I am cataloguing my books as I prepare for a book sale at my local library, and I remembered that I had wanted to re-read this in the context of the blood and guts move that fantasy has taken. So I did…and observations follow…
- LeGuin clearly feels that she wants to stay within the parameters of fantasy as young adult literature – there is no sex, very little violence, and not even any adult situations.
- I fell in love with these books as a teen, and with my subsequent love of water and boats and all that stuff I get why.
- LeGuin’s world is bound by language. It’s relentlessly good-natured – the folks who do bad things are simply power-hungry and not concerned with balance and equilibrium, as she makes clear we all should be at several points in the novel. Wizards use language to make the world right – they know multiple languages and and weave complicated verbal spells to fix equilibrium in the material world. They cannot create material, but they can interact with it.
- This binding the world through language feels pretty straightforward for a novelist, but it also emphasizes story-telling and discourse over solving problems with swords and violence, even righteous anger.
- She also has this fixation with true names, which I am guessing correspond to some sort of notion of essential identity. That may simply be her appealing to an adolescent surety that somewhere despite inside us is our true, heroic sense, the one that we want to get out if we can only figure out how. That would fit with LeGuin’s usual mode of operating – she wants to explore how we can be our best…
- The heroes are such because they work with others, and they avoid bloodshed (and hell even judgment) at all times. Still, the world is ruled by wise, benevolent elders – that’s a motif that she changes in her later fiction, but she probably sees it as appropriate for a series aimed at teenagers.