Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea Friendship

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Friendship

"Good," said the boy, for he had no wish to tell the secret to his playmates, liking to know and do what they knew not and could not. (1.13)

Now, we were kids once, so we know it's nice to have secrets. Still, it's very telling that, when we see Ged first, he's mostly wandering alone or saying that he wants to keep secrets from other kids. In other words, it seems like Ged is going to have a hard time making friends.

He was as tall and strong as the fifteen-year-olds, and quick to return either a good word or a jeer; so he made his way among them and even that first night began to live as one of them and learn their work. (2.69)

Why is Ged so easy-going around these guys and not around other people, like Serret or Jasper?

Yet a greater, unlearned skill he possessed, which was the art of kindness. That night, and always from then on, he offered and gave Ged friendship, a sure and open friendship which Ged could not help but return. (3.52)

Whenever we think about friendship in this book, we think about Vetch – he's the nicest, the calmest, and the friendliest student we meet. Vetch is such a friendly guy that he can be friends with both Ged and Jasper – quite the feat.

Thus to Ged who had lost faith in himself, Vetch had given that gift only a friend can give, the proof of unshaken, unshakable trust. (4.101)

Vetch's friendship is probably as important as Ged's pride for the plot. That is, it's Ged's pride and rivalry with Jasper that leads Ged into doing dumb things – but then it's Vetch's friendship that keeps Ged from despairing.

Often Ged and Pechvarry and his little son Ioethe went out into the channels and lagoons, sailing or rowing one boat or another, till Ged was a fair sailor, and the friendship between him and Pechvarry was a settled thing. (5.15)

This friendship turns out to be a little dangerous for Ged – Ged only goes into the Dry Lands, the land of the dead, because of his friendship for Pechvarry – but that shouldn't stop us from noting how Le Guin makes sure we understand this. She actually notes twice (5.10 and here) that Pechvarry and Ged are friends. (And, at 5.32, we're also reminded of it.) Does all this make us feel better about Ged, and his ability to make friends?

There was no such comradeship among this crew as he had found aboard <em>Shadow</em> when he first went to Roke. (6.54)

What can we learn about friendship from this scene? It seems as if friendship requires a certain amount of equality. In other words, you can't be friends with your boss (if you're an employee) or your master (if you're a slave), and if you're an employee, you can't be friends with a slave. Do you agree with that, though?

He flew to the right haven. There were few on Roke and only one on Gont who could have made him back into a man. (7.86)

Wait, wait, wait – in the last quote, it really seemed like people couldn't be friends unless there was some equality. But then, when Ged has nowhere to turn, where does he fly? Back to Ogion. Now, Ged calls Ogion his master a few times, so it doesn't seem like they're equals. But then Ogion also gives advice to Ged and never really tells him what to do. So… what's the deal with Ged and Ogion – are they friends, or what?

From some hidingplace sewn in the skirt of the dress she took a small object, and this was held out to Ged. It was a bit of dark metal, a piece of broken jewelry perhaps, the half-circle of a broken ring. Ged looked at it, but she gestured that he take it, and was not satisfied until he took it; then she nodded and smiled again; she had made him a present. (8.39)

Although they can't communicate very well, Ged and the two Kargad exiles have a pretty OK relationship by the end of Ged's stay. We wouldn't want to call them friends, but these royal exiles at least gives Ged a present, and Ged reciprocates by charming their well. (Ever notice how friends trade presents?)

He had not yet let go of Ged's shoulder, and he said now, in the True Speech, "In trouble and from darkness you come, Ged, yet your coming is joy to me." (9.20)

Remember, humans can't lie in the True Speech, so when Vetch tells Ged that he's happy to see him, that's something we can take to the bank. Even though Ged's deep in trouble and Vetch knows about it, Vetch is happy to see him. Can two guys <em>be</em> more friendly?

Rage and despair filled him, and he sprang out on the sand to help his friend or die with him, and ran towards that small fading glimmer of light in the empty dusk of the dry land. (10.67)

Well, maybe this is the best proof that Vetch is best friends with Ged. And this isn't the first time that Vetch ran <em>toward</em> danger rather than away from it. (Check out 4.54, when Ged is attacked by the shadow monster: "Vetch alone ran forward to his friend.") We may not have to ask our friends to face life-and-death situations like this, but it's sure nice to know that they're there for you if you ever have to.

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