[Ursula K. Le Guin] The Tombs of Atuan

The Earthsea Cycle

  • Title: The Tombs of Atuan
  • Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Published: 1970
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-5991-5

Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for a spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one.

from the book

The Tombs of Atuan” is the second sage of the Earthsea Cycle. Ged continued his journey to find another half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. The first half was given to him by the old lady on the deserted island in the first book.

The story is not a heroic adventure to fight against evil and earns great treasure as a result. The protagonist of the second book is not our wizard Ged, but a young girl, trapped in a symbolic role of a priestess. Her name was taken, and her fate was given. Ged is not a victorious wizard but a guide to freedom.

Freedom is not what is given to you. Having an option to select from multiple choices is not freedom. When you choose with your will and take full responsibility for your choice, you are free. The main character (a young priestess) has to choose what she is; the light with a name (Tenar) or the darkness without a name (Arha). She cannot be both, and her choice makes her own self.

The plot of the book penetrates the essence of existence. Human beings are the only animal to seek the answer to why we exist. We try to find what we are, but the essence of oneself is not a thing that is discovered or found. Your choice makes you!

Many might be unsatisfied with the gender role depicted in the book. Why could Tenar bot stand by herself? Why does she need help from a man? In the afterword, the author answers this question. We are not alone; one cannot achieve victory by oneself. Yes. The great wizard Ged was survived by the help of Tenar. Tenar achieved her freedom with the help of Ged. But her argument seems too out of time to me.

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