Study Guide

The Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 12

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Chapter 12

On Time and Darkness

  • Another plotless chapter. This time, we have an excerpt from The Sayings of Tuhulme the High Priest, a book concerning the Yomesh of Orgoreyn.¬†
  • It reads like Biblical scripture meets the Tao Te Ching, so be prepared.
  • The chapter starts by discussing how Meshe is the center of time.
  • So, Meshe was a Foreteller. He had two lifetimes, and at the center of these lives was an event called the Seeing. All time before the Seeing leads up to the Seeing, and all time afterward leads away from it. Sounds‚Ķcomplicated.
  • Since Meshe is at the center of time, he sees everything that was and everything that will be. Great if he's your Messiah; awful if he's your Tuesday night poker buddy.
  • One day, a poor man came to Meshe distraught over a bad harvest. Meshe told him where to dig for a treasure buried by an ancient king.
  • The poor man did so, and bam, insta-wealth.
  • But Meshe is super bummed, because he also saw how the treasure's original owner was killed over those jewels, and he also saw how the poor man will die.
  • How does he see so much? "The life of every man is in the Center of Time, for all were seen in the Seeing of Meshe, and are in his Eye" (12.5). Whoa, heavy.
  • Another story of Meshe follows. There's a gigantic hemmen-tree with thousands of branches and millions of leaves. It keeps one leaf hidden for itself in the shadow, but when Meshe passes, he plucks that one leaf from the tree.
  • Why does he take it? According to the Meshe religion, darkness is only for mortal men, not Meshe.
  • So, darkness is a bad thing, directly contrasting to Gethen's other major religion, Handdarata.
  • Feeling just a tad baffled? Click on over to the "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section for more about the Gethenians' religion.