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Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) by…

Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) (original 1990; edition 1991)

by Ursula K. Le Guin (Author)

Series: The Earthsea Cycle (04)

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5,353842,022 (3.83)1 / 168
When Sparrowhawk, the Archmage of Earthsea, returns from the dark land stripped of his magic powers, he finds refuge with the aging widow Tenar and a crippled girl child who carries an unknown destiny.
Title:Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4)
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin (Author)
Info:Spectra (1997), Edition: English Language, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin (1990)


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 Folio Society Devotees: Earthsea3 unread / 3tyreas, May 2023

» See also 168 mentions

English (80)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (84)
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
In this book Ursula Le Guin made a welcome return to her Earthsea cycle 18 years after publishing The Farthest Shore, continuing to show her mastery at world building and expanding on feminist themes. She is always enjoyable to read and I appreciate her subtlety in building up to scenes of conflict, which then have more power as a result. The antagonist in this story doesn’t appear on all that many pages, but his malevolence is always felt, lurking. In this case, however, I thought there were places where rather mundane activity, like on the farm, went on too long, causing the story to drag a bit, and stopping me from truly loving it.

On judging others improperly:
“Like most people, Tiff believed that you are what happens to you. The rich and strong must have virtue; one to whom evil has been done must be bad, and may rightly be punished.”

On men:
“’What’s wrong with men?’ Tenar inquired cautiously.
As cautiously, lowering her voice, Moss replied, ‘I don’t know, my dearie. I’ve thought on it. Often I’ve thought on it. The best I can say it is like this. A man’s in his skin, see, like a nut in its shell.’ She held up her long, bent, wet fingers as if holding a walnut. ‘It’s hard and strong, that shell, and it’s all full of him. Full of grand man-meat, man-self. And that’s all. That’s all there is. It’s all him and nothing else, inside.’”

On women:
“If women had power, what would men be but women who can’t bear children? And what would women be but men who can?” ( )
1 vote gbill | Jul 2, 2024 |
Though the cover boasted "The Last Earthsea" book, two more were to follow. This was LeGuin revisiting the trilogy to attempt to address its narrow male focus, by following not only what happened to Ged but Tenar from The Tombs of Atuan. Strong through early LeGuin was, this is clearly a more mature author at work. The tone is much more up close and personal, compared to the distanced telling of the trilogy. There's a suspenseful scene when Tenar is besieged in her cottage that is unlike anything I recall in other LeGuin novels. Overall I prefer this to the original books, especially the scenes where the male wizards struggle to understand that there are more powers in the world than theirs. I found the discussions on men versus women to be shallow, and as disappointing as similar passages in The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

Recommended. ( )
1 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Mar 30, 2024 |
Le Guin's Tehanu is completely different from the first three books in the Earthsea Cycle. It's about middle-aged, widowed Tenar and her life as an average woman in rural Gont. It feels more reflective and subversive to me than the first four books did.
  libwen | Feb 9, 2024 |
The very best ☺️ ( )
  amackera | Dec 28, 2023 |
When I finished my reread of The Farthest Shore, it was obvious to me that there needed to be a fourth Earthsea book to continue Tenar's story and pass it to a next generation and a new form of power, just as the third book had done for Ged. So it was no surprise to me when Le Guin claimed in her 2012 afterword to Tehanu that she had begun that work straight away after finishing The Farthest Shore. But it took her eighteen years to write, because it demanded more acquired perspective. In The Farthest Shore, the viewpoint passes to the young Arren immediately, and he carries it through the book, but in Tehanu, it is still Tenar who serves as the viewpoint character for the first thirteen chapters, and Le Guin needed more of her own "ordinary, unmagical life" (271) to explain Tenar's experiences to herself and the reader.

Publishers were no doubt happy with the incomplete work that could be sold as a "trilogy," and while Tehanu won the 1990 Nebula award for best novel, it has been frequently noted as a marked turn from the earlier Earthsea books, rather than their natural fulfillment, as it seemed to me in my recent reading. The diction was consistent with the earlier books, and it constantly returned to their themes and expressions. Perhaps a sticking point for some readers was the fact that it overtly addressed not only sex but the patent fact that sex had been sublimated in the earlier books.

An occultist magician will easily read these first four Earthsea tales as an elaboration of the formula of Tetragrammaton, expressed in Ged/yod, Tenar/heh, Lebannen/vau, and Tehanu/heh. The story of the Woman of Kemay (13-15) intimates the shin to be added to the formula. This nested tale brought my attention back to Michael Moorcock's recent Elric book The Citadel of Forgotten Myths, and its emphasis on an ancestry shared by humans (well, Elric's people) and dragons. It seems likely that Moorcock was influenced by Tehanu on this count, even if not consciously so.

I do feel a strong sense of completion in Tehanu, and I will pause before moving on to the short stories collected in Tales of Earthsea. The texts so far have given me confidence that Le Guin's later fantasies will continue to inquire gracefully into "who we are, and where our wholeness lies" (16).
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Dec 2, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alsberg, RebeccaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergen, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guay, RebeccaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linnert, HildeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.
—The Creation of Ea
First words
After Farmer Flint of the Middle Valley died, his widow stayed on at the farmhouse.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
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When Sparrowhawk, the Archmage of Earthsea, returns from the dark land stripped of his magic powers, he finds refuge with the aging widow Tenar and a crippled girl child who carries an unknown destiny.

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