Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea Summary

Here's the incredibly brief version: A Wizard of Earthsea is a coming-of-age story. We meet a young boy who is wild and proud, then we see him make a terrible mistake and face something that he's not powerful enough to deal with. Once he's grown up a bit, we see him try to fix the terrible mistake he made.

And that's that! Wait, you're intrigued? You want more? OK, then, here goes…

The slightly less brief version: a wild boy is born, doesn't like his dad's work, and learns some magic from his witchy aunt. The boy uses that magic to defend his town when raiders attack.

Because of his success with the raiders, the boy is taken in as an apprentice by the mage Ogion, who gives the boy his true name, Ged. Ogion tries to teach Ged about magic and the balance of powers. But Ged wants more power (partly to impress a girl…you know how it is), so he almost summons a shadow monster. Luckily, Ogion stops Ged and offers to send him to school.

Ged goes to the magic school on Roke where he meets a friend, Vetch, and a rival, Jasper. Ged is very proud and, to shut Jasper up, he tries to summon a dead spirit. Instead, he succeeds in summoning a shadow monster. The Archmage of Roke saves Ged, but dies after banishing the shadow from Roke. Clearly this didn't go as planned.

Ged feels terrible, but Vetch is still his friend, so that makes him feel a little better. Ged continues to study magic, and after he graduates, he gets a little job watching out for dragons in a small town. See, after being traumatized by the shadow monster, Ged is way less fatheaded and less annoying.

But then, when he tries to save a friend's dying child, Ged runs into the shadow and he realizes he's in danger. He can't stay where he is because then he puts everyone in danger. He decides to fight the dragons first, and then go deal with the pesky shadow monster.

So he defeats the dragons (it helps that he knew the big bad dragon's true name). Then he tries to find a way to deal with the shadow. He goes to find a magic sword that someone told him about. But Ged was deceived and, instead of a good sword, Ged meets an evil magic stone and has to deal with that now too. It's not pretty, and Ged only escapes after turning himself into a falcon.

Ged flies back to Ogion, who helps him return to human form. Ogion also advises Ged to start being the hunter rather than the hunted. Where would Ged be without Ogion?

So Ged starts chasing the shadow and the shadow is scared. Ged is momentarily a castaway on an island where he gets part of a broken ring. (Which is important in the second book in the series, by the way.) Then Ged sails to an island where Vetch is, and the two of them go hunting for the shadow.

Eventually, Ged corners the shadow and absorbs it since it's really his shadow – it's part of him. Then they sail home now that Ged has: 1) fixed his mistake and 2) gained a deeper understanding of himself.

  • Chapter 1

    Warriors in the Mist

    • On Gont Island, a boy is born.
    • One day, this boy will be the super awesome mage Sparrowhawk, and they'll write songs about him. But, for now, he's just a little boy called Duny and he seems pretty ordinary.
    • He lives in a small town called Ten Alders. His dad is a bronze-smith. His mom died when Duny was young. His older siblings are gone. His aunt helped to raise him a little. He hates working in his dad's forge. And, of course, he would prefer to wander and explore.
    • As we said, pretty ordinary for a little kid.
    • He's continues to be ordinary until – and you knew that "until" was coming, or else this would be a boring book – Duny learns some magic from his aunt, who happens to be a village witch.
    • He shows his aunt that he can do magic when he calls to some goats and they come to him (which is what people used to do before TV was invented).
    • His aunt is a little worried because Duny seems powerful.
    • Still, she teaches him all she knows, including how to call falcons to him.
    • People start calling him Sparrowhawk because they see him with birds, so we'll call him Sparrowhawk now too.
    • Sparrowhawk learns all he can from the aunt, though a) she doesn't know all that much since she's just a village witch, and b) she keeps some of the darker magic away from him (1.19).
    • Sparrowhawk learns a little extra magic from some wandering weatherworkers.
    • This totally comes in handy when Gont Island gets raided by the Kargad Empire.
    • See, the Kargad Empire is raiding the nearby islands, including Gont (which is what people used to do before TV was invented).
    • Ten Alders doesn't really have a good military – or any military at all. So a bunch of the townspeople are going to fight the Karg raiders, but they're probably going to die.
    • But Sparrowhawk casts a fog spell over the town, and this helps the townspeople defeat the raiders.
    • For instance, the townspeople lead some of the raiders over a cliff that the townspeople know about, but that the raiders don't know about and can't see, thanks to all this fog.
    • This magic victory has two consequences: 1) Sparrowhawk becomes semi-famous, as people start talking about the boy who saved the village; and 2) Sparrowhawk goes into a trance because he spent all his power. (We all know what that's like, right?)
    • Luckily, Ogion the Silent comes and he's a powerful magician. He heals Sparrowhawk and gives the boy his true name: Ged.
    • From now on, we'll call him Ged, even though some people still call him Sparrowhawk. Gosh, magic is confusing.
    • Also, Ged becomes Ogion's apprentice.
  • Chapter 2

    The Shadow

    • Life with Ogion turns out to be a little dull: instead of flying to his home in Re Albi (which means "Falcon's Nest"), they just walk; instead of moving the rain away with magic, Ogion just lets them get wet.
    • When Ged asks when they're going to start doing super amazing magic stuff, Ogion tells him that patience is important to being a wizard and that Ged needs to study more to learn what things are.
    • Now, in our experience, telling teens that they need to be patient and study more always works.
    • At Re Albi, Ged starts learning the runes of the Hardic language, which isn't magic, but is related to the Old Speech that is magic. (In the real world, runes are the letters of the alphabet for some older Germanic/Scandinavian languages. In other words: Vikings!)
    • His other main job as apprentice seems to be gathering herbs in the spring, which gives Ged plenty of time to wander around.
    • One day, while he's out gathering herbs, he meets the daughter of the lord of Re Albi. (Apparently, Re Albi is not a democracy.)
    • The daughter makes nice, but also teases him about his powers. He tries to impress her by calling a falcon to him, which she doesn't find super impressive after all.
    • So, in order to impress the girl – classic move – Ged goes through Ogion's spells and sort of accidentally starts reading a spell to call the dead, which we've all done at some time or other. Ged can't stop himself from finishing the spell once he starts reading it, and some terrible shadow monster appears.
    • Luckily, Ogion comes in and banishes the shadow monster before things get out of hand. He points out to Ged that the girl he wanted to impress may be a bit of witch since her mother's a bit of a witch.
    • He uses this opportunity to teach Ged a lesson: "This sorcery is not a game we play for pleasure or for praise. Think of this: that every word, every act of our Art is said and is done either for good, or for evil. Before you speak or do you must know the price that is to pay!" (2.48).
    • That's may be Ogion's last lesson since Ged decides he should go to the great wizard school known as Hogwarts… uh, no, we meant to say the great wizard school on Roke Island.
    • Ogion takes Ged down to the Great Port of Gont, where everyone honors Ogion for stopping an earthquake years ago. This makes Ged reconsider – if my teacher is so awesome, maybe I should stay here with him? But they find a ship named Shadow and send him off to Roke anyway.
    • This is Ged's first time off the island, and he quickly learns sailing from the men. He also gets to see new islands, and even gets to experience his very first storm at sea.
    • And then he gets dropped off at Roke.
  • Chapter 3

    The School for Wizards

    • Ged eventually finds the school for wizards. But he can't enter the school until he gives the doorkeeper his true name, so he complies. Also, a shadow seems to follow him.
    • Ged meets Archmage Nemmerle, and has a moment of enlightenment where it seems like the birds and the water in the fountain are talking to him. Which is better than anything we ever experienced meeting a new principal or teacher.
    • Ged reads Nemmerle the letter Ogion sent, which says that Ged will be the greatest wizard from Gont. (You know, no pressure.)
    • Nemmerle mumbles to himself and Ged suddenly feels as if he's alone among shadows in a desert. Let's just say it: the School for Wizards is a weird place.
    • At least one thing is normal for a school: not all the students there get along. Ged gets a tour from an older student named Jasper and they're both a little rude to each other. (Ged thinks Jasper's mocking him, so he acts rudely back.)
    • Ged and Jasper run into a nice student named Vetch who joins them for the rest of the tour.
    • The tour includes the usual places for a boarding school – you eat here, sleep over there, read books there.
    • But there are also magical places. For instances, there's the Immanent Grove, which is a forest that you can't come close to. (It almost seems like Le Guin is making a joke about the words "immanent" and "imminent.")
    • Also, there's Roke Knoll, which is a grassy hill where magic is particularly strong.
    • Jasper and Vetch demonstrate their illusions, and Jasper asks Ged to do some Gontish magic. Now, Ged doesn't really know magic that's quite as cool as their stuff, so he pretends to be above such silly illusions.
    • And since Ged now feels like a fool, he really hates Jasper now. Luckily, Vetch is a nice guy, and they hang out.
    • Ged studies hard, partly in order to beat Jasper, which is the best reason for wanting to be a master magician.
    • He studies with the Nine Masters of Roke (though you may notice that this list doesn't actually add up to nine in this chapter):
    • (1) The Master Chanter teaches history (which is in song form, of course).
    • (2) The Master Windkey teaches weatherworking.
    • (3) The Master Herbal teaches, well, herbs. And healing.
    • (4) The Master Hand teaches tricks and illusions.
    • Ged is good at illusions, but he wants to really change one thing into another.
    • The Master Hand gives Ged a long speech that Ged doesn't pay attention to, but that you should (3.57). The gist of that speech is basically this: to really change a thing, you have to change its true name; but such a change may upset balance, so you really have to know what you're doing.
    • (5) The Master Namer lives in a far tower and teaches the students the true names of things.
    • See, in this world, everything has its own name – so, there's a name for water, but there's also a name for each sea and each harbor, etc. And you have to know something's true name to exert some power over it. Which is why people don't like giving up their true names.
    • Also, dragons speak this language, so you know it's awesome.
    • Like everyone else, the Master Namer reminds Ged that balance is important, but we're not sure he's really learned that lesson just yet.
    • Which is strange, since he's so smart at all his other lessons. He's so good with names that he gets to leave early. Sweet.
    • On his walk back to school, he sleeps in the rain, as Ogion taught him to.
    • In the morning, he discovers an otak curled up in his cloak to stay warm. An otak is something like a flying squirrel (at least it sounds like that to us), and Ged keeps it as a pet.
    • He names it Hoeg, which is Old Speech for "otak" – so it's a bit like naming a dog "Dog." Maybe he'll get better at naming pets when he's a master magician …
    • Back at school, it's a holiday and Ged is happy. At least, he is until Jasper shows off some illusion for the Archmage's guests. That super annoys Ged. And you wouldn't like him when he's annoyed.
  • Chapter 4

    The Loosing of the Shadow

    • Ged at fifteen is a great student but kind of a loner. (Vetch is off studying in the Immanent Grove.)
    • He's such a good student that (6) the Master Changer teaches Ged some more powerful magic, so Ged can turn himself into a hawk.
    • (The narrator notes that the Master Changer doesn't mean any harm – which is like a huge neon sign saying that harm is totally going to come of this.)
    • (7) The Master Summoner teaches, well, summoning; and he reminds Ged how things can easily be unbalanced. (For instance, if you make rain here, you might cause a drought elsewhere.)
    • During summer festival time, when Vetch and Jasper are back, there's a feast, which ends as feasts usually do, with Jasper and Ged arguing for real about who has more power.
    • Ged turns into a falcon (thanks, Master Changer), but Jasper remains unimpressed. So Ged takes them all out to Roke Knoll where he's going to summon a spirit of the dead.
    • Luckily (well, not really), Ged recalls the spell he cast in Ogion's cottage in Chapter 2. He uses that spell to open up a path to the lands of the dead, which sure sounds like a good time.
    • It works for a moment, but then a shadow monster comes out and claws Ged's face. Archmage Nemmerle shows up and scares the monster off, but it takes all his magic to manage this.
    • Ged lives, but is basically in a coma for a while, while Archmage Nemmerle dies after using up all of his magic. So much for all of that working out.
    • The Nine Masters of Roke elect to make Gensher of Way the next Archmage.
    • Ged heals slowly, but none of his old classmates recognize him because he seems so weak (not to mention the scar he gained).
    • Ged goes back to school on Roke because, well, Gensher tells him that he's only safe on Roke Island – if he goes out, the shadow will possess him and turn him into a horrible monster called a gebbeth. The monster only wants Ged since they're connected.
    • And just in case Ged hasn't figured it out, Archmage Gensher notes that what Ged did was quite dumb.
    • Ged is behind in his studies now, thanks to that coma, and all the boys leave him alone.
    • One night, Vetch shows up to say good-bye now that Vetch is graduating and returning home to Iffish island. But just to cement their friendship, they give each other their true names – Ged and Estarriol – which is even better than writing "BFF" in a yearbook.
    • Since Vetch trusts Ged, Ged starts to feel better about himself.
    • He applies himself to his studies and wins the scholarship. No, wait, we're thinking about some other story. In this story, Ged passes all his magical tests without killing any more of his teachers.
    • He also tries to learn about the shadow monster, but no one knows much about it, and Google hasn't been invented yet.
    • When he is eighteen, Ged also learns from (8) The Master Patterner in the Immanent Grove, but no one knows what that guy teaches.
    • As his graduation task, Ged has to figure out the name of (9) The Master Doorkeeper. Ged realizes he can't figure it out on his own and so asks the Doorkeeper what his name is. So, maybe the final lesson is something like: feel free to ask questions.
    • Ged graduates and sails to Low Torning, which is a town that needs a wizard.
  • Chapter 5

    The Dragon of Pendor

    • Ged goes to Low Torning, which is a town built over many little islands (which is rather beautifully described here).
    • The town he goes to isn't rich, but Ged grew up among poorer people, so the townsfolk remark that he seems to be without much pride, which – as you'll recall – is a HUGE change for Ged (and something of a relief for us).
    • Low Torning isn't really important enough for a wizard, but the nearby island of Pendor has some dragons that are beginning to act up. (And it's about this time that we wish someone had made a video game adaptation of this book.)
    • Ged is happy to be of help, even though Low Torning seems boring. Or maybe he's happy there because it's boring. We're not sure.
    • The most exciting thing (at first) is that Ged becomes friends with a boatmaker named Pechvarry and his son, Ioethe. Ged learns more about sailing on account of this.
    • Which makes it a total bummer when Ioethe is dying from a fever.
    • Pechvarry begs Ged for help. Ged can't help, and the Master Herbal taught him to let dying people go. Pechvarry and his wife really beg, so Ged sends his spirit into the land of the dead, but that doesn't work either. He fails to get Ioethe back and – bonus – he reveals himself to the shadow monster.
    • Oh, and also he falls into another coma. (Which we think makes three now.)
    • Ged's otak wakes Ged up by licking his hands and face, which totally teaches Ged that animals have wisdom. Duh.
    • Since the shadow monster knows where Ged is, he starts having nightmares that interfere with his job (protecting Low Torning against the dragons). He realizes that he can't stay there anymore.
    • He decides to go fight the dragons on Pendor instead. After all, there are only nine of them.
    • Actually, several of the dragons are young and dumb, so Ged defeats them, no problem.
    • But then Ged faces the old dragon. The old dragon is smart and tempts Ged, saying that Ged needs help to face the shadow.
    • Thankfully, Ged resists the temptation and defeats the dragon by using the dragon's true name, Yevaud. Ged knew that name from reading old legends about dragons.
    • Since Ged knows Yevaud's true name, Ged gets the dragon to promise to never fly to the other islands. And Yevaud never does (5.91).
  • Chapter 6


    • The people of Low Torning throw Ged a party for defeating the dragons, but he's got work elsewhere. Well, OK, he has time for a party first. But then Ged sails away.
    • Ged tries to get to Roke, but it's protected by a magical wind that keeps bad things away, which is a nice kick in the pants for Ged.
    • Ged gets dropped off on the island of Serd and starts getting a little paranoid – the shadow monster might have taken over any of these people around him. (OK, we'd be paranoid too, then.) So he decides to take the dragon's advice and keep on running.
    • Side note: luckily, wizards don't often have to pay for a ticket – "A wizard's staff is passport and payment on most ships" (6.24).
    • Ged takes a ship to Havnor, but stops over on Orrimy. (And now would be a good time to take a look at the map of Earthsea on Le Guin's website or at the front of your book).
    • On Orrimy, a strange man in grey tells Ged that he should go to the Court of the Terrenon on the island of Osskil because there's an anti-shadow sword there. Ged remembers that Archmage Nemmerle's pet raven said "Terrenon" too (see 3.25) – and if a bird and a strange man say the same thing, you should listen.
    • Ged isn't sure about this guy – he seems like a sorcerer, but doesn't have a staff – but it's not like he has better things to do.
    • So Ged gets on a ship to Osskil. Since the captain is a magician, Ged goes as a regular rower. Unfortunately, it's not a happy ship, like the Shadow that took him to Gont was. In fact, there's one particularly un-fun and unfriendly guy here named Skiorh.
    • When they arrive at Osskil, Ged's not thrilled to learn that Skiorh is going by the Court of the Terrenon and will gladly walk with Ged that way.
    • After a long walk, it turns out that Skiorh is actually possessed by the shadow monster, which is a great relief – now we don't have to guess where the shadow monster is anymore. And now we know why he's just so un-fun.
    • Unfortunately, the shadow monster calls Ged by his true name, which means that Ged can't do magic. Instead, Ged runs away.
    • Ged runs and runs. He runs up a hill (vaguely reminding us of Ged's experience in Chapter 5, when he tries to save Pechvarry's son) towards a house with an open door.
    • Right before he passes out, Ged makes it through a door and into the light. (Which, if you're counting, makes four times that Ged has fallen into a coma.)
  • Chapter 7

    The Hawk's Flight

    • Ged wakes up in a strange tower, worn out, and without his staff or his otak. His hostess comes in when he's awake and welcomes him as an old friend, even though he doesn't recognize her. (Any guesses as to who she is?)
    • Her name is Serret, and she speaks with a Gontish accent. She's married to Benderesk, the (old and cranky) lord of the Terrenon.
    • So Ged luckily ran exactly where he was trying to go in the first place. And, luckily, the shadow can't come into their castle because they have powerful magic. Even better.
    • But Ged isn't happy because it's always cold and he thinks he failed when he ran away from the shadow.
    • However, Serret continues making nice and Ged starts to relax. He's so relaxed and so friendly with Serret that she shows him their secret: they have a magic stone named Terrenon that's very powerful and not at all evil (she says).
    • Ged is uncomfortable with the stone, even though Serret keeps telling him that it's not evil and can help him defeat the shadow. She also admits that the guy who met Ged on Orrimy was actually sent by her. (Which is like, hey, yeah, I totally lied about that sword, but here's a stone – so, we're even, right?)
    • Serret tries to convince Ged that the Terrenon isn't evil, that Ged needs the power of darkness to defeat the shadow, and that they can rule the world with the power of the Terrenon. Which kind of ruins the whole "it's not evil" argument she was making.
    • Ged argues that only light can defeat the shadow. 
    • He also realizes that Serret and Benderesk were both conspiring against him. And Serret was conspiring against Benderesk. And now Benderesk is going to kill both of them. It's like the worst series of realizations ever.
    • Ged and Serret escape the court. And Serret is revealed as the daughter of the lord of Re Albi, whom he tried to impress all those years ago (7.72).
    • Also – and this part kills us – Ged finds the dead body of Hoeg, his otak. (Was that really necessary? Sigh.)
    • Now, Benderesk summons monsters called the Servants of the Stone to kill Serret and Ged before they escape (and, as usual in fantasy novels, if it starts with capital letters, you know it's important or powerful, so let's hope they don't get caught by those Servants).
    • Serret turns into a gull and tries to fly away. But Ged is too angry after losing his otak, so he stays and fights. (OK, fine, we guess that's why the otak had to die. Plot development.)
    • The Servants catch and kill Serret in gull form, but Ged flies away in the form of a falcon.
    • Back on Gont, Ogion finds an exhausted falcon that Ogion recognizes as Ged. Ogion turns Ged back into a human and helps him recover.
    • See, Ged had spent too long as a falcon and had forgotten what it was to be a person ,which is evidently a common problem with mages who take on other shapes. (We get to hear some stories about that here.)
    • Ogion notes that a) Ged is strong enough to beat magicians and dragons and evil stones, so he can probably beat a shadow; and b) it's weird that the shadow knew Ged's name.
    • Ogion gives Ged some advice: Ged has to stop being the hunted and start being the hunter since he's the only one who can defeat the shadow. A self-help book from today might say something about being proactive and facing your fear. 
    • Ogion also says that Ged has to connect with his roots, which really sounds like a self-help book too.
    • So, after Ogion makes him a new wizard staff, Ged goes hunting for the shadow.
  • Chapter 8


    • Ged buys a small boat and fixes it up, since he knows all about shipbuilding (thanks to Pechvarry). He sails northwest across the sea, retracing the route he flew as a falcon in Chapter 7. He wants to find the shadow, and especially wants to find it over the water, since he feels that water is associated with life.
    • Unfortunately, Ged first runs into rain and some other weather that's not so great for hunting shadows. Fed up with this hunt, Ged yells out to summon his shadow (8.10) – and, what do you know, his shadow shows up. Why didn't Ged summon money – or at least a snack?
    • Since Ged is the one chasing, the shadow starts to run away, even though the weather is worse for shadow-hunting. They run so far and fast that Ged isn't quite sure where they are anymore.
    • The shadow tries to lose Ged in some fog and Ged crashes his boat. (Sound familiar?)
    • Ged nearly drowns (and somehow avoids another coma), but gets tossed up on a small deserted island that turns out to be not so deserted after all.
    • There are two old castaways here in a small hut, and they're terrified of Ged. But he's a pretty good guest since all he wants is to stay warm and breathe air rather than water.
    • Ged wonders if these two people are some royal children from Karg who have been exiled (since their rival wouldn't want to spill royal blood – which is how people thought before TV was invented).
    • Then we get this: "But the truth of this guess he did not learn until, years later, the quest of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe led him to the Kargad Lands, and to the Tombs of Atuan" (8.41). This kind of seems like a tease to get you to read the next book in the series.
    • One of these castaways gives Ged a broken ring as a present. In return, Ged turns their well into sweet water.
    • Ged makes himself a new boat out of scraps of driftwood and magic (which is our new band name), and he goes sailing south after the shadow.
    • (And now he realizes that the shadow pulled the same fog trick on him that he pulled on the Kargad warriors when he was a boy in Chapter 1, which explains why that sounded so familiar.)
    • While Ged is exploring an island, the shadow appears in his boat and Ged tries to grab it. The shadow escapes but Ged comes to a realization:  "He knew now, and the knowledge was hard, that his task had never been to undo what he had done, but to finish what he had begun" (8.59).
    • We're not sure what that means, but we're excited to find out.
    • Ged sails to a nearby island where he finds a village and can finally rest.
  • Chapter 9


    • Ged gets another boat, because apparently a boat made of scraps and magic isn't good enough for him.
    • Since Ged fixes the old man's eyes in payment, the man asks Ged to name the boat Lookfar.
    • This poor village reminds Ged of home, and he would stay, but Ged's got a quest. (This is the line we always use to get us out of uncomfortable discussions.)
    • Ged sails to Vemish island, but the people there are afraid of him because their sorcerer says he's cursed and people on the island saw someone the other day who looked just like Ged.
    • So Ged sails on to Iffish island, where everything is delightfully normal. Ged enjoys seeing children play and families do whatever families do. (Eat together?)
    • But the innkeeper there subtly lets Ged know that they already have their own magician, so he should get a move on.
    • Ged plans to, but then he runs into their magician – Vetch. After a little confusion – Vetch thought he saw Ged's ghost the other day – the old friends embrace each other and catch up at Vetch's home.
    • Ged meets Vetch's younger siblings, his brother Murre and sister Yarrow. He also gets to see what a normal life is like, with a home and friends and all.
    • But Vetch is willing to give up all of this (temporarily) in order to follow Ged on his quest. Ged at first refuses this offer, but we all know how this is going to end up: with the two of them in a boat.
    • Vetch also tells Ged about Jasper, who never won his wizard's staff, which we suppose is just a fine way of tying up loose ends. Is there anyone else left from the first few chapters for us to hear about?
    • While Vetch takes care of some pre-quest business, Ged gets to know Murre and Yarrow. Murre is Ged's age – nineteen – but they both envy each other's lives: to Ged, Murre's life seems peaceful; to Murre, Ged's life seems heroic. This is what passes for comedy in this otherwise pretty serious book.
    • Ged tells Yarrow and Murre about how wizards have to keep the equilibrium and about how magic works. They talk about how you have to know the true name of things to work magic.
    • They chat about magic and power for a while, and how we're all "syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars" (9.77).
    • These parts often get glossed over in movie versions, and it might sound boring and talky, but it's really kind of interesting to think about where power comes from and what people use it for.
    • The next day, Ged and Vetch go off, while Yarrow waits for them on the dock. (So, yeah, Yarrow's here mostly just to cook and wait for the heroes. Le Guin writes more heroic women characters in other books in the series.)
  • Chapter 10

    The Open Sea

    • Vetch and Ged sail on, trying not to use magic because they're afraid of upsetting the balance.
    • All they have to amuse themselves, then, is each other, so they talk.
    • They tell stories about people sailing this far. They talk about Vetch's sister. They talk about how they're going to defeat the shadow. And they watch Netflix to their iPads. No, wait – that can't be right.
    • They stop off at some islands on their way. They go to Pelimer island, which is nice until the mad sorcerer there starts accusing them of being spies for the snake that's eating the island.
    • (Which is funny. In any other book we'd know he's mad. But how can you tell someone is mad in a fantasy book? How do we know that there isn't really a snake eating their island?)
    • They stop off at Astowell, called Lastland because it's the farthest land anyone knows about.
    • Then they sail out into the open sea, using their magic to make the ship go quickly. They sail for three days, and while Vetch only sees the ocean, Ged sees something magical.
    • On the third day, Ged starts to row and the sea turns into sandy land. There's no sound, so we know this land's magical like nobody's business. Also, we know it's magical because it just suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
    • Ged walks out over the island and a shadow comes to meet him. As Ged and the shadow walk towards each other, the shadow changes form.
    • You might want to take a second look at this section because it's very strange: first, the shadow looks like Ged's dad; then it looks like Jasper; then it looks like Pechvarry if he'd drowned; then it looks like a dragon, maybe; then like Skiorh; then it's "clouded, staring eyes"; and then it's "a fearful face" (10.63). We're not sure what those last two are about.
    • Then Ged and the shadow come together and the shadow looks pretty much like it did when Ged loosed it in Chapter 4.
    • At the same time, Ged speaks the shadow's name and the shadow speaks Ged's name – and they're the same name. And the same voice. Did your mind just get blown?
    • "Ged reached out his hands, dropping his staff, and took hold of his shadow, of the black self that reached out to him. Light and darkness met, and joined, and were one" (10.66).
    • Vetch thinks the shadow beat Ged, so he jumps out of the boat to heroically save his friend. Unfortunately, the sandy land has turned back into ocean, so Vetch gets un-heroically drenched.
    • Both Vetch and Ged get back into the boat, safe and sound.
    • Ged says that he's done what he needed to do: "Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself" (10.73).
    • This is just like what the Creation of Ea teaches, that "only in dark the light." (What does that mean? Luckily it's also the epigraph to the book, so we talk about it in "What's Up With the Epigraph?")
    • They sail home. (It takes them eight days to get in sight of land again, even though it only took them three days to get out there – and you know why? Magic.)
    • They sail all the way back to Vetch's home, and everyone's quite happy to see them. Well, at least Yarrow is happy to see them.
    • Then we get a little ending paragraph that tells us that this story gets retold in a few other ways, and how there's no mention of Ged's early adventures in the stories they tell about his later life, when he's a really powerful wizard.
    • The end.