Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.
This Cardiff Book Talk event, marking Ursula Le Guins death earlier this year, and 50 years since The Wizard of Earthsea was published, felt like a direct result of Facebooks insidious targeted marketing, but I’m ok with it. You can find out about Cardiff Book Talk here in a much more direct and concise way than me rambling on about it, so check them out. Especially if you’re local to Cardiff.
I’m not going to go through everything that was discussed in too much depth, or ‘review’ the event in any way so I’m not sure what this is really. But I will share some comments from the speakers and myself, as well as some suggested further reading (in bold) if you’re also a Le Guin fan or think you might be interested in her work. That ok? Yep? Great.
So for starters if you haven’t read the Earthsea Cycle, a set of four absolutely wonderful books, then go forth and do that. The four books include; The Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu. As you will read below, the Earthsea world is often compared to Tolkein’s Middle-earth, but differs in some really interesting ways, which were discussed in the talk.
There were three speakers at the event, each looking at the book, and the author from slightly different angles.
Dr Dimitra Fimi, from the University of Glasgow, really delved into the differences between Le Guin and Tolkein as writers and the differences in the world that they create. The difference that is striking once you consider it, but I genuinely hadn’t considered it before, was that there is no villain. The quest of the book is an inner journey, and the main character, Ged, is striving to find balance in himself and in the world.
Ishi in Two Worlds by Theodora Kroeber
The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula Le Guin
Dr Liesl King, from the University of York St John, explored Taoism and Lao Tzu on Le Guins writings. She suggested that the Taoist principles of equilibrium and yin and yang can be seen in many of Le Guin’s writings. It was really nice to feel vindicated with the principles of minimalism; do less, use less, move more slowly <pointed look from the adult-boyfriend life-partner at this point> and interesting that I was introduced to this early in life through Le Guins writing, without really realising it.
A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way by Ursula Le Guin
Dr Catherine Butler, from Cardiff University, looked at the final book in the quartet, Tehanu, and its feminist leanings. This, I found particularly interesting, as the final book had always felt different to me, with a very different tone, but I could never pinpoint why. It was great to learn more at this event about Le Guins history and her own thoughts on her work. She wanted to use Tehanu to show audiences that she had grown as a writer and as a feminist.
The Female Hero in American and British Literature by Carol Pearson and Katherine Pope
The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin
I’m not gonna lie, I felt a little out of place, being in a University building, with three academic speakers, feedback that I did share with the organisers. But I also appreciate that it is a Cardiff University initiative so is bound to have an academic slant and it was the depth of understanding that the speakers had that made it so compelling for me. I will definitely go along to another event, and whole-heartedly support these events happening in Cardiff. A great way to start the week, and a legitimate excuse to pop into Noodlebox.