A beautiful perspective on Earthsea from the unheroes, ordinary people---our people. This book tells a wonderfully tender and loving story. It is rich for the woman's wisdom.
Ursula's way of discovering her stories and characters is beautiful.
But---though I knew Tenar had not stayed with Ogion but had gone off and married a farmer and lived an ordinary, unmagical life---I didn't know why. The story got stuck. I couldn't go on. It took years of living my own ordinary life, and a great deal of learning how to think about such things, mostly from other women, before I could understand why Tenar did what she did and who she was at the end of it. Then at last I could write Tehanu.
Every time I read words from Ursula, I am again astonished at how clean everything feels. There is so much richness I can sense. As if she has had to write her books in twice the words first, before she aggressively edits it all down to a magnificently effective flow. As a result, her stories strike this amazing balance between the feeling of curiously wandering around and racing really fast on a straight bike lane for kilometers on end.
This book is a wealth of womanly perspective and very wise criticism of patriarchial norms that remain ever present. Ursula lays bare how fragile men's idea of their manliness truly is.
Flint had never washed a dish in his life. Women's work. But Ged and Ogion had lived here, bachelors, without women; everywhere Ged had lived, it was without women; so he did the "women's work" and thought nothing about it. It would be a pity, she thought, if he did think about it, if he started fearing that his dignity hung by a dishcloth.
He put his hands across his face, rubbing his temples and forehead, looking down. "I was---" he said. "I'm not---"
It was all he could say.
She stopped him, saying, "All right, it's all right." She dared not touch him lest she worsen his humiliation by any semblance of pity. She was angry at him, and for him.
So she talked along, woman's babble, saving him from having to make any answer or misread any silence, until he had got over the crisis of shame, and eaten a little, and drunk a glass of the old, soft, red wine.
She thought about how it was to have been a woman in the prime of life, with children and a man, and then to lose all that, becoming old and a widow, powerless. But even so she did not feel she understood his shame, his agony of humiliation. Perhaps only a man could feel so. A woman got used to shame.
Ursula also beautifully touches on age and eldery in this book. Tenar's life and thoughts give me the most realistic impression of aging, as far as I can meaningfully judge. Her wisdom cuts through societal norms and young people's ambitions and willingness to play by each other's rules.
We are so polite, she thought, all Ladies and Lords and Masters, all bows and compliments. She glanced at the young king. He was looking at her, smiling but reserved. She felt as she had felt in Havnor as a girl: a barbarian, uncouth among their smoothnesses. But because she was not a girl now, she was not awed, but only wondered at how men ordered their world into this dance of masks, and how easily a woman might learn to dance it.
Life danced me. I know the dances. But I don't know who the dancer is.
And then there are the more realistic than life descriptions of simple living. A life that many think they aspire to, and which is most ideally capture in Ursula's beautiful words, but which is also clearly painted as one of hard work and sacrifices. An example is the food. It is always the descriptions of food that do it for me.
She took a cake. It was shortbread, very rich, not sweet. The green and amber grapes were sweet and tart. The vivid tastes of the food and wine were like the ropes that moored the ship, they moored her to the world, to her mind again.
The fourth book is the conclusion of the Earthsea books. The fourth leg of the chair. I've read this series over the course of three odd years, in which I have experienced many more things in life myself as well. These books feel very comfortable to me. There's wisdom in them that I haven't read in many other places. There are grand adventures. But the truly amazing thing of these books---the beautifully clear and simple ways in which they explore too real human emotions and themes.