The Farthest Shore

infobox Book |
name = The Farthest Shore
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (Hardcover)
author = Ursula K. Le Guin
illustrator = Gail Garraty
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series = The Earthsea Cycle
genre = Fantasy novel
publisher = Atheneum Books
release_date = 1972
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 223 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-575-01603-5 (First British hardcover edition, 1973)
oclc = 481359
preceded_by = The Tombs of Atuan
followed_by = Tehanu

"The Farthest Shore" is the third of a series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin and set in her fantasy archipelago of Earthsea, first published in 1972. It follows on from "The Tombs of Atuan", which itself was a sequel to "A Wizard of Earthsea". It is the Earthsea series novel which inspired the Studio Ghibli animated film "Tales from Earthsea". It won the 1973 National Book Award for Children's Books.

Plot summary

A strange, inexplicable malaise is spreading throughout Earthsea. Magic is losing its power; songs are being forgotten; people and animals are sickening or going mad. Accompanied by Arren, the young Prince of Enlad, the Archmage Ged leaves Roke Island to find the cause. After a journey fraught with many missteps, they travel to the end of the earth, and beyond, into the land of the dead. There they confront and defeat the mage Cob, who had opened a breach between the worlds in an attempt to cheat death and live forever. In order to shut this breach, Ged sacrifices all his magic.

When they emerge back into the world of the living, Arren realizes that he has fulfilled the prediction of the last King of Earthsea many centuries before: "He shall inherit my throne who has crossed the dark land living and come to the far shores of the day." In the intervening time, the realm had broken up into smaller principalities and domains, with little peace between them. Now they can be reunited.

Le Guin offers us two endings to the story. In one, after Arren's coronation, Ged sails alone out into the ocean and is never heard from again. In the other, Ged returns to the forest of his home island of Gont. In 1990, seventeen years after the publication of "The Farthest Shore", Le Guin opted for the second ending when she continued the story in "Tehanu".


Like both previous books in the trilogy, this is a bildungsroman. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Arren, who develops from the boy who stands overawed in front of the masters of Roke, to the man who addresses dragons with confidence on Selidor.

Ged has also matured. He is no longer the impetuous boy who had himself opened a crack between the worlds in "A Wizard of Earthsea", or the foolhardy young man who sailed the Dragon's Run and went alone into "the Tombs of Atuan". Though the task before him is every bit as difficult and dangerous as any he had attempted before, necessity alone guides his actions now.

In a sense, Cob is Ged's alter ego - a Ged who did not turn back from the dangerous road of summoning the dead, in which Ged dabbled in his youth, but continued along it to the ultimate conclusion. Thus, Ged's final confrontation with Cob and the closing of the hole between the worlds of the living and the dead is in fact a kind of repetition of his confrontation with the Shadow in the first book, who was Ged's alter ego in a more explicit way.

Ged's closing of that evil hole, at the cost of completely losing his magic power (and very nearly his life), can also be considered as finally fulfilling his wish "to undo the evil" which as a youth he had expressed to then-Archmage Gensher (and which, as the Archmage told him, he was at the time not capable of achieving).

External links


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