wilderthan: ((River) Walk alone)
[personal profile] wilderthan
Much as I love A Wizard of Earthsea, there isn't much feminine about it. It's a male society, it seems in that book, shaped by men and only inhabited by women. I don't know how much thought Le Guin put into that, originally, but the women in the story don't really have much of a place. There's the witch and Serret and the Kargish woman and Yarrow... but they don't have great parts in Ged's life. He's taken away from the tutelage of the witch because only a man can teach him wizardry, and there's the sayings, "Weak as women's magic" and "Wicked as women's magic". Le Guin addresses those issues later, in Tehanu, but women aren't really present in the first book.

So it's just nice to have a book framed by women: Tenar and Thar and Kossil and Penthe, the priestesses and novices of the Tombs. Women are the only ones allowed to serve the gods, or at least the Nameless Ones -- well, women and eunuchs. The fact that Arha/Tenar is the main character, and not Ged, gives it a whole different slant. She has a different kind of life, so her story is rather different. Her story is less of an epic quest than Ged's -- there's tension, and danger, but they're not going to something, they're escaping something. She has to grow as a person in a different way. The quest is Ged's, as before, but we see him coming in from outside this time. It's interesting.

The language and descriptions and images are all as beautiful as the first book. There's something very compelling about the Tombs, the dark rituals. You can feel the cold, the routine hardness -- you feel stuck in the rut that Arha has been stuck in throughout her many lives. You can feel the slow unchangingness of the place. And you feel the joy and weight of the escape, too. I like the rhythms and tastes of this book the best in the whole series, I think. Some of the descriptions have just stuck in my head -- the drum struck at a slow heart-pace, the little thistle growing beside Ged's hand. And some of the things Ged says, his descriptions of Havnor and his speech that is essentially about "nature red in tooth and claw".

This is really the only book that steps out of Ged's own culture. The others are mostly rooted in the Archipelagan traditions, which is interesting enough, but this provides a bit more worldbuilding. Which is awesome.


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