3. Tenar & Ged

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Arha/Tenar’s life changes when Ged, protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea, breaks into the Tombs.

How is her story different than his?

How are they similar?

Comments

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    Arha's life was extremely circumscribed and predictable, defined by the regular cycles of worship and religious discipline. I don't think Ged's life was ever predictable! So it's easy to see how his constant change and (almost) chaos would appeal to her: it is not quite so easy to see how her stability and constancy would appeal to him, except by way of utter contrast - a bit like Vetch's sister Minnow in Wizard of Earthsea, maybe she represents something solid that he craves.
    How are they alike? I suppose at the start of the story they have each committed themselves to a false idea about the world, and the stories tell how truth broke open their respective shells.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    Arha's life was extremely circumscribed and predictable, defined by the regular cycles of worship and religious discipline. I don't think Ged's life was ever predictable!

    Except. When we first see Ged in this book, his life is incredibly circumscribed and controlled by others, as well as representing the outside world for Arha. I think it's that combination that allowed Arha to be curious: Ged was different, but he was contained and controlled, so therefore safe.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    Except. When we first see Ged in this book, his life is incredibly circumscribed and controlled by others, as well as representing the outside world for Arha. I think it's that combination that allowed Arha to be curious: Ged was different, but he was contained and controlled, so therefore safe.

    Well put! His reaction to that is, I think, the short laugh he gives near the end of chapter 5, "that of a man who thinks, 'what a fool I've made of myself'"

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    I think it's more interesting to look at Arha/Tenar's mentors. The priestesses are all about telling the girl what to do, how to behave, even denying her identity and forcing her into the role they've decided for her. Ged, on the other hand, is all curiosity and asking questions of Arha/Tenar: what does she want? what will she do? Ged as a mentor is one who encourages his ward to grow and become her own person.

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    The most interesting exchange between Tenar and Ged was when Tenar despaired that the gods she served did not exist - that her very own reason for being was a lie. Ged could have claimed a victory at that point - he could have said YES! Now you see it. Set me free and I will take you away.

    But that's not what happened. Instead, Ged picked up the pieces of her identity, reassembled them, and handed them back to her. He gave her the choice to be who she wanted to be. Everyone else told her who she was. When she felt she was no longer that person, Ged gave her the choice and said 'do not despair - you can be that person if you chose to be. Or you can be something else. The implication being that he would support her regardless of her choice.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I think it's more interesting to look at Arha/Tenar's mentors. The priestesses are all about telling the girl what to do, how to behave, even denying her identity and forcing her into the role they've decided for her. ...

    There's a really interesting contrast here between Thar and Kossil. For sure, both are responsible for her education and training, but Thar is constantly, in her own way, trying to get Arha to see a bigger picture, and to be aware of undercurrents - basically a nicer person fulfilling a niche role that she herself cannot escape. Kossil is very obviously politically motivated and is far the more sinister of the two.

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    @Apocryphal That's a good point. I love that bit where Ged lays out to Tenar that she can be faithful and kill him and that will be the end of her story, or she can strike out on the difficult path of freedom and be at the beginning of a new story.

    I love the parallel where the Nameless Ones have taken Tenar by force from her home and eaten her name/her identity. And Ged's naming magic has allowed him to call to her, but like the rabbits in the field, he will not eat her.

    There's something also to be said about how the role that Ged grows into, as "wizard", affords him power and discretion to make his own choices. But the role thrust upon Tenar as "priestess" is entirely proscribed, with only endless ritual awaiting her. In order to make her own choices, she must break free of her role.

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    @Michael_S_Miller said:
    I love the parallel where the Nameless Ones have taken Tenar by force from her home and eaten her name/her identity. And Ged's naming magic has allowed him to call to her, but like the rabbits in the field, he will not eat her.

    That's a splendid observation!

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    @Michael_S_Miller said:
    There's something also to be said about how the role that Ged grows into, as "wizard", affords him power and discretion to make his own choices. But the role thrust upon Tenar as "priestess" is entirely proscribed, with only endless ritual awaiting her. In order to make her own choices, she must break free of her role.

    In another thread, you say the Nameless Ones have an appetite, not a desire. That's unthinking action, all about immediate gratification and endless feeding. Whereas, Ged mentions that wizards may have great power but are constantly thinking about the consequences of its use. It's all about choices, including often choosing to do nothing.

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    I suppose it's interesting that Ged ran TOWARD his destiny (being a wizard) and Tenar runs away from hers. Also Ged hungers for power (and is taught a lesson about that). Tenar has power and sheds it. I dunno. I'm just spitballin' here.

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    The two are definitely mirrors, and definitely in some ways have opposite trajectories. Throughout Earthsea (I'm thinking of book 4 here, which I know a lot of fans don't like, but I do), one gains power at the stage in their life when the other loses it, and the same goes for seeking and seeking to lose power, or how much freedom they have in their actions. Indeed, one seeks to gain more freedom as the other seeks (or learns?) to embrace destiny.

    And they need each-other. It's a relationship of equals throughout, even with Ged at the height of his wizardry.

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