The Farthest Shore
infobox Book |
name = The Farthest Shore
image_caption = Cover of first edition (Hardcover)
Ursula K. Le Guin
language = English
series = The Earthsea Cycle
release_date = 1972
media_type = Print (
pages = 223 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-575-01603-5 (First British hardcover edition, 1973)
oclc = 481359
The Tombs of Atuan
"The Farthest Shore" is the third of a series of books written by
Ursula K. Le Guinand set in her fantasy archipelagoof 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 Ghiblianimated film "Tales from Earthsea". It won the 1973National Book Award for Children's Books.
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
deathand 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
oceanand is never heard from again. In the other, Ged returns to the forestof his home islandof 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).
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