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The Tombs of Atuan

The second book in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea fantasy series.

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A Quick Tip by Swadhi

  • Jun 29, 2010
I was assigned to read this novel for my Children's Lit course, and it was a great read. Although it`s a work of fantasy and does contain magical elements, often it feels very realistic. Le Guin - who has a bit of a background in anthropology - takes great care giving the specific details that contribute to our understanding of the society of Kargad. The influence of Taoism is also prevalent in this novel. Quite a thought-provoking work overall.
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Swadhi Ranganee ()
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About this book


"The Tombs of Atuan is the second of a series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin and set in her fantasy archipelago of Earthsea, first published in 1971. Its events take place a few years after those in A Wizard of Earthsea and around two decades before those in The Farthest Shore. The Tombs of Atuan was a Newbery Honor Book in 1972.

The story centers on a Kargish child who is taken from her family and dedicated as the high priestess in the service of the "Nameless Ones" on the island of Atuan. Her true name is Tenar, but she is renamed Arha, "the eaten one", when she is formally consecrated to the gods' service at age six, as all the high priestesses are considered reincarnations of the first.

Tenar's youth is a haunting contrast between lighthearted childish escapades and dark, solemn rituals. Gradually she comes to accept her lonely, anonymous role, and to feel at home in the unlit underground labyrinth, the eponymous Tombs, where the malevolent, powerful Nameless Ones dwell, and where prisoners are sent for a slow death. Indeed, as she becomes aware of the political machinations among the older priestesses, the Tombs become a refuge to her, as she is the only one who may freely move through the labyrinth under them.

Ged, the protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea, meets Tenar when she is fifteen years old. He comes to the Tombs in order to find the long-lost half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, a magical talisman necessary for peace in ...

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Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Date Published: 1971
Format: Novel

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