“So it came to my imagination, that Fantasy has been so lily-white, so northern European, let’s just turn it on its head. That’s the simplest way to reverse a train, turn it inside out…it’s only quite recently…that I’ve heard from people, some of them are just kids, some of them are remembering back to when they first read the Earth Sea Books. People of color telling me that was the first fantasy they ever felt included in, and what it meant to them. And I tell you, it moved me very much.” — Ursula K. Leguin
Podcast of the Day: National Endowment for the Arts Presents: Big Read: A Group Interview on A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
For more on the National Endowment of the Arts and EarthSea, go here!
“Earthsea is a creation of Ursula K. Le Guin. The original Trilogy was composed of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), and The Farthest Shore (1972). The fourth book, Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea was published in 1990. A number of stories have now been published as Tales from Earthsea (2001) and a fifth novel, The Other Wind, also came out in late 2001. The first published story in the Earthsea world was The Word of Unbinding, which was originally published in Fantastic (1964) and later reprinted in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1975). The series has won a number of awards.”–scv.bu.edu
“It consists of three short novels, the longest just over 200 small pages in my old Puffin edition. And, though adults can read it without feeling at all out of place, it is written for children — “For readers of eleven and over” the covers say, though it could be read by, or to, very much younger children. But the Earthsea trilogy is still the first work that comes to mind when I’m asked “The Lord of the Rings, yes, but what then?”
A Taoist conception of “Balance” underlies Earthsea: the use of magic is dangerous, and can destabilise the natural order. And there are many patterns and parallels in the trilogy. A Wizard of Earthsea is about a young man’s coming of age, in which he attends an all-male school for wizards, and much of it is set at sea; The Tombs of Atuan is a young woman’s coming of age in an all-female temple complex, and much of it happens underground. And so forth. None of this is explicit, however, nor is conscious understanding of it at all necessary for appreciation of the novels. They are, first and foremost, spellbinding stories, with memorable characters.
There are now sequels to the Earthsea trilogy. Fifteen years later Le Guin wrote Tehanu, which is often coupled with these three novels to form an Earthsea “Quartet”. Tehanu is different in many ways, however — it is not a children’s book, for one thing — and I consider its inclusion in one volume with the trilogy to be misguided. More recently has come The Other Wind and a book of short stories, Tales From Earthsea.
I would not normally have considered reviewing the Earthsea books: they have received plenty of academic criticism and have been set texts in schools, so they should need no promotion. (Though the cynical might argue quite the opposite.) I keep running into people, however, who rave about Harry Potter and claim to be fantasy fanatics, but who haven’t heard of Earthsea.”— Danny Yee of Danny Reviews
“The Sci-Fi channel aired a 2-part, 4-hour miniseries based on the first two books in December, 2004… Ursula Le Guin… railed against it [Leguin discusses eloquently the whitewashing of her novel here] and I can not in any way recommend it… this is an absolute travesty against a wonderful piece of fantasy literature.” —scv.bu.edu
“I reread the whole thing once a year. Kid’s fantasy doesn’t get better than this. Actually, grownup fantasy doesn’t get better than this. The whole series is a virtuous performance from one of the greatest writers ever to work in the genre. The Tombs of Atuan (vol. 2) is probably my personal favorite; it has a special magic both because of the Borgesian labyrinth setting, and because it’s one of the first and greatest feminist subversions of epic fantasy. But A Wizard of Earthsea (vol 1) is probably the single most perfect fantasy book ever written. It distills the essence of epic fantasy into its purest form and restates it in deceptively simple prose that rises to the level of poetry.”— Chris Moriarty at GOOD READS.com
The Earthsea Quartet (Puffin Books)
So take a listen to the audio (don’t listen to the whole thing until after you read the books, you’ll know when to stop. Around the 17 minute mark), avoid the SciFi/SyFy channel series and all work by its director Robert Lieberman , and pick up a copy of Ursula’s four book series here.
And generally just enjoy the source, the progenitor for later fictions such as HARRY POTTER and the MAGICIANS.