A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)


A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantasy novel written by American author Ursula K. Le Guin and first published by the small press Parnassus in 1968. It is regarded as a classic of fantasy and children’s literature and has been widely influential within the genre. The story is set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea and centers around a young mage named Ged, born in a village on the island of Gont. He displays great power while still a boy and joins the school of wizardry, where his prickly nature drives him into conflict with one of his fellows. During a magical duel, Ged’s spell goes awry and releases a shadow creature that attacks him. The novel follows his journey as he seeks to be free of the creature. The book has often been described as a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, as it explores Ged’s process of learning to cope with power and come to terms with death. The novel also carries Taoist themes about a fundamental balance in the universe of Earthsea, which wizards are supposed to maintain, closely tied to the idea that language and names have power to affect the material world and alter this balance. The structure of the story is similar to that of a traditional epic, although critics have also described it as subverting this genre in many ways, such as by making the protagonist dark-skinned in contrast to more typical white-skinned heroes. … Earthsea itself is an archipelago or group of islands. In the fictional history of this world, the islands were raised from the ocean by Segoy, an ancient deity or hero. The world is inhabited by both humans and dragons, and several among the humans are sorcerers or wizards. The world is shown as being based on a delicate balance, which most of its inhabitants are aware of, but which is disrupted by somebody in each of the original trilogy of novels. The setting of Earthsea is preindustrial, and has many cultures within the widespread archipelago. Most of the characters of the story are of the Hardic peoples, who are dark-skinned, and who populate most of the islands.[22] Some of the Eastern islands are populated by the white-skinned Kargish people, who see the Hardic folk as evil sorcerers: the Kargish, in turn, are viewed by the Hardic as barbarians. The far western regions of the archipelago are where the dragons live. … The first edition of the book, published in 1968, was illustrated by Ruth Robbins. The cover illustration was in color, and the interior of the book contained a map of the archipelago of Earthsea. In addition, each chapter had a black-and-white illustration by Robbins, similar to a woodcut image. …”
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