Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea Power

By Ursula K. Le Guin

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Let's start off with a little bit of trivia: Superman's friends Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen have both had their own comic books, but these weren't as popular as Superman's comic book. Why? Well, maybe it's because it's more fun to see someone with super powers do cool stuff. This rule holds pretty well for a lot of young adult novels, too, which tend to follow the powerful and important. For comparison, check out Ender's Game, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, or The Lightning Thief. A Wizard of Earthsea follows this rule: it tells the story of super powerful magician Ged. The cool thing is that, through the book, we see Ged realize the limits of his power. (Yes, we said "limits") See, when you're a wizard, you may have godlike power, but that doesn't make you a god – it mostly makes you responsible for what you do with that power.

Questions About Power

  1. Is power good, or bad, or neutral? That is, Ged wants power, but does he want it so he can do good things with it? Can you want power and still be a good person?
  2. Can you think of any young adult novels that follow characters that are average rather than super powerful, like Ged? How do the stories differ when you have an average protagonist rather than an extraordinary one?
  3. Ged is less powerful than the mages on Roke (he can't enter the doorway of the school, and he can't sail back to the island, for instance), but we know at the beginning that Ged becomes the Archmage eventually. How does that knowledge change the way we read about Ged's power and powerlessness as a young wizard?
  4. Part of Ged's power comes from his education and part of it comes from friendship (at least, Vetch gives Ged self-confidence, which results in power). Does power come from anywhere else in this book?

Chew on This

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