A Wizard of Earthsea

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A Wizard of Earthsea, first published in 1968, is the first of a series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin and set in the fantasy world archipelago of Earthsea depicting the adventures of a budding young wizard named Ged. The tale of Ged's growth and development as he travels across Earthsea continues in The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore and is supplemented in Tehanu and The Other Wind. The series has won numerous literary awards, including the 1990 Nebula for Tehanu, the 1972 Newbery Silver Medal Award for The Tombs of Atuan, 1972 National Book Award for Children's Books for The Farthest Shore, and 1979 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for A Wizard of Earthsea.


Plot summary

Ged (commonly known as Sparrowhawk) is a young boy on Gont, one of the larger islands which dot Earthsea. His mother is dead, his much older siblings have all left home, and his father is a dour, taciturn bronze-smith with nothing in common with his son, so the boy grows up wild and headstrong. Ged discovers by accident that he has an extraordinary talent for magic. His aunt, the village witch, teaches him the little she herself knows, but his power far exceeds hers.

One day, he uses his talent and a fog-gathering spell he learned from a passing weatherworker to save his village from Karg raiders. The tale of his remarkable feat spreads far and wide, finally reaching the ear of a wise Gontish mage, Ogion the Silent. He recognizes that the boy is so powerful he must be trained so as not to become a danger to himself and others. In the rite of passage into adulthood, he gives the boy his "true name", Ged, and takes him as an apprentice. In this world, a magician who knows someone's true name has control over that person, so one's true name is revealed only to those whom one trusts completely. Normally, a person is referred to by his or her "use name". Ged's is Sparrowhawk.

The undisciplined young man grows restless under the gentle, patient tutelage of his master. Ogion finally gives him a choice: stay with him or go to the renowned school for wizards, on the island of Roke. Though he has grown to love the old man, the youngster is drawn irresistibly to a life of doing, rather than being.

At the school, Sparrowhawk masters his craft with ease, but his pride and arrogance grow even faster than his skill and, in his hubris, he attempts to summon a dead spirit - a perilous spell which goes awry. An unknown creature appears and attacks him, scarring his face. It is driven off by the head of the school, the Archmage Nemmerle, who expends all of his power in the process and dies shortly thereafter.

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