Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Other Wind-- Ursula Le Guin-- Thoughts

The Other Wind -- Ursula Le Guin-- Thoughts

I wrote this while I was sitting on the train into work.

The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin is part of the Earthsea series of novels. Earthsea is a fantasy world filled with magic, dragons, and wizards. Even though it is fantasy, it is often focused on the everyday thoughts of the people who live in the world.

Alder, the main character, is having dreams of his dead wife who he loved passionately. His wife seems to be reaching across the wall between the worlds of the living and the dead. She seems to want to be with him. Alder is a mender, a kind of magician that fixes broken things.

In his worries, Alder travels to see the king with a letter from Ged, a once great magician asking for help. Alder's experience is enough to get the king to seek help.

There is a sense that the writing flows both intuitively and rationally. The writing is focused on the everyday feelings and experiences of the characters. These are not separated from normal living. Alder keeps a kitten to help keep the bad dreams away. Even the description of the fantastic mixes the grand with the mundane. For example, when Irian, the dragon takes woman form she is a barefoot lady with a black dress, and deeply piercing amber eyes which are hard to look at.

As the novel progresses, Alder travels with the king, a princess of the Karg, the lady Tehanu, and several magicians to the wood at the center of the world. There we learn the differences between dragons and men. Dragons chose freedom and magic, and men chose order and the ability to make things.

Earlier in the novel, Tehanu stops the advance of the dragons into the lands of men by offering to travel to the center of the world. The dragons want their land back and are destroying the houses, fields, and livestock of men. They are not killing people, just turning them into refugees.

In the Imminent Grove at the center of the world on the isle of Roke, both dragon and human must make the world right again. I won't reveal the ending. It is about the place of magic and the living and the dead.

Ursula Le Guin is a wonderful writer. Her works of science fiction and fantasy are very interesting. She has won five hugo awards and five nebula awards for her writing. The Earthsea series is fantasy. I would also recommend two of her science fiction novels, The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness.

If you want to read a style of fantasy focused on peoples needs and wants, not fantastic exploits, it is well worth reading her books. I enjoyed reading The Other Wind.

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