Welcome to part two of the analysis for the third Earthsea novel, The Farthest Shore. In this entry, I would like to explore more thoughts and connections I had that were sparked by the narrative. They include society’s relationship with nature, the perils of greed and consumption, and qualities crucial to environmental leaders and educators.
The Farthest Shore is my favourite story of the Earthsea series.It is also one of my favourite novels of all time. While I loved Wizard more growing up, Shore is the book I come back to as an adult. The prose is graceful and fluid, written by someone with mastery of the language. The exchanges between the characters are honest, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. It is a story that tackles the one theme we all must face: Death. I have taken both meaning and solace from its pages during times of loss and grief.
The exploration of Shore will be split into two parts; there’s simply too much material to cover in one entry. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with this book, so it’s no surprise that I have forged many connections with it. Let’s get started!
As a ten year old boy reading The Tombs of Atuan for the first time, I felt tremendously let down. On the surface, it appeared to have little to do with its predecessor. I was crestfallen to discover that Ged didn’t even appear until a third of the way into the story. Why was there such a focus on this girl I couldn’t relate to? Why would a great wizard – my powerful wizard – the one with whom I journeyed to the ends of the world, require help from someone with no apparent powers or magical ability?
It was really all too much. I finished the story, shelved it away, and went on with the rest of my childhood.
I grew up. I came back to the austere desert-scape of Atuan, revisited Tenar, and understood her a little better. I came to admire her, in some ways more than Ged. I also came to understand the significance of Ged’s role in Tenar’s story. Within the claustrophobic labyrinths, I learned the importance of identity, the necessity for change and growth, and the meaning of freedom.
“Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.”
- The Creation of Ea
(A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, p. 1)
The books that profoundly shape one’s thinking don’t come along very often. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon one at the age of ten. Randomly grabbed out of a crate of assorted novels for English reading class, A Wizard of Earthsea immediately drew me deep into its world of magic, adversity, and adventure. But unlike other young adult books that were read and subsequently forgotten, Wizard’s story stayed with me. The beautiful use of language and imagery, coupled with the mythic quality of the writing style, definitely didn’t hurt. But I think as a child of two cultures, I was most particularly attracted to the unique way in which Le Guin wove Eastern philosophy into her works of fantasy.
Whatever its appeal was, I have reread Wizard and subsequent entries of the Earthsea series many times since that first time – as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. The text remains the same, but the meanings and insights I take from each of the stories changed as I changed. They have come to be my hidden treasures, my sources of inspiration, and my stepping stones into a lifetime of exploration of what it means to be human. That is why I chose to start off this blog delving into the first trilogy of the Earthsea series. Intensely moral and profoundly humane, I believe they are vital parables for our times.