A Wizard of Earthsea by author Ursula Le Guin was published in the late 1960s. A small paperback, a short read, do not be fooled by it’s physical presence. This book is a veritable chest of wisdom.
Le Guin has conjured a world that was created and is governed by words, lending value to the power to language. Our conduit to this universe is the main character Ged who we encounter as a young goatherd.
Ged is discovered by a seasoned wizard as having great but latent talent. He is sent to a wizard’s school. At school Ged finds a lifelong friend, he makes an enemy, and through his inability to quell his ego, he unleashes an evil into the world that becomes the somewhat scary complication in this story.
And so we follow our hero, from idle childhood, to arrogant youth, and humbled young adulthood as he sets off to save the world from his own tomfoolery.
A Wizard of Earthsea is at it’s core a coming of age tale and an engrossing telling that encompasses many facets of transition from child to adult.
The hero’s journey takes us through questions of identity, purpose and passion pitting together many opposing elements such as life and death, action and inaction, talent vs discipline, humility and arrogance.
One of the most significant legacies of this book, that has unfortunately been left by the wayside during film adaptations, is that it is one of few fantasy novels, of its day and to this day, that features a protagonist of colour. Ged’s ethnicity was inspired by Native Americans.
Also of note is that Le Guin was one of few successful female science fiction and fantasy authors of her time.
Regardless of age, reading preference or ability, A Wizard of Earthsea is a book I would recommend everyone read at least once in their lives. But I will warn you that reading it once is almost certainly never enough.
I will leave you with this quote which sums up many of the messages in this book:
To light a candle is to cast a shadow.