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Tales from Earthsea (2001)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Earthsea Cycle (5)

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3,637583,498 (3.94)75
Explores further the magical world of Earthsea through five tales of events which occur before or after the time of the original novels, as well as an essay on the people, languages, history and magic of the place.
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Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
The previous novel, Tehanu, was labeled "The Last Earthsea Novel". LeGuin begins this collection acknowledging how silly it was to label anything "last". She failed to realize that the books had stopped, but Earthsea hadn't. This would suggest a continuation of the original stories, but this is not that. For the most part, the stories are not what happened next, but what happened before and/or elsewhere. What this collection really continues is LeGuin's questioning of her original world building, specifically the male-dominated system of wizard magic. The most important stories are the first and last. The Finder tells the story of Otter and, eventually, the formation of the school of wizardry on Roke Island. A key point is that Roke began as wizards and witches together blending knowledge and power. The final story, Dragonfly, returns to the question raised at the end of Tehanu: who should become the next archmage of Roke Island, and what was the import of the cryptic message to find the woman on Gont? Dragonfly, a young woman close to Ged's age, comes to Roke to learn. She stays in Otter's long abandoned hut. Her presence violates the no-woman rule that we now know is not true to Roke's origins. The three stories between The Finder and Dragonfly are all fine stories, but these bookends are what you remember because of how they encapsulate the paradox of Earthsea.

I am a bit disappointed. I feel that LeGuin, with all her intelligence and skills and repeated wrestling with questions of gender and power, failed to go beyond the obvious here. The book concludes with "A description of Earthsea" that summarizes the geography, peoples, and history of Earthsea, going well beyond what the novels and stories cover. This summary reinforces the idea that power shifts constantly, but it also sticks to a single narrative where men with narrow views take power from women. LeGuin's stories never ask why some men keep doing this and why they succeed.

Highly recommended. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | Apr 13, 2024 |
The penultimate book of the Earthsea cycle is a collection of five stories rather than a novel. In principle, it could be a point of entry to the series, since most of the stories take place earlier than the events of the first four books. But I think that having those novels for background and context colored and enhanced my experience of reading each of the stories here.

The first and longest of the Tales is a significant novella "The Finder," set in the earliest history of the wizards' school of Roke, centuries before Ged's time. It involves a secret society, the Hand, with a manual sign of recognition and the object of recovering and managing magical knowledge.

The second story "Darkrose and Diamond" most excellently stumps quite a few narrative tropes for fantasy bildungsroman. Le Guin doesn't admit as much in her foreword or afterword, but I can imagine it being her exploration of some characterizations, motives, and outcomes almost in opposition to those she had developed at greater length for Ged and Tenar.

"The Bones of the Earth" concerns wizardry on Gont before Ged's time. In this shortest story of the set, there is an important character who is known from the other Earthsea books, but who is introduced under another name. I realized who it really was just a few paragraphs before the story made it clear, and I was impressed with the artistry of the writing in affording me that experience.

"On the High Marsh" is a story set during the time when Ged was Archmage. In a way, it is a bookend to the love story of "Darkrose and Diamond," dealing with an older and more careworn pair of central characters.

The final story "Dragonfly" Is another novella. It follows directly on the events of Tehanu, and Le Guin characterized it as a "bridge" to the final book of the cycle. It mirrors "The Finder," with both tales concerning someone who comes to Roke at a time of its radical transformation. Where "The Finder" was before the era of Archmages, "Dragonfly" is after it. So the five stories have a sort of mirrored arrangement, folded across the fault in "The Bones of the Earth" at the book's center.

There is also an expository appendix "A Description of Earthsea," which gives some ethnographic and historical information about the setting that had been developed over the course of five books. There are few details in this forty-page set of short essays that hadn't already been offered in the novels and stories, and there are some redundancies and repetitions within the "Description." It began as author's notes for her own orientation in writing the tales, and she published it with an understanding that it might be "of real interest to some readers." It is reminiscent of Tolkien's apparatus in The Lord of the Rings.

I enjoyed each of the stories in this book, and I'm already a little sad that there's only one tale of Earthsea left that I haven't yet read: I will be reading The Other Wind soon.
1 vote paradoxosalpha | Jan 25, 2024 |
I loved this one almost as much as the other books, and loved the short story "The Finder" more than Tehanu. I got so excited when characters I knew from previous books showed up. ( )
  Dances_with_Words | Jan 6, 2024 |
Maybe I'd rate this higher if I had read the other Earthsea books first. But it was interesting to read more of Leguin's thoughts on her world through some stories that filled in the details and some background on the world.

It does make me want to read the book(s) to learn more. I love her writing and some time ago I read many of her books.

The stories are more illustrations of how magic works and how it progressed on this world. Somewhere along the line wizards decided that you had to be celibate to practice high magic and women couldn't learn it at all and were related to being witches. Women were herbalists and midwives. Made love potions and "small magic." ( )
  jezebellydancer | Oct 7, 2023 |
After Tehanu was published in 1990, Le Guin declared the Earthsea series complete, but later in the decade had a change of heart. This volume includes five short stories, the last of which is Dragonfly, which serves as a bridge between Tehanu and The Other Wind, which truly would end the series.

My favorite story was The Finder, which takes place centuries before the main series and describes a humble boy with a special talent who is enslaved by a wicked king and wizard acting in tandem. Le Guin’s understanding of human nature and power demonstrated through her characters is highly relevant to the real world, and it was remarkable how she didn’t settle for a possible simple ending after the first half of the story. The young man eventually makes his way out to Roke, where he meets those who will ultimately found the school of magic, but is pursued. “The lords of war despise scholars and schoolmasters,” one character observes. Indeed. As in other stories, Le Guin’s climactic ‘battle’ is not maudlin or drawn-out, and I loved the maturity in her concision.

Another strong story was Darkrose and Diamond, which of them all seemed geared most towards younger readers, dealing as it did with choices in life and young love. I also liked On the High Marsh, which has a wizard with healing powers over cattle show up on a rugged island. Through this character, who is an enigma to the locals, we see a spectrum of human behavior: mercy, jealousy, avarice, and cruelty. Ged, the main protagonist from the earlier novels, makes an appearance and explains the young man’s backstory, something which seemed rather convenient, but even here Le Guin provides a satisfying wrinkle in the story’s resolution.

I was less enamored with The Bones of the Earth, the shortest of the stories. It tells of a wizard and his apprentice who deal with an earthquake, and it seemed the most obvious, or any event, the least developed. The final story, Dragonfly, is better, but perhaps not on a par with the best in this bunch. I loved the feminism in the story and how it illustrated that even on the wise island of Roke, progress was necessary. It started strong, but then seemed as if Le Guin was searching for a way to end the story, maybe because The Other Wind was already being developed. She then includes A Description of Earthsea, which outlines the culture and history of her imagined world – probably something that readers heavily into the series lapped up like ice cream, but for me, more of a convenient reference.

All in all, an enjoyable read, reflecting Le Guin’s sharp eye, maturity, and excellent prose. ( )
1 vote gbill | Sep 20, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Anselmi, PieroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buzzard, MadelynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Croce, CesareCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kleiner, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dla moich braci: Cliftona, Teda, Karla
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This is the first page of the Book of the Dark, written some six hundred years ago in Berila, on Enlad: "After Elfarran and Morred perished and the Isle of Soléa sank beneath the sea, the Council of the Wise governed for the child Serriadh until he took the throne."
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People who have a secret name that holds their power the way a diamond holds light may well like their public name to be ordinary, common, like other people's names.
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Short story collection; not to be confused (or combined) with omnibus editions of the NOVELS, or with the animated film of the same title. Contains "The Finder", "Darkrose and Diamond", "The Bones of the Earth", "On the High Marsh", and "Dragonfly".
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Explores further the magical world of Earthsea through five tales of events which occur before or after the time of the original novels, as well as an essay on the people, languages, history and magic of the place.

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