A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantasy novel written by American author Ursula K. Le Guin and first published by the small press Parnassus in 1968. It is regarded as a classic of children’s literature and of fantasy, within which it is widely influential. The story is set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea and centers on a young mage named Ged, born in a village on the island of Gont. He displays great power while still a boy and joins a school of wizardry, where his prickly nature drives him into conflict with a fellow student. During a magical duel, Ged’s spell goes awry and releases a shadow creature that attacks him. The novel follows Ged’s journey as he seeks to be free of the creature.
The book has often been described as a Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, as it explores Ged’s process of learning to cope with power and come to terms with death. The novel also carries Taoist themes about a fundamental balance in the universe of Earthsea, which wizards are supposed to maintain, closely tied to the idea that language and names have power to affect the material world and alter this balance. The structure of the story is similar to that of a traditional epic, although critics have also described it as subverting this genre in many ways, such as by making the protagonist dark-skinned in contrast to more typical white-skinned.
A Wizard of Earthsea received highly positive reviews, initially as a work for children and later among a general audience. It won the Boston GlobeHorn Book Award in 1969 and was one of the final recipients of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1979. Margaret Atwood called it one of the “wellsprings” of fantasy literature. Le Guin wrote five subsequent books that are collectively referred to as the Earthsea Cycle, together with A Wizard of Earthsea: The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), The Other Wind (2001), and Tales from Earthsea (2001). George Slusser described the series as a “work of high style and imagination”, while Amanda Craig said that A Wizard of Earthsea was “the most thrilling, wise, and beautiful children’s novel ever”.


Read or listen to A Wizard of Earthsea

by Ursula K. Le Guin