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The Word for World Is Forest

(Hainish Cycle)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  24,538 ratings  ·  2,261 reviews
Centuries in the future, Terrans have established a logging colony & military base named "New Tahiti" on a tree-covered planet whose small, green-furred, big-eyed inhabitants have a culture centered on lucid dreaming. Terran greed spirals around native innocence & wisdom, overturning the ancient society.

Humans have learned interstellar travel from the Hainish (the origin-
ebook, 160 pages
Published May 15th 1989 (first published March 17th 1972)
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Abhinav Kapur they are loosely related in that it's the same universe and some of the over-arching concepts are repeated throughout.

For example, they talk about th…more
they are loosely related in that it's the same universe and some of the over-arching concepts are repeated throughout.

For example, they talk about the ansible in The Word for World is Forest, a device that didn't yet exist (but was essentially the core work for the main protagonist) in The Dispossessed.(less)

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Kevin Kelsey
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Posted at Heradas Review

1/23/2017 edit: The world lost an absolute literary giant today. If you haven't read Ursula K. Le Guin, do yourself a favor. She's fantastic.

The Library of America just published these definitive hardcover collections of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle novels and stories, which made my decision to finally start working my way through this classic series of speculative fiction that much easier. I’m going to be tackling these in no particular order, since my research shows that the
Sean Barrs
I’ve been looking for a book like this for a very long time, a book that – at its very core – tackles the environmental destruction associated with systematic imperialism.

Now let me try to unpack that a little. I write these words as my own home (my planet) is being destroyed by mass scale consumerism, as our ever-growing appetites and population continues to decimate our own forests and natural land. This is not a new phenomenon, but as we advance technologically, we have become more adept at
"Maybe after I die people will be as they were before I was born, and before you came. But I do not think they will."
In every book by Le Guin there is that special something for me, something that grabs a firm hold of my mind and heart and stubbornly hangs on, refusing to let go, burrowing deeply, growing roots, sprouting shoots that will go on to quietly, unobtrusively, almost imperceptibly change my mental landscape forever - by making me really think, by challenging established ideas, pre
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If it’s all the rest of us who are killed by the suicide, it’s himself who the murderer kills”

So muses author Ursula K. LeGuin in her 1972 novel The Word for World is Forest. The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novella, LeGuin’s mastery of the language and the genre are in full display as well as her remarkable imaginative powers.

Revisiting her “Hainish” cycle of works (not a series of books but rather a group of stand alone works with a thematic central core – somewhat simi
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
3.5 stars, rounding up. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In The Word for World is Forest, Ursula Le Guin’s 1972 Hugo Award-winning novella, she works out her frustrations with the Vietnam War, colonialism, and ecologically insensitive societies. The human colonists on the world Athshe have enslaved the 3-foot tall, furry green native people and have created ecological disaster everywhere they go. They’re stripping the forests for logging purposes, as timber is worth more than gol
Nov 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A thought provoking version of Avatar, with little green men instead of blue ones. We end up rooting for the aliens and the forest that covers their world, that’s trying to grapple with colonial Terran rule
Wrongs could not be righted, but at least they were not still being done.

The Word for World is Forest definitely delivers on the beautiful, poetic title and the themes of exploitation and ecological degradation are sadly as relevant as when this book was written
Ursula K. Le Guin uses sparse, e
Charlotte Kersten
“Maybe after I die people will be as they were before I was born, and before you came. But I do not think they will.”

So What’s It About?

Terran colonists take over the planet locals call Athshe, meaning “forest,” rather than “dirt,” like their home planet Terra. They follow the 19th century model of colonization: felling trees, planting farms, digging mines & enslaving indigenous peoples. The natives are unequipped to comprehend this. They’re a subsistence race who rely on the forests & have no c
Devastating. I continue to be astounded by the depths of feeling, wisdom, and truth that Le Guin was able to unearth in her work. This was in many ways the most brutal of her books that I’ve read, but it is still filled with a terrible beauty and even some hope.
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-top-20, favorites
Good short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book and the pleasure, inspiration or education gained from them. This book clocks in at 189 pages but Le Guin made every word count.

Like most of Ms. Le Guin's works this is a thought provoking story. What happen when we introduce evil into a hitherto innocent and passive culture? The Athsheans are very vivid creations, the story of their enslavement and e
Books with Brittany
I actually think I enjoyed this more than Left Hand of Darkness. Excellent
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, scifi, 2018, fiction
"--the anthropologist cannot always leave his own shadow out of the picture he draws--"
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for the World is Forest


The more Le Guin I read, the more I love her. Reading Le Guin for me these last couple years, reminds me of how I felt when I first discovered John le Carré. They seem to both be able to write the same theme in so many different ways. It makes me think of Monet's many versions of the same church front or pond. Masters all. An artist doesn't have to go very w
Mar 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2022-read, novella
Le Guin's writing is clear, thoughtful, penetrative, poetic, and spare. The thought experiment here relates to whether changing yourself to emulate the invader in order to rid yourself of the invader is ultimately worth the cost.

It's impossible to put on the coat of violence for a limited purpose. Once worn, the garment can never be completely removed. Yes, you survive, you preserve your home, but at what cost? Perhaps you have not survived, but instead killed the most important part of yourself
Ben Flasher
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Much as I'm in agreement with this book's message of environmentalism and nonviolence, I found its delivery of that message to be preachy, joyless, and heavy-handed. Its tale of colonist humans and their conflict with the native Athsheans transplants the worst atrocities of colonialism's past into the future, but loses any subtlety and nuance in the process.

It doesn't help that the Athsheans embody just about every romanticized stereotype of the native primitive. Like the most Disneyfied take on
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, science-fiction
Another excellent instalment in the Hainish Cycle. Ursula le Guin has become one of my favourite authors ever despite the fact that none of her writing has really astounded me. There is just something about each one of her books that makes them both enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Also, this book has proto-ewoks.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
They were here, in Centralville, twenty-seven lightyears from Earth by NAFAL and four hours from Smith Camp by hopper, the second batch of breeding females for the New Tahiti Colony, all sound and clean, 212 head of prime human stock.

Written in 1972, this second book in the Hainish cycle is chillingly prescient about the modern world we are living in today. Although the main theme is deforestation, echoes of "The Handmaid's Tale" and of conservative attitudes regarding economic imperatives, le
My love for LeGuin's work just keeps growing with every book of hers I read, even when she does everything she can to break my heart. Her novels are always thought-provoking, and she can make a small page count pack one Hell of a punch: at a mere 128 pages, "The Word for World is Forest" still left me devastated. This is a story about hatred and violence, the harm they cause in the long and short term; it's about colonialism and the preservation of aboriginal cultures, deforestation, militarism… ...more
Allison Hurd
I had to sit with this one a bit before reviewing. A hard-hitting look at imperialism, humanity and the appropriate use of violence, once again Le Guin manages to distill everything into a perfect clarity that is at once easy to follow and vastly complex.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)

Things to love:

The writing. As usual, Le Guin is absolutely bril
Welcome, to another episode of benevolent colonialism vs barbaric indigenous culture, and this from the celebrated annals of science fiction. Oh, but what's this? The indigenous people are winning?! And without a white savior or a colonialist deflecting to the good side? No transformative hero's arc? No construction of entire narratives centred around a white dude that realises the value of indigenous culture and saves the day? So you're telling me, science fiction, a world of comple make-believ ...more
Ivana Books Are Magic
Oct 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This novella is an absolute masterpiece! Poetically written, deeply profound and wonderfully imaginative, The Word for World is a Forest is an exceptional book. The story Le Guin created is a incredibly tragic and sad one, but it rings absolutely true in its sadness and tragedy. Wisdom is something I have come to expect in Ursula K.Le Guin's writing but this novella seems to be especially abundant in it. Wisdom is a big word, yet I cannot use another, for Le Guin's writing truly strikes me as wi ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2010
In all honesty, the basic premise of this novella is the one I've read/seen many times before both in fiction (the latest version is James Cameron's "Avatar") and reality.

A group of evil and greedy Terrans is in a process of colonizing a new planet - Athshe. What it means, as you can guess, is that Terrans destroy Athshe's ecosystem by cutting down the planet's forests and sending wood to their mother planet Earth (which by this time is nothing but a barren desert) and enslave and abuse the nat
A friend of mine - Diane - said that this is Le Guin's angriest book. I only read four books of her so far but I see the point. The book made me angry too. Colonization, treatment towards women and the natives, racism, sexism, environmental abuse, I could go on. In just fewer than 200 pages, Le Guin managed to weave those unsavory elements and some despicable characters (active and enablers) into a raging narrative.

I also enjoyed the parallel of world = forest and god = interpreter. Highly reco
And people still think Avatar had an original concept.
(Though I'll admit the visuals are gorgeous)

Le Guin did it first, and did it better. The Word for World is Forest is heartwrenchingly beautiful, all the more for its continued relevence nearly half a century since first publication.

Her introduction to this edition is also exquisite, and discusses not only the need and reasoning behind the writing of this story, but also the need for the creation of any such story.

"The pursuit of art, by ar
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pop Sugar Challenge 2020
A book with more than 20 letters in the title

So good! Definitely more character driven and concept based. A typical story of cruel colonizers but with the added back drop of different species of humans at different stages in their evolution meeting on a distant planet. Really enjoyed the exploration of the different species of humans. I believe the hilfs were considered to be the younger species. The Hainish were considered to be the older and more advanced species that
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was yet another book in this series that hit me in the heart and bruised it. No one writes friendship like Ms. Le Guin, the kind based on a deep love shared between two very different beings. And while this element was only a small part of this story of social injustice and social consciousness, it was everything when positioned at its center.

It didn’t start out this way with one of the most loathsome villains in this series taking center stage and forcing the reader to see everything thro
I've come to regard Ursula K. Le Guin very highly and think she's become one of my favourite authors. Her stories are beautiful and deep and always touch me in a way that is hard to describe. For any who've yet to pick up one of her novels, I can't recommend her work enough.

The different perspectives given in this story are so contrary and the light it sheds so illuminating. The conflict is unavoidable and the reactions are sometimes so misguided but always completely believable.

One of the thin
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, ecological, ethics
Hainish Wars: Episode VI
Return of the Anthropologist


A strange little green furry face with huge black eyes comes slowly into view. The creature is an ATHSHEAN, by the name of SELVER. He seems somewhat puzzled, and prods LJUBOV with the butt end of a spear. The anthropologist groans; this frightens the stubby ball of green fuzz and SELVER prods him again. LJUBOV sits up and stares at the three-foot-high Athshean. He tries to figure
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
My friend Josh described this as the book James Cameron ripped off to make Avatar, to which I replied, "Can you really rip off imperialist guilt? Also, hello, dragons." While I stand by both of those assertions, Cameron clearly lifted heavily from this book, so, ok Josh, you at least half win. Like basically all suckers for the Pocahontas trope, though, Cameron failed to grasp the central irony of said trope, namely that it redeems the oppressor while continuing to rob the oppressed of their age ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sf
Great book by a great writer. If you've not yet read any Ursula K. Le Guin, then start with this book. If you've only read a couple by Le Guin and are wondering what next to sample, follow up with this book next.

I've only read two other titles by Le Guin, but I wish I had started here first. Le Guin's work is dense and requires some work on the part of the reader, but this book (actually just a novella) is far more accessible and serves as a great introduction to themes and concepts used in her
Dawn F
When I pick up an Ursula Le Guin book I expect to be awed, intellectually stimulated, fascinated and expanded. I did not therefore expect to read something of hers that horrified, angered, frustrated and broke my heart like this one did. In the span of some 130 pages she made me feel love and frail beauty and disgust and sorrow. Written in the shadow of the Vietnam war she relentlessly and unsentimentally conveys the atrocities of war and how it changes those implicated. It was hard as hell to r ...more
I need to think about my rating. The story has some very important messages but I wish I'd never read it. But everything else deserves five stars.

EDIT: So this book had a really strong effect on me and I feel that it deserves five stars for that alone. Emotionally I really struggled with this story and found it quite devastating. I also found it terribly realistic and totally heartbreaking. Yes, there's a part of me that wishes I had never read it but I also think it was really well done and abs
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Hainish Cycle (9 books)
  • Rocannon's World (Hainish Cycle, #1)
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle, #2)
  • City of Illusions (Hainish Cycle, #3)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #6)
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness (Hainish Cycle, #7)
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle, #8)
  • The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (Hainish Cycle, #9)

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