The great Le Guin re-read

EarthseaI’ve decided to re-read all the Earthsea books by Ursula K Le Guin. Well, I say re-read,  but I’ve not read them all for the first time yet. I can’t remember how old I was when I read the first one, A Wizard of Earthsea, but I do remember that it blew my tiny mind. At a guess, I’d say I was probably 10 or 11 years old. After that I consumed the next two – The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore. I didn’t know there was any more to Earthsea than that. At the time, there wasn’t. But there is now, as the pic at the top left there shows.

The books in the pic are in order and include all the Earthsea novels and short stories, but I’ve only ever read those first three. Those beloved, well-thumbed Penguin editions. According to Wikipedia, the books were published thus:

A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantasy novel by the American author Ursula K. Le Guin, first published by the small press Parnassus in 1968. Set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea, the story relates the education of a young mage named Ged under the tutelage of his aunt (a village witch), as an apprentice to a wizard, at a school of wizardry, and finally through a quest of self-discovery. The tale of Ged’s growth and development continues in four subsequent novels, which are set a few years later and towards the end of his long life.

Le Guin’s so-called Earthsea cycle came to include the novels The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), and The Other Wind (2001). The author has also written seven short stories set in Earthsea, two of which preceded the novels.

So that’s what I have there, waiting to be read. I’m very excited to be starting on this journey again. I rarely re-read anything, as there’s so much out there and I want to read new things. But old favourite books are like old favourite places, magical to revisit. Especially books read when you’re young. They’re like the best summer holiday you ever had and whenever you go to that part of the world again it means so much more, layered with nostalgia. Of course, sometimes it’s a problem. Sometimes the book turns out to be awful and just happened to be perfect for your young mind at that time (*cough*Magician*cough*). Or the great holiday location turns out to be a tiny, dirty beach right by an industrial waste site and it’s only so strong in your memory because you got to touch the boob of Lucy from Leicester, who you never saw again, but it painted what was actually an awful two weeks in shades of rose and honey.

However, in this case, it’s not a problem. Le Guin is a master of her craft and these books are so good. I’m about halfway through A Wizard of Earthsea again and the prose, the language, the ideas, the descriptions, they’re all as fantastic as I remember. Whether the other books will hold up and whether the ones I’ve never yet read will be as good or worse or better I’ll find out as I go along.

One thing that’s for sure, I can’t wait to introduce my son to these books. That’s partly why I’m reading again now, to get an idea of how old he might need to be. I’ve got loads of time, he’s only 4 months old now. But one day, I’ll hand him A Wizard of Earthsea and know without a doubt that I’m handing him a piece of magic. Altering magic, that shapes minds and ideals. There are so many other things I can’t wait to show him and my favourite books and movies are high on the list. I really can’t wait. My son, I have such sights to show you. (Although I might save that one until he’s in his teens at least.)

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4 thoughts on “The great Le Guin re-read

  1. Thanks for the rec! Y’know, I’m an old leGuin reader but, would you believe, I never read Earthsea. I began on “The Dispossessed”. Anyhow, I have now ordered the first four books and shall read them before passing them on to the kids. Earthsea formally makes it to the official homeschool curriculum! 🙂 Thanks for writing about it.

  2. “but I do remember that it blew my tiny mind. At a guess, I’d say I was probably 10 or 11 years old”

    Mine too, same age. Wizard of Earthsea was _the_ book that transformed my reading life, and got me into reading all kinds of fantasy, myth and science fiction. Parts of it terrified me, the whole story enthralled me. It’s the most wonderful memory.

    My copy of the first four is also sitting on my bookshelf waiting for my kids to grow into it. Thanks for posting about this!

  3. Great! I’m sure this is an experience shared by many and it makes me very happy to know it’s being widely passed in.

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