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A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

She knew nothing of the Balance and the Pattern which the true wizard knows and serves, and which keep him from using his spells unless real need demands. (1.19)

Trust us on this: later books will take a kinder view of women and their magic. But this quote shows a clear distinction between the minor wizards and witches who use magic carelessly and those school-taught wizards who understand that magic comes with a cost. If Ged starts out being a little too quick to use magic, we might blame it on the fact that no one has taught him about the Balance yet.

Quote #2

But Ogion let the rain fall where it would. (2.16)

Ged doesn't understand about the Balance until Ogion starts teaching and demonstrating the Balance. Letting the rain fall on him may be a minor example, but it seems pretty powerful to us. After all, if you had the power to keep rain off yourself, wouldn't you want to use it?

Quote #3

"But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world." (3.57)

This is the Master Hand telling Ged that it's easy (and fine) to make illusions, but hard (and dangerous) to actually change things. Now, Le Guin (or her editor) seems a little inconsistent with capitalizations – notice that sometimes it's "the Balance" and sometimes it's "the balance." (And sometimes it's "Equilibrium.") But this is one of the central issues about power and duty – that the wizards can't just go about doing whatever they want, but have to worry about the Balance too.

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