Tales From Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

(9.0/10) The Tales from Earthsea are everything that fantasy should be.

Tales from Earthsea comprises of five magical stories of Earthsea, the realm created by master storyteller Ursula Le Guin. The stories help explain the mythology of Earthsea and fill in the gaps between the four prior stories, most notably between Tehanu and The Other Wind.

This wonderful and enchanting collection includes essays on Earthsea's history, people, languages, literature and magic.

The first story is The Finder and it takes place approximately three hundred years before the events in The Wizard of Earthsea. It is set in a dark and troubled time for the Archipelago and reveals how the famous school on Roke was founded.

The Finder is a beautiful novella, possible the strongest of all five. This is not a dry recitation of mythology; it is a gripping and magical story in its own right.

“I think I’ve found my little finder,” said Gelluk. His voice was deep and soft, like the notes of a viol. “Sleeping in the sunshine, like one whose work has been done. So you’ve sent them digging for the Red Mother, have you? Did you know the Red Mother before you came here? Are you a courtier of the King? Here, now, there’s no need for ropes and knots.” Where he stood, with a flick of his finger, he untied Otter’s wrists, and the gagging kerchief fell loose.

Diamond and Darkrose is a love story in which a boy, Diamond, has to weigh up the prospect of becoming a magician and the dedication and celibacy that would be required against the love of a girl.

This is a short story about young love and key decisions in life, there is more than one path open to each individual.

So he cherished his free hours as if they were actual meetings with her. He had always loved her, but had not understood that he loved her beyond anyone and anything. When he was with her, even when he was down on the docks thinking of her, he was alive. He never felt entirely alive in Mater Hemlock’s house and presence. He felt a little dead. Not dead, but a little dead..

The Bones of The Earth is the story of Ogion, a very interesting story and sure to thrill those who have already read The Earthsea Cycle. Ogion is the mentor of Sparrowhawk and a much loved Earthsea figure, this tale tells us of his youth and how he helped save Port Gont from an earthquake. This story is exactly what people are looking for in a pre-history of Earthsea.

My teacher had no staff, Dulse thought, and at the same moment thought. The boy wants his staff from me. Gontish oak, from the hands of a Gontish wizard. Well, if he earns it I’ll make him one. If he can keep his mouth closed. And I’ll leave him my lore-books. If he can clean out a henhouse, and understand the Glosses of Danemer, and keep his mouth closed.

On the High Marsh deals with redemption and power. An itinerant wizard appears in a remote village and uses his power to heal cattle that have been struck by disease. The wizard is perceived as different and Le Guin shows how people treat those that is sees as outsiders, they are tolerated as long as they serve a purpose but are hounded out as soon as they are no longer required. The wizard in this tale has a history involving the school on Roke…

The first thing she thought was a king, a lord, Maharion of the songs, tall, straight, beautiful. The next thing she thought was a beggar, a lost man, in dirty clothes, hugging himself with shivering arms.

Dragonfly is a tale that explains the events that occurred between Tehanu and The Other Wind. Dragonfly deals with a young woman breaking the confines of a male-dominated world of magic.

The Doorkeeper bowed his head a little. A very faint smile made crescent curves in his cheeks. He stood aside. “Come in, daughter,” he said.

This book of short tales shows how an author can return to a successful series and improve upon it. All the magic of Earthsea is still there and the new tales, like the old tales, are a source of joy. Ursula Le Guin never takes the easy route in her fantasy; strong females and a mostly black cast of characters are two elements that you would least expect to find in a fantasy novel. The fantasy genre needed somebody like Le Guin to clear it of its stereotypes and secondary importance females and this she does with wisdom and passion.

The Tales from Earthsea are everything that fantasy should be and if Tolkien was alive today he may well re-think the composition of The Silmarillion.

The magic of Earthsea remains as potent, as wise and as necessary as anyone could dream. Neil Gaiman

Le Guin makes a triumphant return … the publication of this collection is a major event in fantasy literature. Publishers weekly

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