Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea Chapter 10

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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.

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