[Ursula K. Le Guin] A Wizard of Earthsea

The Earthsea Cycle

  • Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
  • Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Published: 1968
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-72202-3

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

from the book

A Wizard of Earthsea” is the first sage of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Earthsea Cycle.” It is written in the era of liberation movements of 1960s. It is not a surprise to find clearly-crafted messages throughout the book, such as race, gender, conventional plots of genre novels, and social prejudices. The writing is very modernistic, which might be read as a cliché from the 21st century’s identity-centric perspective.

The idea of a single, unique, or universal language before Babel is still circulated. It was not just a myth or a child story for fun. Through the middle ages and even the classical era, people believed that we had the universal language, which has markers (direct relationship to) of all objects in the world. ([Michel Foucault] The Order of Things) Everything in Earthsea has its true name, which is not a mere signifier but in itself.

Wizards in Earthsea are not superheroes who can do anything at will. They have power, which only can be used at the expense of others. Our superhero in the book, Sparrowhawk, learns the lesson in a hard way. He is not a hero to fight against big evil or win a war against bad people. He is fighting with his own shadow, his own half, evil inside his. The achievement is not a victory. He searches, discovers, and becomes what he is.

Speaking is power, but you can speak only in silence. After silence, there is an utterance.

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