The point is that identity is elusive.
The search for oneself can take the form of a quest of many years, as it
does for Ged, who grows from an impetuous lad to an even-tempered and
decent young man over the course of the novel. This makes A Wizard of
Earthsea an ideal story for teens of either gender. |
reviewer was given the book as a gift at age twelve, and was captured by
images of magical beings like powerful spell-casters and wise (and
dangerous) dragons. Only upon reading LeGuin's novel as an adult did I
recognize the underpinnings of a philosophy based on Jung's concepts of the
unconscious and the shadow. Just as analytical psychology teaches us to
integrate our shadows, lest we project them onto others, so Ged seeks
to defeat and absorb his dark doppelganger.
Of course, I was an English
major, and didn't study much psychology, so I should also tell you that
LeGuin's language smacks of the poetry of Chaucer. (Compare the poet's
"When in April the sweet showers fall / And pierce the drought of
March to the root" [from The Canterbury Tales] to LeGuin's "The days
came warm and clear. The Great House and the streets of Thwil were
hushed.") But LeGuin's parents were a scientist and a writer, and she
herself attended Columbia University, so she was certainly no stranger to
academic ideas about the human psyche.
Ged makes friends on his
journey, but none as true as Vetch. Indeed, in the end, Vetch is his only
companion as Ged confronts his faceless enemy, and the only witness
to the aftermath of the battle.
It is a treat to enjoy
LeGuin's world, one that's as rich and varied as the one we share
outside the pages of the book.
A Wizard of Earthsea won the 1979 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and is the first in a series of five books about this fantastical world: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu(1991), and The Other Wind (2002). (There are also some short stories.)