Earthsea… again

So, we’re onto The Other Wind and who knows where it’s taking us…?

As I said before, Tehanu, written in 1990, was a very different book to the first trilogy, written from 1968-1972. And I’m not the only person to notice this. Margaret Mahy, in a fascinating review on Ursula le Guin’s great website says:

Tehanu came as a shock to many dedicated Earthsea fans. It was a different sort of book from the first three, written, it seemed, for different reasons, and for different readers. Its emphasis and tone, the nature of its events, contrasted strongly with those in the previous books. The magical elements are still there but they no longer dominate. The story is largely told from the point of view of Tenar, the heroine of The Tombs of Atuan, though Ged is there, experiencing in a very human way the trauma of having lost his power. He feels reduced… .but then begins to find ordinary life once more, as a different man with different capacities, including the power to love a woman. This book astonished many readers, and was seen by many as a feminist statement. Ursula Le Guin agrees, saying that Tehanu is absolutely a feminist utterance, but that the feminism of this story is intended to enlarge possibility not only for the women in the story and out in the world beyond, but for men too.

Francis Spufford in his The Child that Books Built writes:

For a time, starting in the late 1970s, she treated the power of her storytelling voice to say this is so, that is so, as an implicit surrender to a patriarchal agenda, and tried to purge it by writing deliberately de-centred books, without the shapes of strong story in them… Lately, thank heavens, she has decided that the power she tried to do without is more of a neutral tool than she had feared, and also a less dispensable part of her gifts as a writer.

We are reading Earthsea stories that are aimed at an older audience perhaps, but the main thing is the willingness to follow, the ability to listen, to find what is to be found. That the rewards are more subtle, more challenging may turn out to be a very good thing. And, in any case, there seems to be more movement in this volume, as Spufford says more of the old rewards of adventure and quest…


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