he becomes the hunter.

Sparrowhawk is nearly drowned when the shadow lures him into steering his boat onto rocks. The vessel sinks, but he manages to reach a small island inhabited by only two old people, a man and his sister, who have lived there alone so long they have forgotten there is an outside world, and people in it other than themselves. After Sparrowhawk regains his strength, he constructs another boat, held together by magic. When he is ready to leave, he offers to take the pair anywhere they want to go, but the man fearfully turns him down and the woman does not seem to understand that there are other people and other lands. However, she gives him a parting gift of one of her few possessions, a broken half of an armlet. (The siblings' story and the gift's significance are revealed in the sequel).

Back at sea, the shadow nearly takes Sparrowhawk unawares, but he detects it and comes to grips with it. His enemy flees, but Ged senses that he has forged a bond that cannot be broken and that the shadow cannot now avoid a final confrontation.

During his pursuit, Sparrowhawk encounters Vetch, the only friend he made at school. Together, the two wizards set off into the open sea. Sparrowhawk perceives the ocean gradually turning into land, an immensely powerful magic. Though Vetch cannot see the transformation, the boat runs aground. Sparrowhawk steps out of the boat and walks off to confront his waiting shadow. Though some of his teachers had thought it to be nameless, Sparrowhawk and his adversary speak at the same moment, each naming the other "Ged". Sparrowhawk embraces his foe and the two become one.


Le Guin has saidFact|date=September 2008 that the book was in part a response to the image of wizards as ancient and wise, and to her wondering where they come from. Her short stories, "The Rule of Names" (1964) and "The Word of Unbinding" (1964), established some of the groundwork for the original Earthsea trilogy.

Further inspiration came from the work of her parents: see Ishi.


*Polish: " _pl. Czarnoksiężnik z Archipelagu", 1983, ISBN 83-7469-227-8
*Russian: " _ru. Волшебник Земноморья", also " _ru. Маг Земноморья", first 1990, ISBN 978-5-699-29645-3
*Ukrainian: " _uk. Чарівник Земномор'я", 2006, ISBN 966-692-809-4


ee also

* LeGuin's comments regarding the similarities to Harry Potter

External links

* [http://www.ursulakleguin.com/ Ursula K. Le Guin's official website]
* [http://www.ursulakleguin.com/TalesEarthsea_Excerpt.html An excerpt of "Tales from Earthsea"]

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