Saturday, February 14, 2009


I just finished the first book in Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series, A Wizard of Earthsea. I read till I fell asleep last night, then got up and read till the end. Then I put the next three in the series on hold at the library.

Laurel and I had been talking about them and race, and she'd said that she thought there were a few very subtle hints--so of course watching for them, I found them less subtle. Some are matter-of fact: When our hero, Ged, meets Vetch, another student who becomes a close friend, Vetch is described as "very dark of skin, not red-brown like Ged and Jasper and most folk of the Archepelago, but black-brown." He is also described as "plain, and his manners were not polished," but since Ged has just been dealing with Jasper, a "polite disdainful youth" who is the son of a Lord, while Ged himself is "a mountain villager who had never been among the sons of rich merchants and noblemen," Vetch's manners and appearance are clearly positive attributes.

& I thought this characterization was pretty awesome and not terribly subtle: "Before nightfall he saw away off on his left hand the long, faint shoreline of a great land, which must be Karego-At. He was in the very sea-roads of those white barbaric folk."

Not related to race, and seeming in one sense to be the sort of cliched wisdom one expects to find in fantasy novels, I thought this advice from the Master Summoner to Ged is actually extremely true and relevant to more than just those of us who are studying to be Wizards: "You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...." [Italics and ellipsis in the original.]

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