A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

Finding myself absorbed by a novel in the fantasy genre – yes, I’m surprised by that myself, but reading the Earthsea Quartet has released my inner child and given food for afterthought, and I’ve only read “A Wizard of Earthsea” so far.

“A Wizard of Earthsea” and the rest of the quartet are written for children 12 years and up in a not too long ago past where children could read and weren’t accustomed to flicking through channels or watching an entire story unfold in 90 minutes tops. Ursula Le Guin’s language and narrative style is the black-on-white equivalent of chocolate chip ice cream. The story is entertaining and complex, making “A Wizard of Earthsea” an excellent read for children and adults alike.

Earthsea is an archipelago that encompasses all that is known to man. Its islands are as diverse in geography and the peoples who inhabit them. I like the fact that the water both separates the islands and is what binds the islands together.

“A Wizard of Earthsea” is the story of Sparrowhawk’s journey from a young boy into adulthood, while becoming a wizard and learning about the balance of power. I’m not going to give much more away than that, but I do want to mention aspects of the novel that in different ways have touched me.

Sparrowhawk’s physical and emotional journey is more nuanced than the journeys of other protagonists in coming-of-age-books. Ursula Le Guin shows his enthusiasm, his impatience, his learning curve, his hubris and nemesis, and the quiet sentiment of knowledge that comes after the fall with such eloquence.

Names play an important role in “A Wizard of Earthsea”. A child is given its true name during a rite of passage when the child is around 10-12 years old. That true name is a precious gift that is only revealed to the trusted, because of the name’s power. Call a thing or person by its true name and you can command it.

 I presently live in Greenland, where according to inuit belief, a name holds the spirit of the previous bearer. Therefore, children are named after recently deceased family members and often have as many as six names, e.g. Paninnguaq Marie Benigne Gerd Ivalu Elisabeth Hansen.  

I look forward to reading the next book!

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