Ursula K. Le Guin: “Earthsea” stories

Sci fi & fantasy stories by Ursula K.  Le Guin:

Thoughts  about what I’m planning to (re)read/post from  Le Guin’s “Tales of the Earthsea”.
Also planning to (re)read some of her past novellas, sci fi and fantasy; published again recently (2016)  in “The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin”.

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Ursula K Le Guin is a highly acclaimed writer of novels, short stories, YA and children’s stories, poetry and essays.
She has received multiple awards for her sci fi and fantasy novels and short stories: Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy Awards.   In 2003 she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction.
In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
In 2017 she received the Hugo Award for her collection of essays “Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016”.

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Le Guin’s “Earthsea” fantasy series of novels and short stories is set in the fictional Archipelago of Earthsea. Using  richly detailed and evocative imagery, she writes about the fictional history,  people, places and times of Earthsea. The stories are of wizards, of dragons, of kings and lords and of ordinary people caught up in the ordinary and extraordinary events in the Archipelago.

Le Guin wrote a series  of Earthsea novels, from 1968 -2001:
Wizard of Earthsea, 1968; The Tombs of Atuan, 1971; The Farthest Shore, 1972; Tehanu, 1990; Tales from Earthsea, 2001; and The Other Wind, 2001.

I have to admit I read the novels out of sequence, and have yet to read “The Other Wind”. I was drawn into reading the Earthsea stories because of Le Guin’s style of writing: the imagery to describe contrasts, whether for physical things or abstract concepts: for example, between calm and stormy seas; or between light and darkness; or between love and hate;  or between  the land of the living and the land of the dead; or the differences in gifts and strength between two mages or wizards.

The wizards or mages of Roke Island, the Isle of the Wise, and the School of Mages on Roke Island, play a major role in the Earthsea stories. And Le Guin shows, through the lives of the mages, the responsibility that comes with their innate gifts of wizardry: to use the gifts to do good, to keep and restore the Balance and Equilibrium between light and darkness.

In the “Tales of the Sea”, there are two particular stories, that I’d like to re-read: The Finder, and Dragonfly.  “The Finder” is about the past — the founding of the School of Mages.  “The Dragonfly” is about changes to come, after the story of “Tehanu”.

Le Guin explains in the foreward how “Tales of the Sea” evolved:
She was asked to write another Earthsea story, years after she finished writing the “last” book of Earthsea, “Tehanu”, and thought the stories of the mages Ged and Tenar had been told.
She realized she would have to to explore and “research” the fictional Archives of Earthsea, again, to write new stories.

The result is five stories, which add new depth to the original stories:

“The Finder”. A novella. This story is about the origins of the School of the Mages: how wizards, both men and women, came together to build the School.

Dragonfly — the story of a woman named Irian, confused about who or what she is: she has an innate gift of magery. The story is a bridge between the two books, “Tehanu” and “The Other Wind”.

“The Bones of the Earth” — An earthquake may block the major port on Gont Island. A story about ancient wizards, and how the wizard Ogion uses his power to stop the earthquake.

“On the High Marsh” — A  story about a wizard driven mad by his power:   Irioth, a mysterious wizard, and a healer, comes to a village where the cows are dying. Irioth heals the cows. Another sorcerer arrives, and Irioth uses his skills as a wizard to attack him.

And finally a love story:  “Darkrose and Diamond” .   Diamond, the son of a wealthy man, falls in love with Darkrose, the daughter of a witch. Diamond is gifted as a singer and also has an innate gift of magery. His father wants him to be a sorcerer. There are many obstacles in the path of true love….

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