Book info

Tehanu (2004)

Tehanu (2004)
Rating
3.84 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
1416509631 (ISBN13: 9781416509639)
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English
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pocket books
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Tehanu (2004)
Tehanu (2004)

About book: I'm glad I read this book again — as an adult I understood it much better than when I was a teenager. "Tehanu" is the follow-up to "The Tombs of Atuan," and it was a bit of a shock when I first read it. "Tombs" ended with the promise of a typical fantasy ending. The heroine and the wizard enter triumphant into the city with the fabled artifact, honors doled out, followed by heroine coming into her own, learning magic and traveling the world having adventures. And stuff."Tehanu" picks up about twenty-five years later. The heroine, Tenar, is a middle-aged widow living quietly on a farm. The artifact she brought to the land set into motion a series of events that eventually led to the crowning of the prophesized king who shows every sign of promise in bringing peace and stability to the land. Tenar herself was not a part of those events, though. She started studying magic but did not feel that she fit in the man's world of wizardy, and so chose to marry a prosperous farmer and raise a family like a normal woman.As a teenager, this was a disappointment. Who would want to be normal when you could be out talking to dragons and having adventures? I still liked the book (Le Guin is a fabulous writer) but it wasn't until now that I really understood the tension of the novel.Tenar is trapped by definitions of gender imposed by her society. She can't be a wizard because it requires thinking like the way men think they think. And she can't go back to what she was raised as, a symbol of darkness created by men. And in "Tehanu" she is realizing that she can't be a normal housewife, either, because she does dream of dragons and asks too many questions. This passage helps explain Tenar's struggle:*******(This opens with Ged explaining the thinking of wizards) The Mages of Roke are men — their power is the power of men, their knowledge is the knowledge of men. Both manhood and magery are built on one rock: power belongs to men. If women had power, what would men be but women who can't bear children? And what would women be but men who can?""Hah!" went Tenar; and presently, with some cunning, she said, "Haven't there been queens? Weren't they women of power?""A queen's only a she-king," said Ged.She snorted."I mean, men give her power. They let her use their power. But it isn't hers, is it? It isn't because she's a woman that she's powerful, but despite it."She nodded. she stretched, sitting back from the spinning wheel. "What is a woman's power, then?" she asked."I don't think we know.""When has a woman power because she's a woman? With her children, I suppose. For a while...""In her house maybe."She looked around the kitchen. "But the doors are shut," she said, "the doors are locked.""Because you're valuable.""Oh, yes. We're precious. So long as we're powerless...I remember when I first learned that! Kossil threatened me — me, the One Priestess of the Tombs. And I realized that I was helpless. I had the honor; but she had the power, from the God-king, the man. Oh, it made me angry! And frightened me...Lark and I talked about this once. She said, "Why are men afraid of women?""If your strength is only the other's weakness, you live in fear," Ged said."Yes; but women seem to fear their own strength, to be afraid of themselves.""Are they ever taught to trust themselves?" Ged asked, and as he spoke Therru came in on her work again. His eyes and Tenar's met."No," she said. "Trust is not what we're taught."*******The plot revolves around these conflicts of power. As a teenager, I believed in the story of young-girl-finds-magic-beats-all-odds. "Tehanu" shows another side to this, where the young girl can never overcome the odds because they are a part of the social fabric, influencing her in ways she is not aware of until older. Tenar the woman has to learn to trust herself and it is more complicated than "believing in yourself.""Tehanu" is a complicated book about gender and power and creation and (of course) dragons.

It's possible that people who have never experienced much actual trauma or severe discrimination might not understand how on-target this book can be. If that's you, you'd probably find it really interesting to check out Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman for a solid overview of how/why trauma survivors can be crippled by fear in seemingly irrational ways. And The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz is a surprisingly good book on male violence (and not just against women).Reading the first 3 Earthsea books, I couldn't understand why some people called Le Guin a "feminist writer." In Tehanu this finally comes across clearly - and it works very well. I love that each of the Earthsea books is very different, and this one certainly takes fantasy novels in a new direction. Dealing with your own weaknesses and other people's ignorance and fear in daily life can take far more courage and perseverance than any heroic quest. Honestly, the feminism of this book is no different from themes that are found in all her other books: no matter what status or power you have, it's important to have respect for people, maintain balance in your actions, and not rely excessively on force.I'm not sure what to make of the ending, which doesn't tie up some loose ends... but then that's sort of her point, right? Things are never neat and tidy. Life is complex; life goes on.Previously: The Farthest Shore
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Reviews
Tom Ippen
100 Stars. If more children--boys--read the Earthsea saga, finishing off with "Tehanu," the world wouldn't have this fucking "meninist" problem.Loss, shame, the weight of love: it's all explored here, with patience and honesty.“She thought about how it was to have been a woman in the prime of life, with children and a man, and then to lose all that, becoming old and a widow, powerless. But even so she did not feel she understood his shame, his agony of humiliation. Perhaps only a man could feel so. A woman got used to shame.” Re-reading this series was a beautiful, emotional experience, and I'm sad it's over, yet very grateful.Only in silence the word,Only in dark the light,Only in dying life:Bright the hawk's flightOn the empty sky.—The Creation of Éa
Julia
I read this in high school after absolutely LOVING the trilogy. Le Guin wrote this book nearly 20 years after she wrote the trilogy, and to me, it didn't seem to fit in with the story at all. Rather than being a continuation, it seemed like a sort of disconnected addition that didn't seem to keep with the themes or plots of the previous books, and after reading it, I wished I could forget it entirely. To me, the book seemed to taint the beauty of the trilogy, however ...I will admit that some of my distaste may also have been the fact that the subject matter was too old for me. In high school, I couldn't relate to the characters at all, and the sex put me off. When I recommended the trilogy to my friends, I made sure to tell them to avoid at all costs reading beyond the trilogy itself; however, if I were to read the book again as an adult, my opinion might be different.
Gavin
Before I review this book I feel it's important that I give it some context:A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)The Tombs of Atuan (1971)The Farthest Shore (1972)Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (1990)The dates in particular.The real heartbreak of this book is that it does not need to be a continuation of Ged's story. In fact, it should not.Books 1-3 of the Earthsea cycle are some of the best and most profoundly moving fantasy novels that have ever been written, all three of them together have perhaps half the word-count of The Fellowship of The Ring, yet cover ten times as much plot and have hundreds of times the emotional heft of the former.The leading lady (Tenar) bounces reactively from one man to the next for menacing/protection as appropriate, while half-heartedly muttering about male dominance in the fantasy world, which would have been... tolerable if Le Guin had not consequently taken a hatchet to Ged's character in order to make some pretty unpleasant and misandrinist remarks about the Nature of Male Character In General.Concurrently to this, the titular character is introduced as a confusing metaphor for the power of women through... dragons, maybe?As a standalone novel, it would be bad-to-average fantasy. As a coda to the Earthsea Cycle it is a travesty. Please, please read the first three, then never read this one.
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