These first chapters outline Ged’s early life and progress into the magical arts, from his accidental enchantment of goats to his time at the Wizzarding school at Roke. While he grows in power, his yearning for mastery never ceases, transforming into hubris and jealousy towards his self-made rival, Jasper. Perhaps this is the very thing that Ogion was attempting to prevent from happening; he tries to teach Ged patience and humility. Those, we all know, are the most difficult lessons for a young person to learn.
The themes in these first few chapters resonate with works throughout fiction, and my mind conjured images of Star Wars, or at least, what the prequels could have been. Here we have a promising, powerful adept who is not initially arrogant but wild and in need of true guidance. His first teacher does her best, but only serves to increase his desire for power. His second moves far too slowly, and it is only when he is put in control of his own destiny is Ged satisfied with his growth…save for the presence of Jasper, who he feels he must outperform. Ged knows his strength, and yearns to tap into it; it is not a stretch to imagine him overreaching his control and performing a grave error.
Another interesting concept Le Guin develops is the concept of “true names.” I understand that these names come from the ancient language of Earthsea, but what fascinates me is where these names come from. Who gave the hawks and the trees their true names? How does Ged get his name? The author tells us Ogion gives it to him, but where does the Mage get it from? I trust that the true name must be unique, for it is language that is the power of magic in this world, so it cannot be like picking a regular name for a child.
If Ogion made one up on the spot, like Ralphonzo, might there be another Ralphonzo in Earthsea? If a true name can control, would it control both Ralphonzos? I believe Le Guin envisions an individual name for each person in Earthsea; Unlike the hawk, who has a name for the species as a whole, each human receives a true name, requiring uniqueness. If this is the case, they must come from an external source, not simply the mage who has given it. In this way, I feel A Wizard of Earthsea can provide excellent opportunities to look at Christianity and language, and how they are interconnected.
Please comment below, and we can discuss this work as a community. If you have read ahead (as I was sorely tempted to do) please leave any spoilers for later chapters until the week they will be discussed. Tell me what you thought of the book, what ideas it brought forth, or just comment on what I have said already. Also, if the length of reading was too much, please let me know…it was not a problem for me, but I definitely don’t want this to be a stressful experience!
Thank you for joining me, and I look forward to your fellowship!