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The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2)
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Group Reads Discussions 2009 > The Tombs of Atuan - Full Discussion *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 2 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Well? Did it live up to Wizard? Is Tenar the plucky heroine or the plot device? What do you see as the relationship in theme between Wizard and Tombs?


Lizzie (lizzie_bobbins) | 92 comments This was actually my favourite book of the trilogy. I was warned that it was a bit slower paced than the first one, but I found that the majority of the plot all happening in one place really focused the story around the characters, and it really sparked my imagination.


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments This novel was wrenching and gorgeous. I’m amazed by Le Guin’s ability to write about monstrous behavior without underlining it or pointing neon arrows at it. (I found she did so powerfully in The Left Hand of Darkness as well.) It was so moving to see how our two heroes came to trust and rely on one another.


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments And to answer your questions, Allison, I think Tenar is far more than a plot device. She starts her life as a tool of the system, and gradually sees that she is an individual with agency and a soul that is hers alone. As for the relationship to Wizard, both novels, and indeed the trilogy, are about facing evil with a clear heart and discovering wellsprings of courage and strength and ability that the characters didn’t even know they had within them.


message 5: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 2 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Well said, Anthony!


Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Why thank you. I wish I could adequately convey how deeply moved I am by Le Guin’s prose, the wisdom in her books, and the moments of grace and kindness that she so beautifully renders.


Michele | 1206 comments Somehow I missed that we were reading this in June, and I'm so sorry! I love this book. I love the weird religious element (awfully Lovecrafty, don't you think?), the loneliness of Tenar, the determination of Ged.


message 8: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
There wasn't an official reread, but some people needed to catch up for July :)


Michele | 1206 comments Ah, ok :)


Beste | 34 comments Agreed to @Anthony.
I hate when new characters shows up to develop storyline and leaves after they serve the purpose or worst just randomly die to make it look sad. I'm glad we witnessed Tenar's childhood and we grew understanding to her behaviour before Ged arrived. I hope we see her again in the following books.


message 11: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
You will get to see Tenar again if you continue past the original trilogy to Tehanu. It's my current favorite Earthsea book, but that might change when I finally reread the last book.


message 12: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Catelli | 985 comments Past the original trilogy, she turned around and undermined the whole thing. As far as I'm concerned, it ended with Shore. Where she is mentioned.


message 13: by Kaa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kaa | 1454 comments Allison's question in the first post had me ready to come leaping to Tenar's defense, so I'm glad others loved her too. I really enjoyed the way this story plays with a couple narrative tropes - I saw threads of both the "chosen one with the wise wizard mentor" and the "sheltered maiden rescued by heroic dude". The way these two story patterns were reinvented and woven together was lovely, and set up a really rewarding character arc for Tenar.


DivaDiane | 2598 comments I reread Tombs for the third time last year (but I wasn’t yet a member of this group so I didn’t participate then), reading it out loud to my son.

Allison’s veiled assertion is not exactly wrong. Tenar IS the plot. Otherwise, what is there?!? Her development from a girl, defined by the role thrust upon her to an individual, who defines her life herself is the plot of this book. The way that UKL achieves this is so true, difficult, beautiful and miraculous. How Anthony describes it is just perfect. I see Ged as a catalyst (not unlike Fitz from Farseer), more than anything and I imagine that Arha would have eventually done the same by herself, just not so early in her life.


message 15: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 27, 2019 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
I think I had a hard time with this one because while I could see Arha was unhappy with her role, there was no movement in the story by her will to confront her role. We see that she is both infallible and toothless outside the sphere of the tombs, but very little of the growth of "soft power" that is usually the hallmark of an oppressed and yet revered person. I see that there is an argument that as she gains a sense of individuality, she also realizes the consequences of her actions and therefore meets Ged with his life and death in her hands. But I didn't quite resonate with that. It felt more like she went from one power thrust on her to a man's world. The lustful overtones of their interaction when she was so young didn't help me feel better about her real agency (though I have softened on those feelings somewhat).


DivaDiane | 2598 comments I didn’t find their interactions “lustful”. I seem to recall it was rather one-sided as seems fitting for a girl her age suddenly confronted by a man who is not a eunuch. Maybe I’m conveniently forgetting something, though.


message 17: by Kaa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kaa | 1454 comments Diane wrote: "Tenar IS the plot."

Very true. But I agree with you that this is also what's so amazing about the book.

@Allison: I do see why this could be a hard read to get into - I wasn't a big fan the first time I read it either. This time, what I really liked about it was seeing Tenar simultaneously emerge from her assigned role both within the story and in the larger narrative structure/tropes. And I guess I didn't feel as though there was a particularly lustful overtone to their interactions - I agree with Diane that there was maybe some hero-worship, but nothing that felt inappropriate.


message 18: by Anna, Circadian heretic (last edited Aug 27, 2019 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I didn’t find their interactions “lustful”. I seem to recall it was rather one-sided as seems fitting for a girl her age suddenly confronted by a man who is not a eunuch."

Agreed 100%. I've been trying to form a comment for quite some time now, I'm so stunned I don't know what to say. I'm going to have to pretend I never read these comments! My precious Tenar! <3

edit: Thanks for the retraction Allison, I think I'll be able to sleep tonight after all!


message 19: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 2 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Looking back at my review, the bit about Tenar and Ged may have been colored more by early fear than what actually happened. Retracted! It's been a couple years since I read this. Perhaps, having read Tehanu, I'll go back and re-read in the hopes I feel more kinship with a now-beloved character in her earlier days.


message 20: by Michele (last edited Sep 01, 2019 07:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michele | 1206 comments What I liked about this book is the undercurrent of how organized or entrenched religion can brainwash people. Tenar is taken as a child and trained to suppress her own desires and will and personality, to render them subservient to someone else's idea of god. Given that Le Guin said she was "as irreligious as a jackrabbit" it seems clear she didn't see much value in a hierarchy of belief that would attempt to prescribe how others should live.


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