Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Fantasy, Mother Tongue, Structuralism, The Earthsea Cycle, Ursula Le Guin
Newell, Daniel, "The "Mother Tongue" in a World of Sons: Language and Power in The Earthsea Cycle" (2010). Masters Theses. 133.
Between the years 1968 and 1972, professed feminist Ursula Le Guin penned the first three novels of The Earthsea Cycle, a fantasy series, which, at the time, appeared to be a trilogy. However, in 1990 Le Guin added a fourth book, Tehanu, to The Cycle, claiming that it was a necessary "revisioning" of the male-dominated world of Earthsea. While the original three Earthsea novels do not subvert the patriarchal society of Le Guin's fictitious world, they do reflect her feminist values. Contrary to the charges by detractors that her novels betray feminist dicta, these first three books consistently demonstrate the superiority of what Le Guin considers the feminine qualities of inclusion, balance, and restrained power over the masculine ones of exclusion and dominance. The structuralist view of language revealed in Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle informs her depiction of power and balance and is central to understanding the expression of her feminism in the early Earthsea books. Le Guin seemingly wrote Tehanu to right the wrongs done to women in her first three novels, but in so doing, she overtly politicized the novel, changing the nature of The Earthsea Cycle from children's epic to the adult novel.