Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series is like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, one of those secondary worlds that I’ve found I’ve needed to revisit every so often. I’m not the only one, I know, that — however familiar the outline plots — discovers something new each time I step into those universes, whether it’s an insight, a revelation or an emotion.
With the imminent arrival of Witch Week 2018, its theme this year of Fantasy+Feminism and focus on Ursula Le Guin (further details here and here, and also here), I’ve been re-immersing myself in Earthsea as I originally promised myself in a mini-review back in 2015.
Lizzie Ross and I will be co-hosting Witch Week (30 October to 06 November), with a week of posts celebrating the fantasy genre and Diana Wynne Jones.
We’ve lined up some exciting posts from guest bloggers, including a Top-Ten list of fantasy heroines, and a discussion of a Polish fantasy series.
AND don’t forget our readalong: Le Guin’s The Other Wind, the final book of her Earthsea series.
In “Return of the Shadow” I looked at the first volume, with Sparrowhawk as the eponymous A Wizard of Earthsea. This was followed by “Operating in the dark” which explored The Tombs of Atuan in which we were introduced to the courageous priestess Tenar. The Farthest Shore, in which we meet the young prince Lebannen, was originally conceived at the final volume in a trilogy, but as I note in “Righting the balance” Le Guin hadn’t finished with Earthsea, though she didn’t realise it at the time.
When, a score of years later, she herself went back to Earthsea, she found that not all balances had been restored, as my review of Tehanu, “Magic, menace and the mundane”, hints at. The remaining Earthsea novel, The Other Wind, resolves many of the issues raised in Tehanu, but as it’s the readalong novel for Witch Week I shall hold back on reviewing it, though Lizzie Ross, Lory Hess and I will be discussing aspects of it with reference to the week’s overall theme.
In the meantime I shall be individually reviewing the shorter pieces contained in Tales from Earthsea, between now and Halloween, which is when Witch Week starts. By the way, if you’ve already read the whole series (whether once, twice or even more) but were confused as to the chronology of the novels and the tales, there’s a helpful (and closely justified) timeline here.
Posts here may well be unevenly spaced over the next few days. I am involved in the annual Crickhowell Literary Festival, run by my local bookshop Book·ish, at which I’ve been lucky enough to steward for the previous three years. With my musician’s hat on I am also involved in rehearsals and concerts to mark the restoration and refurbishment of an historic 15th-century Welsh building, Llwyn Celyn (pronounced something like hloin kellin and meaning Holly Bush). The project by The Landmark Trust has saved the listed building from slow decay, and the re-opening will be marked by period music and the presentation of a specially commissioned choral work in the local Welsh dialect of Gwent.