To say that Ursula LeGuin has done something brilliant is like saying that sharks eat fish — it’s only natural. What is worth talking about, however, is what she has done. LeGuin is one of those writers that can’t write poorly. She has a command of language and words that far exceeds many of her peers. Much of her prose reads like it is on the edge of being poetry.
What she writes has the effect of feeling important and palatable at the same time. Few other writers can write such exquisite sentences in prose that feels almost like a spiritual experience to read and still tell a story that doesn’t get bogged down in the art and words and lose all meaning. LeGuin writes that way, probably at great effort, but she makes it seem like it is just the way her mind works. She can no more tell a tale without crafting beautiful sentences than most people can sleep without closing their eyes.
It helps that what she writes actually is important as well. LeGuin tackles many themes in her writing and usually more than one at a time. Earthsea is about mistakes and facing them. It’s about redemption and forgiveness and earning it. It’s about loss and life and foolishness and the consequences of all three. It’s also about a young man who becomes a great wizard and the journey he must take to get there.
What are the consequences of misguided youthful decisions? Many times those decisions can have effects lasting through the lives of many generations. Through the actions of Ged LeGuin explores those consequences and pulls the reader along on a journey to find the dark ending to our unthought actions.
This is a surprisingly short book for how much happens in it’s thin pages. The world of Earthsea, one of fascinating depth and beauty, is expounded slowly and with bits of phrasing that weave so seamlessly into the tapestry of the book that the world comes alive. It is a world of people who have tamed the sea with the clever use of magic and their skills with wood and cloth.
LeGuin is an important writer, she has always been so. The prose and writing, in many ways remind me of Tolkien in their archaic manner but are wholly her own style. The Wizard of Earthsea has resonated for decades with people of all ages who have read it and will continue to power the imaginations of generations to come.