On the infinite wisdom of Ursula Le Guin

I’m rereading A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s marvelously wise, and to think that it was one of the earliest of Le Guin’s published novels! I’ve read interviews with Le Guin, where she credits her discovery of feminism with uplifting her career. “A Wizard of Earthsea” predates her feminist work, but there are fun ways of reading it as a proto-feminist narrative, I believe.

Here’s a passage that comes at the end of Ged’s schooling; he’s graduated and became a full-staffed wizard. Now he needs to leave the school, and for that he needs to guess the name of The Master Doorkeeper.

Ged knew a thousand ways and crafts and means for finding out names of things and of men, of course; such craft was a part of everything he had learned at school, for without it there could be little useful magic done. But to find out the name of a Mage and Master was another matter. A mage’s name is better hidden than a herring in the sea, better guarded than a dragon’s den. A prying charm will be met with a stronger charm, subtle devices will fail, devious inquiries will be deviously thwarted, and force will be turned ruinously back upon itself. . . . .

 

After the sun was up Ged went, still fasting, to the door of the House and knocked. The Doorkeeper opened.

“Master,” said Ged, “I cannot take your name from you, not being strong enough, and I cannot trick your name from you, not being wise enough. So I am content to stay here, and learn or serve, whatever you will: unless by chance you will answer a question I have.”

“Ask it.”

“What is your name?”

Buy and read the rest of the book.

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