Monday, August 28, 2006

Hunting your shadow

Not exactly sure why they are marketing Le Guin's Earthsea series as books for teenagers. The text may be quite simple and the plot modestly linear as any great fantasy work could be. But Le Guin's novels definitely pack a lot of meaning and mythos behind each scene and line. In A Wizard of Earthsea for instance, one finds the main character being pursued by a shadowy being accidentally released from the underworld by a previous spell of necromancy, spoken in a wave of juvenile pride and hate. The young but wiser Ged finds his wizard's skills suddenly useless against the dark force that has spoken his true name and thus has bound his magical powers during each encounter. Fear seems to overwhelm him completely, until Ged finds new strength in the words of his old master from his native island of Gont and began to realize that the thing that pursues him feeds on his fear of it:

"If you go ahead, if you keep running, wherever you run you will meet danger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses the way you go. You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter."

Then comes the exciting part, where Ged goes through the final face-off with his shadow and fulfills his masters' prophecies about his destiny: to become the greatest wizard of Earthsea. But one really has to read the book for that. Anyway, the hero theme should be familiar to any Joseph Campbell or Star Wars fan. That is, about facing your dark side and going on a quest for that. For all their 21st century inventiveness and panache, the Wachowski brothers also ended up weaving the same old mythic thread in their Matrix series. (In fact, there's that uncanny resemblance between the final scene in Matrix Revolutions when Agent Smith "transforms" Neo into his own image, and the one in Le Guin's novel when Ged and his shadow clashed in a final burst of light.) But all of these don't make Le Guin's Earthsea novels a run of the mill series.

This is my first time to read her work. Still have to buy myself copies of the other three books in the Earthsea series (by the way, bought A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the series, for only 40 piso at Booksale; National Bookstore sells the same edition for close to 300 piso). Hope to find and read them soon. For Ursula K. Le Guin's official website, click here.


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