A Wizard of Earthsea: The Change in Ged

Essay by songkingJunior High, 9th gradeA, October 2008

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In the world of Earthsea, a select few are magical. Sparrowhawk was one of those lucky few. As a boy, he was loud, proud, and full of temper. In fact, his temper would break out at the slightest hint of insult. Although his competitive nature strove him to work hard, it eventually caused him to release the shadow, driving him to live a life in dread. However, it was this act of pride that would positively change him forever.

Duny, nicknamed Sparrowhawk, grew up like a thriving weed- stubborn and wild. When he was seven years old and not yet knowing of the great powers of the world, he recklessly repeated a rhyme he had overheard his deceased mother's sister chant. Because he was able to use the spell without knowing what it was, his aunt realized the great power in him and began to teach him all the magic that she knew.

At first, his pleasure was childish, only wanting to call animals, especially the sparrowhawk for which he was nicknamed. But, as he learned about the glory, riches, and great power that came into possession of only the greatest sorcerers, Duny began to become selfish and hungry for power.

When he was the age of twelve, his town was attacked by barbarians. To protect his town, he caused a great fog, which successfully helped his small town defeat the conquistadors. However, Duny overspent his power and fell into a coma-like trance. When news of his doings traveled, a great wizard named Ogion the Silent came and healed him. He returned on Duny's thirteenth birthday, to reveal to him his true name- the name by which he could be controlled through magic and was, therefore, only known to a select few- Ged. This was his rite of passage into manhood, but he would not truly mature for years to come.

On the day of his naming, he left home to begin his training with Ogion in Re Albi; "for to keep dark the mind of a mageborn, that is a dangerous thing." Unfortunately, Ged quickly grew impatient of Ogion's ways. He did not wish to learn "how to be silent"; he had a craving within him which yearned for glory and hungered to act. Ogion gave Ged a choice: to stay with him, whose path toward mastery seemed slow and long, or to go to Roke, a grand school for wizards where "the air was bright with enchantments." Ged decided to sail to Roke.

At Roke, his pride was put to test. When he entered the school, he met Jasper, and that was the beginning of a vicious rivalry. Jasper was always testing him, but Ged bolstered up his pride to work hard at his studies. He vowed to one day outdo his rival in a test of power; he would prove himself and humiliate Jasper. That day came on the night of a grand festival. Ged challenged Jasper to a duel in sorcery, even though it was forbidden. Jasper was not convinced, believing that Ged was only bragging, so he challenged Ged to summon a spirit of the dead. Ged, who had read this spell once in Re Albi, walked to the top of Roke Knoll-said to be the place where all spells were strongest-chanted the spell. But, along with the spirit, came a formless shadow-beast which instantly leaped straight at his face. Fortunately, Ged was soon rescued by the Archmage Nemmerle, who spent all his powers doing so and died soon afterwards. Ged was rushed to the Master Herbal. After months in the healing chambers, he was released to continue his studies. But now, he was much slower, and he was always afraid to cast even the easiest spells. When he eventually won his staff, the new Archmage Gensher sent him to Low Torning, where the towns people wished for a wizard to protect them from the dragons that lived nearby. When he left, he had certainly changed. He was humble and careful.

In Low Torning, Ged was given a poor house- windowless, with an earthen floor. He appreciated it, though, because it was better than the home he grew in. This was another example of how humble he had become, for normally wizards of Roke went commonly to cities or castles, to serve high lords. But, here, he was serving fishermen, yet he enjoyed it; since the night on Roke Knoll, his desire had turned against fame and display. One night, he was called to heal adying child. He mistrusted his own judgement and summoned his spirit out after the child's spirit, to bring it back home. But, he had followed the dying child too far, and was forced to turn back.. When he reached the top of the hill, he saw the low wall of stones there. But, across from him,over the wall, was the shadow, waiting for him, as it had done since the night of Roke Knoll. It stood on the side of the living, and he on the side of the dead. Ged had to decide whether he would go back to the cities of the dead, or step across the wall back into life. With his spirit in hand, he leaped straight at the shadow, felt himself fall, and fell into yet another coma-like trance. When he was well again, Ged consistently dreamed of the shadow. He was so afraid that he had to set up magical barriers about his home. Since he spent most of his power renewing these spells, he realized he would be of no use to the islanders if the dragons came. So, he set out on a quest to do away with the dragons.

Ged sailed to the island of Pendor where nine dragons resided, one old one and eight young ones. After he slew five and injured one young one, the old one came out. Ged, who had staked this venture on a guess, threatened the dragon with his true name, Yevaud. The guess was a successful one. Yevaud tried to bargain his safety with Ged for nine precious stones from his hoard or the true name of the shadow-beast. However, Ged, now an unselfish man, did not accept the offer. He only wanted the dragon to swear to never fly east towards the Archipelago, therefore keeping Low Torning safe. Yevaud swore it by his name and was bound by that oath forever.

After his encounter with the dragon, Ged realized he had to run from the shadow. He traveled to multiple places before reaching Osskil. There the shadow, in the form of a gebbeth, chased Ged and nearly defeated him. But Ged was somehow rescued, and he awakens in a castle. Although Ged was highly praised and pampered there, he soon realizes that the palace, too, was not safe. So, in the form of a falcon, Ged flew back to Ogion in search of counsel.

Regarding the shadow, Ogion said that Ged must "turn clear round, and seek the very source, and that which lies before the source. There lies your hopes and strengths." Ged replied that even though he had been taught by the great Masters of Roke, Ogion was his true master. He demonstrated a clear alteration from his younger self.

After releasing the shadow, Ged remodeled his attitude and personality for the better. It was from then on that he was known as the patient and silent wizard who spoke fairly and without pride. He had accepted Ogion as his true master, and over time he accepted the shadow as the evil he had done and was capable of doing- uniting him and his shadow and making him whole. All in all, it is true that pride and hate can lead a person to doing great acts of evil; but sometimes it is these great acts of evil that lead you towards a change of heart.

This was an imperative essay on a Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. No sources were used besides the actual book.