Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea Pride

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Pride

The witch praised him and the children of the village began to fear him, and he himself was sure that very soon he would become great among men. (1.21)

Early on, Ged is described as a proud child (1.3), but it's only later that we see some reasons why he's like that. For instance, here we see that Ged's aunt and the village children treat him as if he's special.

He thought she was mocking him with this question, because the falcon had not fully obeyed his summons. He would not let her mock him. (2.27)

This is definitely part of the problem with pride: if you think you're awesome and others don't, you end up doing things just to prove you're awesome – and some of those things might be dangerous.

Standing there with rage in his heart, looking after Jasper, Ged swore to himself to outdo his rival, and not in some mere illusion-match but in a test of power. He would prove himself, and humiliate Jasper. (3.63)

The first half of this book is like one long demonstration that Ged is overly proud. Here he is, learning magic, and what's he thinking about? How this one kid didn't give him respect. What's really killer about this is that Jasper isn't totally a villain here. In fact, while Ged thinks Jasper's the one who's a proud jerk, Jasper probably thinks the very same thing about Ged. (Want to know more? Check out "Characters: Jasper.")

But for the most part he was all work and pride and temper, and held himself apart. (4.1)

Earlier we heard that Ged as a child was "loud and proud and full of temper," which maps really well onto part of this sentence, about Ged being all "work and pride and temper." Pride is one of Ged's main problems, and he doesn't outgrow it quickly (which is emphasized by the fact that these two sentences seem so similar).

He knew now that Jasper was far beneath him, had been sent perhaps only to bring him here tonight, no rival but a mere servant of Ged's destiny. (4.42)

Ged has a couple issues around pride. First, he thinks he's great (better than he really is). Second, he needs others to recognize just how great he is. A third issue is brought up in this passage. Here Ged achieves perhaps the purest (and most dangerous) form of pride, seeing everyone else not as people, but as tools in his own epic story.

[…] the new wizard was a strange young grim fellow who spoke little, but he spoke fairly, and without pride. (5.2)

We might argue that Ged is still a little proud after the shadow monster chews off part of his face, but he seems to have lost some of his pride in Chapter 4. Le Guin doesn't come out and say it as the narrator, but the townspeople seem to think that Ged is without pride.

The next day, though they would have kept him gladly the rest of his life to praise and boast of, he left the house on the hill, with no baggage but his books, his staff, and the otak riding on his shoulder. (6.5)

Then again, maybe the townspeople aren't so wrong about Ged being humble. He could stay in Low Torning now that he defeated the dragon and people would tell him how great he is. But he has something more important than his pride right now – his fear of the shadow.

And thinking of that day he saw all at once, with a qualm at his heart, how the shadow had tricked him with his own trick, bringing that mist about him on the sea as if bringing it out of his own past, blinding him to danger and fooling him to his death. (8.46)

This is a little hint that the shadow might be part of Ged – after all, the shadow uses Ged's own trick. But it's also a reminder that Ged might not be totally free of pride. It takes a certain amount of pride to sail into the fog, thinking that you really know the way.

"Pride was ever your mind's master," his friend said smiling […] (9.34)

This is part of Vetch's argument for why he should go with Ged to face the shadow monster, and Vetch makes some good points here. It seems as if Ged, even when he's hunting the shadow and has been through a series of shocks, still is a little proud and self-centered. At least that's what Vetch thinks. Do you agree?

But in the Deed of Ged nothing is told of that voyage nor of Ged's meeting with the shadow, before ever he sailed the Dragon's Run unscathed, or brought back the Ring of Erreth-Akbe from the Tombs of Atuan to Havnor, or came at last to Roke once more, as Archmage of all the islands of the world. (10.77)

We heard something very like this in the first paragraph of the book – a list of all the great things that Ged will accomplish. But now we hear the list again after we've seen Ged struggle with his power and his pride and his duty. Does that change the way we read this list of accomplishments?

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