I was watching Tales of Earthsea, the movie by Gorō Miyazaki (son of Hayao Miyazaki) and started drawing the above picture. Probably not accurate to the books, but then again, neither was the movie. It was fun enough anyway, but I definitely recommend the books over the movie (I always do). I imagine it was a world closer than the live action TV series, though (still–did NO ONE get the memo that Ged and the rest of the archipelago were brown skinned???).
The Earthsea series is one of my old favorites. Can’t remember when I first read it–possibly high school, possibly college–but I associate it with the other “big classics” in my life, from Narnia to Middle Earth. My affections apply primarily to the original trilogy, however: Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore–or at least, when I first read the follow-up novels (Tehanu and The Other Wind) they didn’t feel quite the same. That was a long time ago, though, and I’m planning on rereading them as I work my way through the series now. I will say that I am more a fan of the changes in theory these days, at least now that I have some academic experience–the original series uncritically recapitulates a lot of the patriarchal and even misogynistic elements of the medieval and pre-medieval cultures it mimics (wizards are male, noble, learned, respected, witches are female, amateurs, petty and sometimes evil). Well, that makes it accurate, right? Except that a text is an action within the real world, the current world, and we are responsible for what we do in this real world with our writing and reading. Blindly recapitulating a problematic ideology is different than representing that ideology. But then again, this is the author who wrote the gender-bending Left Hand of Darkness, and I have to say the Earthsea series is a lot more aware of gender than most fantasy novels. It is nice that she opened up the world of Earthsea a bit in her later books, though.
One thing a novelist friend pointed out to me which my loyalty to the series had maybe blinded me to–the first book, at least, and to a degree the rest of the series, is fairly guilty of “telling” as opposed to “showing”. I think this is a common problem for older children’s books– they assume more of a “story-teller” mode, covering large swathes of plot and lifetime in summary. Well, I’ve got to say, I like the prose anyway. It gives it a different feel, sure, but it has a beauty and rhythm to it all the same. “Showing” still comes into it, but at different intervals than they teach you at writer’s conferences. Besides that, the first novel covers a large amount of Sparrowhawk’s biography, so a certain amount of summary is to be expected.
I may have more on this later–I’m rereading the series right now, and will be rereading the later novels for the first time in years–maybe since undergrad. We will see how I like them now.
The image is available as a print, a card, and several other things from DeviantArt.