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Earthsea

Discussion in 'Ursula K Le Guin' started by The Wanderer, Mar 28, 2007.

  1.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Big Rabbit of Chrons Staff Member

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    I recently finished re-reading the original trilogy, after a gap of perhaps twenty years. What surprised me is that having become more sensitised in recent years, through my own attempts at writing, to things such as head-hopping (which prevented me enjoying The Dragonbone Chair as much as I once did) I found le Guin's style of omniscient narration so well done that the shifting between points of view didn't bother me one bit, and her comma splices only raised an eyebrow because I was surprised to find then, not because they jarred. Her command of her craft is awe-inspiring.

    I thought Tombs the best of the three. It's stunningly atmospheric, feels too well observed to have been only imagined, and I can't believe it's only 130 pages (in my edition) -- it feels twice that, and in a good way. Strangely, and reversing my opinion of twenty years ago, I thought Farthest Shore the weakest (though still very good). It has some thought-provoking philosophical elements (the man who kills himself to escape his fear of death, for example) and some fantastic description of dragons and seascapes, but some passages are just a little bit flabby, and Arren is just too dull to take the role of joint main character. I got him confused with his character in the Ghibli film and kept wondering when it would be revealed that he'd killed his father, but there was nothing so interesting about him here, sadly.

    I'm not sure if I'll go on to read Tehanu or The Other Wind -- I remember almost nothing of them from my first reading, which isn't a good sign, and comments above perhaps suggest why.
     
  2.  
    BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I read the first three books years ago, I liked them well enough , but have never gotten around to book 4 .
     
  3.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I read the Quartet in October 2012, probably as a result of HB's promptings here, and absolutely loved the collection, though The Farthest Shore was for me the weakest, and it was the last, Tehanu, which resounded most with me. I actually blogged about it at the time http://www.damarisbrowne.com/#/blog/4556543392/woman's-writing/3770542

    A couple of weeks later I went on to read The Other Wind, but wasn't nearly as impressed -- my thoughts at the time:
     
  4.  
    Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Writing and reading Staff Member

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    "there's simply a sense of waiting for something to happen"

    That's when I stopped reading. The first story had an interesting sense of place, but I didn't find it particularly engaging. My interest was killed early in the second story, precisely because nothing seemed to be happening.

    I should probably attempt it again, but so far I've struggled to get into any of her work - I find it too easy to put down.
     
  5.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Big Rabbit of Chrons Staff Member

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    The Tombs of Atuan?

    *faints*

    That's one of my favourite fantasy books of all time. (Still, I guess the fact that people's tastes differ isn't exactly news.)
     
  6.  
    BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I rather liked the first 3 books. But so far, that's all I've read by her.
     
  7.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    What I did not like about Tehanu was that we found out that LeGuin had taken Tenar with all her bright promise and allowed her to waste all her youth her identity again swallowed up in a role, this time as someone's wife, someone's mother. Ged returned her name to her, rescued her from the cloistered life of the tombs, and promised to take her to the white city, where she would be held in honor and could speak with travellers, sages, wizards, men and women in all walks of life -- and yes, marry and have children, too, if she wished -- and instead she ends up in a cottage in a village for decades? It seemed to me that this was in keeping with the author's (later) agenda, and not what one would expect of the character she had created all those years before. Not that writers can't do as they please with their own characters. Of course that is their right. It makes sense that writers know best what their own characters would do ... except when they are thinking too hard about making a point and let that take over. Still they have the right to take any of their characters and use them to make that point in any way that they choose.

    I find in myself, when going through my older books, a desire to change things, to make the books better than anything I could have written twenty-five or thirty years ago. But would that be fair to the woman I was when I wrote those books? Would that be fair to the readers who loved them just as they were? As of this time, I have concluded that the answer is no. But, who knows, I might change my mind about that. And of course, I have no right to say that what I have decided for myself is the only or the correct answer for other writers, too. Still, I feel that as a reader I have a right to be disappointed.
     
  8.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Yes, I can certainly see what you mean and I can understand your disappointment. I was also surprised she'd used Tenar in that way, burying her in the back of beyond for all those years, but I think that was perhaps the point, since that is what happens to so many bright, lively, intelligent women who could have been of great worth to society as a whole, but who dwindle into a wife** and are never heard of again outside their small circle, whether through real choice or from the pressure of the masculine envionrment. As you say, though, it does feel more agenda-driven than a true history of what that particular character might actually have done in the intervening years.

    I think it probably didn't affect me in quite the same way for three reasons. The first is I was reading The Tombs forty years after it was written, so the whole social environment and the role of women had changed, so I didn't -- couldn't -- read the novel as I would have down if I'd read it in the 1970s. As a result, to me Tenar wasn't the hero of her own story, Ged was, so I wasn't quite so impressed with her strength of character in The Tombs, whereas if I'd read it in my teens I think I'd have been more ready to identify with her. Lastly, I wasn't quite so invested in Tenar when I read Tehanu, both for the above reason and because I'd only met her a fortnight before, so it wasn't to me a betrayal of the past, as it were. Again, I can see if I had met her when I was much younger, I'd have been mortified at her change and the loss of all of that promise. (Though, again, might that be because we are both of us failing to acknowledge that a woman's story can be a simple one of home and hearth even in the back of beyond, without its being a betrayal of promise?!)

    An interesting point about changing characters, worthy of a thread of its own!


    ** just realised I'm quoting Millament there!
     
  9.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    No, I wouldn't say that's the case for me. After all, I lived the simple story of home and hearth, and I know both the limitations and the rewards, which I had in mind while I was writing the above. What bothers me is that Tenar was relegated to (as you put it) "the back of beyond" so that she would live that life in the narrowest possible surroundings, accepting the greatest limitations of that role. After the confines of her early life, I can't imagine her not making the most of her expanded horizons after she and Ged escaped.
     
  10.  
    Nechtan

    Nechtan Well-Known Member

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    I reread the Earthsea quartet last year. I found the first three just as enjoyable and atmospheric as I did many years ago. Tombs maybe more so.

    I had read Tehanu once before and didn't enjoy it. Second time around I loved it. My take on Tenar's life is that after her experiences in Tombs; the power and the position, the rituals and formality, the darkness, the lies and the destruction, she wanted to lead a simple life. She could have lived at the King's court with all the accolades that returning the ring of Ereth-Akbe would have brought. She could have learned magic from Ogion. Instead, she wanted to lead a quiet simple life doing the things that other women did. Have a husband. Have children. Live simply and most importantly, without fuss. I thought it was quite a departure from the usual things that could've happened to a character in a fantasy novel.

    I've since read the Other Wind. I liked it although it lacked the punch of the other novels but still a fitting end for the Eathsea stories.
     
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