The Grand Finales of The Earthsea Cycle


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Perhaps the most famous TS Eliot quote is “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” Ursula LeGuin in her Earthsea books eschewed both bangs and whimpers (I really am not meaning to make puns, so I’m just gonna power through) for climaxes and conclusions that are full of peace, that are fast-paced without being action-packed, and that are all beautiful.

The Earthsea books are, ultimately, about facing the darkness and shadows within ourselves. People are stripped of everything they have ever been and forced to discover themselves anew. Great men drown in shame; children forget their names and refuse to remember.

Shadows and darkness are, ultimately, as much a part of life as light is. Both exist together. This is a fancy way of saying that death is necessary to life. The third Earthsea book discusses this, without methaphor, at length, so I’m not going to go into it here. What interests me is the final book, which weaves a somewhat more subtle and far more beautiful tale about accepting death. Not only accepting death and loss as an inevitable, as something we just have to have even though it’s terrible. Embracing it. Living with it. Maybe that’s what all great young adult literature is really about: learning to live with your own death.

And maybe not.


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