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Monday, May 18, 2009

Tehanu, Le Guin, and the Writing Process

I finished Tehanu the same day I started it. I felt there was more to the story, and now I know why. In the forward to Tales from Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin explains how she got from the "now" in Tehanu to the "now" in The Other Wind, and why "The Last Book of Earthsea" was not the last:

"At the end of the fourth book of Earthsea, Tehanu, the story had arrived at what I felt to be now. And, just as in the now of the so-called real world, I didn't know what would happen next. I could guess, foretell, fear, hope, but I didn't know.

Unable to continue Tehanu's story (because it hadn't happened yet) and foolishly assuming that the story of Ged and Tenar had reached its happily-ever-after, I gave the book a subtitle: 'The Last Book of Earthsea.'

O foolish writer. Now moves. Even in storytime, dreamtime, once-upon-a-time, now isn't then.

Seven or eight years after Tehanu was published, I was asked to write a story set in Earthsea. A mere glimpse of the place told me that things had been happening there while I wasn't looking. It was high time to go back and found out what was going on now.

I also wanted information on various things that had happened back then, before Ged and Tenar were born... In order to understand currrent events, I needed to do some historical research, to spend some time in the Archives of the Archipelago.

The way one does research into nonexistent history is to tell the story and find out what happened. I believe this isn't very different from what historians in the so-called real world do. Even if we are present at some historic event, do we comprehend it -- can we even remember it -- until we can tell it as a story? ...

When you construct or reconstruct a world that never existed, a wholly fictional history, the research is of a somewhat different order, but the basic impulse and techniques are much the same. You look at what happens and try to see why it happens, you listen to what the people there tell you and watch what they do, you think about it seriously and you try to tell it honestly, so that the story will have weight and make sense...

So these are reports of my explorations and discoveries: tales from Earthsea for those who have liked or think they might like the place, and who are willing to accept these hypotheses: things change: authors and wizards are not always to be trusted: nobody can explain a dragon." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin, from "Foreward" in Tales from Earthsea (Harcourt, c2001)

I love reading Le Guin's thoughts on writing and her generosity in sharing the way her mind works as she tells her stories. Being one of those writers who writes to find out what will happen next, I identify with the concepts she expresses, and I wanted to share this excerpt on how she constructs a story world.

My first entry about Tehanu is here: http://anniekingwrites.blogspot.com/2009/05/tehanu-last-book-of-earthsea.html

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I love to hear about the writing process. I'm not necessarily a fantasy fan, but I'm not opposed to it, either. If it's done right, it contains many strong characters who contain qualities that are quite of this world. Thanks for another good post, Annie:)