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[Earthsea] Herded and Hunted
Ged makes choices by refusing to choose
This is week six of our summer Wizard of Earthsea book club. This week’s chapter is “Hunted.”
I’m in two book clubs at present—first the Earthsea summer book club with you, and second, a book club that tackles articles and books on maternity, which is reading Frankenstein for August.
So I had a diptych this week, with arctic chase scenes in each between a creator and his monstrous progeny. Both are marked by exhaustion—a pursuit that has gone to the ends of the earth because no resolution seems possible.
I was struck by this passage, before Ged sees his shadow unveiled:
Skiorh's was no company Ged would have chosen, but knowing neither the language nor the way he had small choice. Nor did it much matter, he thought; he had not chosen to come here. He had been driven, and now was driven on.
It felt like this choicelessness complemented but also contradicted the advice Ged heard from the Master Summoner.
“as a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do…”
Ged feels driven by a kind of inevitability, the winnowing away of all choices. But it’s not because he’s choosing one thing strongly and forsaking all others, as a man does when he marries a particular woman.
Ged fears that when his shadow overtakes him, it will hollow him out and make him a thing that it wields in the service of its own, dark ends. But in my reading, in Ged’s grim hopelessness, he’s already emptying himself out, anticipating surrender.
It reminds me of Jesus’s words in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 12:43-45).
And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation.
Ged is quick to remove himself from the company of others, hoping to spare them exposure to the danger pursuing him. But he’s also absenting himself from himself, becoming an empty room; inviting a visitor.
I wonder how Skiorh shaped his own vulnerability.
Last week, prompted by Ged’s otak’s care for him, I asked you
What is one of the smallest ways you’ve been called back to yourself?
Where do you temper your love of your own strengths by engaging in more quiet, immediate service?
This brought to mind part of a quote from GK Chesterton "Every man must descend into the flesh to meet mankind.” As an end-of-life doula I experience the necessity of time, physical presence, and attention to both body and spirit—what a person is working on beneath the surface while seemingly doing nothing. Similar in many ways to time when my infant children were sleeping.