A Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula K. LeGuin’s fiction and Carl Jung’s Archetypes

“[Le Guin’s] extensive exposure to Native American legends as well as Norse mythology is evident in her writing (Spivack, p. 2). The latter is quite apparent in The Earthsea Trilogy with the use of the Kargs, a fair-skinned, blond race of big, strong people who worship dual or brother gods. Another aspect of Le Guin’s background, prominent in much of her writing, is noticeable in this trilogy. Earthsea revolves around the principles of Taoism. As a self-proclaimed Taoist (American, p. 546), Le Guin manufactures a world based on two of the main principles of Taoism: 1) the theory of inactivity in which one acts only when absolutely necessary, and 2) the relativity of opposites which is the belief that opposites are interdependent, and their interdependence results in the equilibrium (Spivack, pp. 6 & 7). Both of these principles will be explained further in regard to the individual works” (Griffin, Jan M. Ursula Le Guin’s Magical World of Earthsea, The Alan Review).

Ged as Classic Greek Hero – is he a reluctant or deliberate hero?


“A Wizard of Earthsea is the story of the making of a mage, the education and testing of a young man born with the power to work wonders but lacking the knowledge to bring this power to fruition and to control its destructive potential” (Scholes 37). Themes of equilibrium, coming-of-age, journey, and the omnipresent Shadow infuse the world of Earthsea with magic and possibility. As you read, notice the Taoist notion of Balance in the names, places, phrasing, and ideas.”Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life. . .”,  “To light a candle is to cast a shadow. . .”

Mandala imagery and information

  • For a basic image of a mandala – the Sanskrit religious symbol, Native American symbol, and psychological image of Balance – try this link. “The Circle is the basic component of every mandala. The circle symbolizes perfection – a beginninglessness – endless – seamless – balance.” Joe
  • To view the classic yin/yang symbol, the melding of black and white, the totality of everything, click here.

Some Quotations worthy of discussion – what are your favorites from LeGuin’s tale?

–“If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things.” – René Descartes, Discours de la Méthode, 1637

“You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything.
So I thought once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s
knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower; until at
last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholely what he must do…”
Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea

–“…fantasy is the natural, the appropriate language for the recounting of the spiritual journey and the struggle of good and evil in the soul.” (Le Guin, “The Child and the Shadow” The Language of the Night)

–“Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself. …The one thing worse for democracy than hero worship is self-worship.”  [From “The Decline of Heroes” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.]

–“Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. . . There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night.” [From “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus]

Wizard of Earthsea Assignments