Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is an American author that is best known for her fantasy and science fiction novels for children. The author has also produced poems and essays. Le Guin’s work has been commended for delving into alternative realities with differing ideas on gender, religion, and sexuality.


Ursula was born in 1929 to a UC Berkley Anthropologist and a Writer by the names of Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kracaw. Ursula has described her childhood as an easy and happy one.

Ursula and her three older brothers found their worldview shaped by their parents’ dynamic friends to whom they were frequently exposed. It helped that Ursula and her siblings spent so much of the year in Berkley only to retreat to an old ranch in Napa Valley for the summer.

Ursula had the privilege of walking amongst congregations of students, writers and scientists and this allowed her to listen in on all manner of conversations. It was during these years that the author’s love for Biology and Poetry was strengthened.

Ursula, in particular, took to reading at an early age and nurtured a love for science fiction and fantasy.

By the time she was eleven, the author had submitted a story to the ‘Astounding Science Fiction’ Magazine for publication. However, it still wasn’t a given that Ursula K. Le Guin would go the way of publishing.

Though, her interest in literature was difficult to ignore. After all, her Radcliffe College degree was in Renaissance French and Italian Literature, not to mention the French and Italian Literature M.A. she got from Columbia University.

Ursula K. Le Guin was initially determined to pursue a doctorate centered on a poet by the names of Jean Lemaire de Belges. But then she met Charles Le Guin in France during her travels and, after their marriage, she saw fit to abandon her studies in that arena.

The historian had his sights set on an Emory University Ph.D. so Ursula followed him back to the United States. It was during these years that the author began to experiment with writing. Finding the time wasn’t easy, not when she was trying her hand at secretary work and even teaching French in college.

The birth of her children complicated matters and so did all the moving the family kept doing. But she persisted in her writing. By 1951, even before she met and married Charles, Ursula had written her first novel.

By 1961, the author had five books under her belt, all of which publishers had rejected for various reasons. So Ursula seemingly gave up on fiction and went to poetry. She eventually returned to fiction professionally in 1964, producing ‘The Word of Unbinding’, a short story that paved the way for the ‘Earthsea Trilogy’, the books for which Ursula is best known.

She followed up the original trilogy with three more books in the ‘Earthsea’ world before branching out to write ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and ‘The Dispossessed’, books that made Ursula K. Le Guin the first author to win a Hugo and Nebula Award for the same two books.

Ursula cites Philip K. Dick and J.R.R. Tolkien as her influences. Ursula’s Taoism beliefs and anarchism manifest prominently in her work. She also draws upon psychology, sociology and anthropology to produce stories that challenge a reader’s understanding of culture and reality.

+Ursula K. Le Guin Adaptations

Ursula K. Le Guin has had the pleasure of seeing many adaptations arise from her books. In fact, ‘The Lathe of Heaven’, her 1971 novel, was adapted twice. Ursula participated in the 1979 film adaptation and she considers it to be the only true adaptation of her work. A second adaptation was created in 2002.

Ursula had an opportunity to have Hayao Miyazaki adapt her Earthsea books into an anime series. But she didn’t know his work so she turned him down. An animated version of the Earthsea books eventually surfaced in 2006, simply titled ‘Tales from Earthsea’. The movie was directed by Miyazaki’s son and Ursula expressed great disappointment with the liberties it took, especially with regards to the moral message. By this point in time, Ursula had become a massive Miyazaki fan.

Lesser known adaptations include a Chicago’s Lifeline Theater adaptation of ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and a ‘Legend of Earthsea’ miniseries that the SciFi Channel adapted from the first two Earthsea books.

+A Wizard of Earthsea

There was a time when Ged was considered the greatest of sorcerers in all Earthsea. But that was before his hunger for power and confidence in his own knowledge got the better of him. A shadow was released into the world, beginning Ged’s testing.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s first book in the Earthsea novels introduces Ged to readers. At the start, Ged is quite the cocky and brash boy. He grows so arrogant that he inadvertently unleashes a terrible shadow.

To survive the coming turmoil, Ged is forced to mature, growing comfortable with his dark side.

This book isn’t traditional fantasy and readers looking for a rollicking ride through a fantastical realm will be disappointed. Instead, the first Earthsea book is short, simple and introspective.

The book, which is told like a fairy tale, aims to explore the underlying elements of morality in the overall battle between good and evil. Ged is forced to go on a journey of self-discovery.

He must learn to accept the darkness that lies within him.

+The Tombs of Atuan

Before Arha became high priestess and gained administration over the nameless powers of the Earth, she was just a young girl called Tenar. In becoming high priestess, Arha lost everything, even her name, consigning her life to the task of guarding the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

Arha’s life takes an unexpected turn when Ged infiltrates the Tombs with the intention of stealing a treasure. Drawn to the light of his magic, Arha joins Ged and they escape the dark labyrinth.

The second Earthsea novel introduces the character of Arha to readers. Arha is Priestess over the power of Shadow and it is her job to protect the Tombs of Atuan from intruders. Arha’s life is one of darkness and gloom, and she quickly comes to realize that she is a victim of powers she cannot understand.

Books in order of publication by series:

Hainish Cycle Books

Rocannon’s World(1966) 
Planet of Exile(1966) 
City of Illusions(1967) 
The Left Hand of Darkness(1969) 
The Dispossessed(1974) 
The Word for World is Forest(1976) 
Four Ways to Forgiveness(1995) 
The Telling(2000) 

Earthsea Cycle Books

A Wizard of Earthsea(1968) 
The Tombs of Atuan(1970) 
The Farthest Shore(1972) 
The Other Wind(2001) 

Earthsea Collections

The Earthsea Quartet(1993) 
Tales from Earthsea(2001) 

Earthsea Non-Fiction Book

Earthsea Revisioned(1993) 

Adventures In Kroy Books

The Adventure of Cobbler’s Rune(1982) 
Solomon Leviathan’s Nine-Hundred and Thirty-First Trip Around the World(1983) 

Catwings Books

Catwings Return(1989) 
Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings(1994) 
Jane On Her Own(1992) 
Cat Dreams(2009) 

Catwings Collections

Tales of the Catwings(1996) 
More Tales of the Catwings(2000) 

Western Shore Books


Unreal and the Real Collections

Where on Earth(2012) 
Outer Space, Inner Lands(2012) 

Standalone Novels

The Lathe of Heaven(1971) 
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else(1976) 
The Eye of the Heron(1978) 
The Beginning Place(1980) 
Always Coming Home(1985) 
Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand(1991) 
Changing Planes(2003) 

Short Stories

The Water is Wide(1976) 
Leese Webster(1979) 
Gwilan’s Harp(1981) 
The Visionary: The Life Story of Flicker of the Serpentine of Telina-Na(1984) 
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas(1991) 
Nine Lives(1992) 
Buffalo Gals: Won’t You Come Out Tonight(1994) 
The Wild Girls(2011) 

Short Story Collections

Wild Angels(1974) 
Orsinian Tales(1975) 
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters(1975) 
Walking in Cornwall(1976) 
Nebula Award Stories 11(1976) 
Hard Words and Other Poems(1981) 
The Compass Rose(1982) 
In the Red Zone(1983) 
Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences(1987) 
The Visionary, Wonders Hidden(1988) 
Blue Moon Over Thurman Street(1993) 
Going Out with Peacocks and Other Poems(1994) 
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea(1994) 
Unlocking the Air and Other Stories(1996) 
Sixty Odd: New Poems(1999) 
The Birthday of the World and Other Stories(2002) 
Incredible Good Fortune: New Poems(2006) 
Dragon Lords and Warrior Women(2010) 
Finding My Elegy(2012) 
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014(2015) 

Picture Books

A Visit from Dr. Katz(1988) 
Fire and Stone(1989) 
Fish Soup(1992) 
A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back(1992) 
Tom Mouse(2002) 

Non-Fiction Books

From Elfland to Poughkeepsie(1973) 
Dreams Must Explain Themselves(1975) 
The Language of the Night(1979) 
Steering the Craft(1984) 
Dancing at the Edge of the World(1989) 
The Way of the Water’s Going(1989) 
The Wave in the Mind(2004) 
Cheek by Jowl(2009) 
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching(2009) 
The World Split Open(2014) 
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story(2015)
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