Earthsea is a series of fantasy books by the American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, and the name of their setting, a world of islands surrounded by an uncharted ocean. Starting with a short story, " The Word of Unbinding " in 1964, there are six Earthsea books, beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968, and continuing with The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, and The Other Wind. There are eight short stories, all but "The Daughter of Odren" now collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters and Tales from Earthsea .

Setting Edit

The world of Earthsea is one of sea and islands: a vast archipelago of hundreds of islands surrounded by mostly uncharted ocean. Earthsea contains no large continents, with the archipelago resembling Indonesia or the Philippines. The largest island, Havnor, at approximately 380 miles across, is about the size of Great Britain. The cultures of Earthsea are not direct analogues of those of our world, but are literate non-industrial civilizations. Technologically, Earthsea is an early Iron Age society, with bronze used in places where iron is scarce. Weapons also include the use of wood and other hard but easily crafted metals. The overall climate of Earthsea is temperate, comparable to the mid-latitudes (over a distance of about 1800 miles) of the Northern hemisphere. There is a yearly transition from warm summers to cold and snowy winters, especially in northern islands like Gont and Osskil. In the southern regions of Earthsea it can be much warmer.

Map of Earthsea

The racial characteristics of the people of Earthsea are for the most part "red-brown" in coloring, like Indigenous peoples of the Native Americans in the South and East Reach and on Way, they are much darker brown, but with straight black hair, like South Asian ethnic Indians, particularly Dravidians ; in Osskil, they have a more European look,Quoting A Wizard of Earthsea: "She was a tall girl of about his own age, very sallow, almost white-skinned; her mother, they said in the village, was from Osskil or some such foreign land. Her hair fell long and straight like a fall of black water." although still with dark Human skin color|skin , rather like the peoples of the Middle East and Mediterranean, and the Karg s resemble predominantly Blond hair|blond northern Europeans. Le Guin has criticized what she describes as the general assumption in fantasy that characters should be White people|white and the society should resemble the Middle Ages.

Magic is a central part of life in most of Earthsea, with the exception of the Kargish lands, where it is banned. There are weather workers on ships, fixers who repair boats and buildings, entertainers, and court sorcerers. Magic is an inborn talent which can be developed with training. The most gifted are sent to the school on Roke, where, if their skill and their discipline prove sufficient, they can become staff-carrying wizards. A strong theme of the stories is the connection between power and responsibility. There is often a Taoism|Taoist message: "good" wizardry tries to be in harmony with the world, while "bad" wizardry, such as necromancy, can lead to an upsetting of the "balance" and threaten catastrophe. While the dragons are more powerful, they act instinctively to preserve the balance. Only humans pose a threat to it.

The Dry Land is where the people of the archipelago and reaches of Earthsea go when they die. It is a realm of shadow and dust, of eternal night where the stars are fixed in the sky, and nothing changes. The souls who live there have an empty, dreary existence, and even "lovers pass each other in silence". Le Guin has stated that the idea of the Dry Land came from the "Greco-Roman idea of Hades ' realm, from certain images in Dante Alighieri's work, and from one of Rainer Maria Rilke's Elegies.


Studio Ghibli's 2006 film, Tales from Earthsea, is loosely based in the Earthsea mythology. It was directed by Gorō Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki. In the past, Ursula K. Le Guin had rejected Hayao Miyazaki's offer to create a film based on the series, but due to her love of his films, Le Guin granted Studio Ghibli the rights. The story is based mainly on elements of the third and fourth novels of Earthsea.[citation needed] Le Guin has stated that she found the adaptation "disappointing" and "entirely different" from her creation.