Katherine Mankiller

Alas, poor Earthsea!
December 15, 2004, 11:05 am
Filed under: reading

A Wizard of Earthsea was the first SF/F I ever read, and if I hadn’t enjoyed it I probably wouldn’t be here. I read and loved the entire trilogy, but was particularly fond of The Tombs of Atuan, which had a wonderfully creepy, anthropologically fascinating religion of an older, chthonic worship of the Old Ones and an obviously superimposed cult of the GodKing. Oh, it also had a female protagonist, which was very exotic for a young female reader.
Upon coming across this I was a bit discouraged. To quote Ursula K. Le Guin, “So, for the record: there is no statement in the books, nor did I ever intend to make a statement, about ‘the union of two belief systems.’ There’s nothing at all about the ‘duality of spirituality and paganism,’ whatever that means, either.” Nevertheless, I did want to see it for myself before I judged.
I should have known. Tenar (the name “Arha” is not used) is apparently a Catholic nun, or Vestal Virgin, part of an entire bevy of veiled priestesses devoted to holding back the Old Ones through the power of prayer. When Sparrowhawk said, “There’s a great power here, not magic but a power for good!” I’m afraid I gagged loudly. WTF? “A power for good”? We are talking about the Old Ones, right? the ones that demand teenage girls come up with executions for criminals?
Le Guin adds, “I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien ‘intended…’ would people think they’d been ‘very, very honest to the books’?” What, you mean you didn’t intend to write a piece of Christian propaganda designed to prop up the reign of the GodKing? You didn’t intend to write a parable about how science and faith need each other to be whole, but science is powerless in the realm of faith?
Can we have a do-over, but with Peter Jackson instead of this guy?
I am so, so very afraid for The Left Hand of Darkness!

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