‘The Bones of the Earth’ by Ursula K. Le Guin

Set in the fantasy world of Earthsea, this fable of teachers and pupils, of surrogate fathers and sons tells the tale of how an old wizard and his young apprentice stop an earthquake.

Le Guin writes fantasy like no other. Mythic wisdom? Le Guin has it in spades. But sometimes it seems she is not that interested in the fantasy part. For so much of this story the characters are concentrating on household chores: tending to the goats, cleaning the kitchen.

For this reason it is hard to find a single quote that does the story justice. The writing on every page is clean and beautiful. Such as in this moment just before the climax, where the logic of the words descends into doubt as the old wizard descends into the earth:

He had time to regret the sunlight and the sea wind, and to doubt the spell, and to doubt himself, before the earth rose up around him, dry, warm, and dark.

From Tales From Earthsea, Harcourt, 2001/Orion, 2002

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