Study Guide

The Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 19

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Chapter 19


  • The companions are getting tired. Yeah, so are we. But at least we're not on a glacier full of rotting ice, sunken pits, and false floors.
  • One time, Ai is pushing the sledge when it stops dead. And Estraven is gone.
  • Actually, he's in a death trap of a crevasse, and only alive because Ai was still holding onto the sledge.
  • Estraven asks Ai to choose the path, but Ai breaks down with fear. He cries.
  • Yeah, time to set up camp and be done with this day.
  • In the tent, Estraven talks about how they need both shadows and light to walk safely. Hey, that reminds Ai of something! He takes Estraven's journal and draws a yin-yang in it. Light and dark.
  • Days later, a whopper of a blizzard hits—three days of a deafening, madness-inducing sound.
  • After the blizzard breaks, they have another day of traveling. Estraven busts out full rations to beef up their strength before it gives out (and with hopes the food doesn't give out either).
  • On their seventy-fifth day, they step off the Ice and onto Guthen Bay.
  • 840 miles, and they're finally nearing civilization.
  • Entering a house in Kurkurast Domain, Estraven asks for hospitality. The Gethenians bring food and welcome them openly.
  • Using his shifgrethor (something like "honor" or "prestige"), Estraven manages to conceal their identities and true reason for crossing the ice, all without insulting their hosts.
  • Estraven may be a wanted man, but he's still a deft politician.
  • When they've recovered a little, Ai and Estraven decide to head to the border. Estraven can then sneak back into Orgoreyn, and Ai can use the transmitter in Sassinoth to contact his spaceship. Compared to their last journey, it will be a 150-mile walk in the park.
  • Ai agrees, but only if Argaven revokes Estraven's banishment before Karhide can join the Ekumen.
  • During their last two days in Kurkurast, Estraven delights his hosts with stories of their travels across the glacier.
  • It takes them eight days of easy travel to reach the border.
  • Estraven calls on an old friend of his, Thessicher. Thessicher doesn't love having public enemy number one under his roof, but he eventually agrees to hide Estraven until he can safely cross the border.
  • Ai leaves Estraven the next day and skis to the College of Trades in Sassinoth. There, E.T. phones home. So to speak.
  • By the time the message is sent, the snow is falling so hard that he can't get back. The College puts Ai up for the night.
  • The next morning, on his way to Thessicher's farm, Ai meets Estraven unexpectedly.
  • Seems Thessicher pulled a Judas and sold out his friend.
  • The two hide in the woods and recon the situation at the border. No guards on the Orgoreyn side, but the two guards on the Karhide side are packing heat.
  • The two huddle for warmth and wait for darkness. It reminds Ai of being inside the tent again.
  • Ai suddenly realizes what his "selfishness and Estraven's silence had kept from [him], where [Estraven] was going and what he was getting into" (19.107). In other words, he finally realizes that Estraven is a really good friend and tries to stop him.
  • Too late. Estraven sprints for the border, and the guards gun him down.
  • Ai holds his friend until he dies, and the two are separated one last time. Ai goes to jail, Estraven "into the dark" (19.108).