Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Tehanu (Earthsea #4), by Ursula K. Le Guin (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781501923920, June 2016 (original publication June 1990)

Twenty-five years ago, Tenar was a young priestess serving in the quite sinister Tombs of Atuan, and Ged was a powerful wizard. They escaped from the Tombs together--and then they parted company. Tenar chose the unmagical life of a farmer's wife, and Ged went on to become Archmage of Roke.

Now Tenar is a widow,who has taken in a child, Therru, badly maimed by fire. Ged is no longer a wizard at all; he poured out all his power in defeating a major threat to the world of Earthsea. Tenar takes Therru with her when the wizard of Gont, Ogion, who taught both Ged, and, for a time Tenar, sends word that he is dying, and asks her to come. This is the start of another great change in the direction of Tenar's life.

Both Ged and Ogion had seen power in Tenar, wanted her trained. Tenar chose to live a normal, unmagical life as a farmer's wife. When Ogion meets Therru, he tells Tenar to teach her. "Teach her everything."

When Ogion dies, Tenar is in no immediate hurry to return to the farm in her own village. Therru is starting to relax a bit, open up. The local village witch, Auntie Moss, is becoming a reliable if sometimes difficult friend. There was a brief confrontation with the local lord's wizard, Aspen, but that seems to pass quickly.

Then the Archmage Sparrowhawk, true name Ged, arrives. He's no longer the Archmage; he's no longer a mage. And by "arrive," I mean, is delivered by a dragon--a dragon who speaks to Tenar and tells her his name.

Ged wishes she would just let him die; she nurses him back to health. Because they stay on, in the village and in Ogion's cottage, there's time for one of the men who inflicted Therru's terrible injuries to arrive and see the girl. There's time for Aspen to decide he really resents Tenar's reputation as a woman with real power. There's time for royal messengers hoping to summon Ged back to the king's city for his coronation to arrive--but Tenar gets word just in time to let Ged get out of Ogion's village and off to Tenar's, where he will seek work at Tenar's farm.

Yet the real meat of this story is a look at the underdogs of Earthsea society--the women who are not supposed to have any power more than that of a village witch, the ordinary working people, those who don't have the power of magic, or violence, or wealth. These are the people we didn't see much of in the earlier Earthsea books; they're at the center of the story here. And Ged, once so arrogant in his younger years, is now one of them. This is Le Guin doing what some writers never manage to do, looking at what she overlooked in an older, much-loved, but necessarily imperfect work.

I loved the Earthsea trilogy; I love Tehanu.


I bought this audiobook.

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