The Farthest Shore – Reviewing Classics
Atheneum Books, 1972
Magic is disappearing from the outer edges of the world of Earth Sea, and it’s soon apparent that a great darkness is overtaking the land. People are hurtled into hopeless and despair, and many are losing their lives in consecutive drug trips where they seek to find the master who can grant eternal life, only to soon die from brain damage and starvation.
Ged Sparrowhawk, now the Archmage of Earthsea, travels with a seemingly unlikely companion, Enlad’s young prince Arren, to the end of the world, past the land in the south, up through the land of the dragons in the west and out even past that, even past the wall that divides life and death, pursuing the answer to this riddle and saving humanity.
As always, Le Guin delivers what you’d expect, a fantasy book of true literary quality. Unlike many of the emerging fantasy texts throughout the past 20 years or so, especially since the Harry Potter craze, The Earthsea books force the reader to wrestle with many of the same issues that we have to face as real people. Her first book in the series, A Wizard of Earthsea shows the inherent evil within us all, and the ability we have to overcome it only by facing it. The second book, The Tombs of Atuan, delineates the struggles surrounding pride and power. This book delves into the desire to pursue eternal life, thus interrupting the balance between life and nature, humans and the natural laws we’re subject to just as much as anything else. The most interesting element that Le Guin unearths in her take on the concept of eternal life is that her characters, in their pursuit, lose their true identity, their name, and wash into oblivion and nothingness.
I was talking with a new co-worker about the kinds of books and movies that we’re into, and she actually laughed at the fact that I love fantasy, saying that she isn’t interested in anything in that genre because it’s unrealistic and could never happen. She does, however, love romantic comedies, which in my opinion are easily as unrealistic if not more so because of their lighthearted and sometimes shallow treatment of relationships between men and women. Sure, I’m never going to ride a dragon or walk through a wardrobe (at least as far as I’ve experienced so far), but the universal truths exhumed in books like Ender’s Game, The Lord of the Rings, or this series are much more accurate to our own human experiences. Long live good literature!
For the Classroom
Since this text operates in a parallel world with separate cultures, societal issues, natural laws and histories than our own, there’s not much to use as a classroom companion.