Michael Chabon on Earthsea Plot

Michael Chabon: A Wizard of Earthsea is the record of the discovery, training, growth, testing and ultimately triumph of one young wizard.

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We meet him when he’s a boy and his first encountering, his innate gift for magic and he in a way it parallels, you know, the story of the discovery of a great entertainer or of a great mathematician or music prodigy. You know, it’s discovered at a verily, very early age that he has a talent and it can only be sort of crudely recognized at first because there’s no one around.  Like someone who’s a great violin prodigy growing up, I don’t know, on- on a farm in the middle of a prairie somewhere, there’s no one around who can really quite recognize just how powerful his gift is, and yet, it is evident and- and very early on he- he uses his completely untutored untrained but apparently mighty power to save his people, to save his village and the people of his island. At which point he’s kind of discovered and is picked up by a talent scout, if you will, this wizard takes him on and- and attempts to train him but- but he, clearly, he’s been meant for bigger and better things, and so he is sent off to this academy for wizards, which, you know, might remind some readers a little bit of the situation in the Harry Potter novels, there’s a school for wizards. It shares a few elements very loosely with Hogwarts, a big dining hall with tables and magic being sort of prankishly practiced by all the students who are all boys, it has to be said.  And then it’s really the story as well of this young wizard, Sparrowhawk, as he’s usually called, his struggle with himself, with the responsibility that comes along with the power that he has been granted.  And it’s a lesson that comes very hard for him, very dear-dearly to him.  It’s very difficult for him to realize that being a wizard doesn’t mean that you can do anything you want to, even though, actually, you can do anything you want to, that when you attempt to overreach or go beyond the sort of natural uh.. limitations that the world places on us you can do grave harm even with the best intentions or even with the most innocent intentions.  And it’s in the course of committing one of these sort of childish pranks that are- are typical at this school for- for wizards that he unleashes a terrible power, a terrible force on the world which then he must reckon with, and which he’s finally obligated to reckon with at the end of the novel.


Music credit: 

"Raindrops" by Psychadelik Pedestrian from the album, Nocturnia, used by Creative Commons and found on the FreeMusicArchive.org. Special thanks to WFMU.

Author Michael Chabon discusses the plot of Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea