ACH - World-building, sources and influences, and effects
It seems obvious to me that LeGuin has chosen to here explicitly engage in systematic world-building, a genre that has only become more important as we have turned out of the twentieth century, e.g. the so-called MCU, a multi-media franchise-universe intended to convey and validate neo-liberal world-views of Manichaen conflict between good and evil where accumulation of money is driven by fantasies of heroism. I would argue that a lot of RPGs, intentionally or not, do the same. And the current incarnations of all of those RPGs, and ACH, owe an evident debt to ground broken by LOTR and its publication success (the MCU has a different genealogy, but I think Jackson's interpretation of LOTR has exerted significant influence). While ACH and MCU_ are different from LOTR, I think that LeGuin's 'universe' is different in quite different ways. This thread is to discuss what difference these differences do or do not make.
LeGuin's story, like Tolkien's, is of a travel-quest that leaves and returns home, is divided into three parts that can be read straight through, but are presented with gaps. But in her story our protagonist does not cover vast distances, although her trip takes a much longer time, and what evil she finds in the world turns out to be immanent and local, not transcendent and greater than the world (there is a transcendent, but it is uninterested in governing human affairs). Unlike Frodo our protagonist knows from the beginning that she is a hybrid of two cultures (Frodo is all of one piece, but the Ring changes that). But like Frodo, she is not counted among the great, and her people are unimportant in the councils of rulers. She resides among both immanences, and finally concludes that one is ill and the other healthy, and unlike Frodo is not engaged to destroy either.
Like LOTR,_ ACH has extensive apparatus and appendices written by a scholarly contemporary of the present reader, and contains a lot of literary material not directly relevant to the story. It also contains far more visual cues than Tolkien, although this seems to me more due to technological advancements than any neglect on Tolkien's part. And I still treasure my Poems and Songs of Middle Earth record with Swann. But both Tolkien's and LeGuin's works are principally grounded in words, whereas the MCU is grounded in pictures with a few words.
However ACH has been (so far) less influential that both LOTR and MCU. I think that lack of influence is because of the absence of the emotional jolt of ressentiment provided by the inclusion of Manichaen themes.
I think we might have good conversation on these, and similar of topics.