Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
Years ago, they had escaped together from the sinister Tombs of Atuan—she, an isolated young priestess; he, a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer's widow, having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. And he is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him through no choice of his own.

Once, when they were young, they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger and shared an adventure like no other. Now they must join forces again, to help another in need -- the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed.

281 pages, Paperback

First published June 20, 1990

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ursula K. Le Guin

939 books24.4k followers
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, Oregon.

She was known for her treatment of gender (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Matter of Seggri), political systems (The Telling, The Dispossessed) and difference/otherness in any other form. Her interest in non-Western philosophies was reflected in works such as "Solitude" and The Telling but even more interesting are her imagined societies, often mixing traits extracted from her profound knowledge of anthropology acquired from growing up with her father, the famous anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber. The Hainish Cycle reflects the anthropologist's experience of immersing themselves in new strange cultures since most of their main characters and narrators (Le Guin favoured the first-person narration) are envoys from a humanitarian organization, the Ekumen, sent to investigate or ally themselves with the people of a different world and learn their ways.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
17,404 (36%)
4 stars
17,490 (36%)
3 stars
9,488 (19%)
2 stars
2,425 (5%)
1 star
751 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,887 reviews
51 reviews
November 22, 2011
I remember reading Tehanu in grade school; I also remember not liking it very much. However, reading it again, years later, I think of it as a masterpiece. The first three Earthsea novels were good, interesting, entertaining, but Tehanu belongs to another tier entirely. Its character development and world-building are par with Tombs of Atuan, but its pacing is better and it ties in more tightly to existing lore. Further, we get to see the characters we've come to love in a more natural light. It's heartening to learn that, without the crutches of myth and magic and religion, they still stand as individuals, well-developed and interesting to read about. The moments of thrill and fear are well put together and memorable, but also down-to-earth: it's perfectly reasonable to expect that anyone could be put in danger during a moment of home invasion or by an unwelcome encounter on the road. Despite the simple, pastoral setting and the almost complete lack of magic, the story has a certain grandiosity to it that reflects the depth of its content. Tehanu is a book about people, the good and the bad, about life and growing up and the mysteries of someone else's way of seeing.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books467 followers
February 6, 2022
"What cannot be healed must be transcended."

Spoilers follow, as well as some discussion of child sexual abuse.

So What's It About?

Tenar, last seen as a teenage girl in The Tombs of Atuan, is now well into middle age and widowhood. After having felt adrift for some time, she finds a new sense of purpose when she takes in a severely burned little girl who was left for dead by her abusive parents. She and the girl, Therru, settle into life together, but their pattern is once again disturbed when Ged returns to Gont near death and bereft of his magic. What follows is a reflection on the true meaning of power and what it means to live in its absence.

What I Thought

Very few books have ever resonated with me quite as much as Tehanu did. It's nothing short of brilliant in my view, a quietly transformative, meditatively powerful reflection on some of the most fundamental questions that characterize my own life. There are three key thematic strands that deftly weave their way through Tehanu's narrative, dealing chiefly with trauma, gender and power and how the three are inextricably linked.

"What cannot be healed must be transcended."

There are some wrongs that may never be righted, there are some hurts that will never heal. But if this is true, how do you nevertheless forge onwards, find meaning in life and be more than what has been done to you? Maybe that transcendence looks different for everyone. It's how Tenar made the choice to fight for a normal, peaceful existence with a farm and a husband and children after the unimaginable darkness of her childhood. It's how Therru takes tiny, miraculous steps towards feeling safe and expressing herself through play and speech and trust in adults. It's how Ged slowly makes sense of his new identity after his entire life has been shattered.

Tehanu makes it clear that the act of enacting harm against someone is also an act of expressing your power over them:

"It’s so easy, she thought with rage, it’s so easy for Handy to take the sunlight from her, take the ship and the King and her childhood from her, and it’s so hard to give them back! A year I’ve spent trying to give them back to her, and with one touch he takes them and throws them away. And what good does it do him—what’s his prize, his power? Is power that—an emptiness?"

The power that you achieve through harming others is, as Tenar puts it, "an emptiness," but even the allure of that empty power is enough for some people to justify their actions against others. What is agonizing about this is how incredibly easy it is to enact that destructive power against others, while building up true constructive power through love and connection is a delicate process that requires time, vulnerability and trust.

There is also the question of the stigma that accompanies trauma. Therru carries the physical markings of what has been done to her, and because of that people fear and shun her. They cannot stand the thought of a child being thrown into the flames or raped or beaten, and deal with that inability by projecting their fear and disgust onto the survivor instead of the perpetrator. Just as it is easier to tear someone down for empty power, it is easier to blame a victim than it is to confront a world where parents would be capable of doing what has been done to Therru. I never loved Tenar more than when she insisted on how wrong this was, and told Therru that she is defined by who she is and what she can do instead of what has been done to her:

“You are beautiful," Tenar said in a different tone. "Listen to me, Therru. Come here. You have scars, ugly scars, because an ugly, evil thing was done to you. People see the scars. But they see you, too, and you aren't the scars. You aren't ugly. You aren't evil. You are Therru, and beautiful. You are Therru who can work, and walk, and run, and dance, beautifully, in a red dress.”

Tehanu is equally preoccupied with questions of masculinity and femininity as it is with questions of trauma. There are several meditations on inherently "masculine" and "feminine" types of power, and my favorite of these occurs between Tenar and a witchwoman named Moss. Tenar asks Moss what is wrong with men, and Moss replies as follows:

“The best I can say, it's like this. A man's in his skin, see, like a nut in its shell ... It's hard and strong, that shell, and it's all full of him. Full of grand man-meat, man-self. And that's all. That's all there is."

A woman's a different thing entirely. Who knows where a woman begins and ends? Listen mistress, I have roots, I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper than the sea, older than the raising of the lands. I go back into the dark ... I go back into the dark! Before the moon I am, what a woman is, a woman of power, a woman's power, deeper than the roots of trees, deeper than the roots of islands, older than the Making, older than the moon. Who dares ask questions of the dark? Who'll ask the dark its name?”

Moss has completely subscribed to the idea that there are inherent, boundless differences between men and women and the kinds of power that they embody. It can be tempting to subscribe to this view sometimes - that women are essentially divine, mystical, pure and powerful in a way that men are not. Tenar, however, and Le Guin, do not seem to be convinced by this idea. Tenar mildly responds that the horrors of her childhood were perpetrated entirely by women, complicating Moss's celebration of pure, mystical female power. Later, she says the following to Ged:

"It seems to me we make up most of the differences, and then complain about ’em."

By arguing that we "make up most of the differences," Le Guin supports the notion that sex and gender by and large social constructs that we perpetuate in order to simplify the world into easy, false dichotomies. "Making up most of the differences" also complicates notions of biological essentialism that dictate certain traits as inherently masculine or feminine.

What is clear, however, is that while gender may have started out as a social construct, it has come to be an extremely real thing to the people who live within its rules, power dynamics and expectations on a daily basis. The impact of gender expectations is conveyed most clearly through Ged's story- the "unmanning" that he experiences in Tehanu through the loss of his magic. When Ged loses his magic - his masculine-coded power-he experiences an agonizing identity crisis. His shame puzzles Tenar:

"But even so she did not feel she understood his shame, his agony of humiliation. Perhaps only a man could feel so. A woman got used to shame."

In this way it is clear that Ged's shame as a result of his loss of power is gendered as well - a woman, who lives with a constant lack of power and plenty of the shame that accompanies being a denigrated gender-cannot be caught up by the conundrum of ego that masculinity causes.

For a significant portion of the book, Ged essentially sees himself as nothing without his magic, and as a result is completely cowed, self-absorbed and emotionally stunted, unwilling to care about anything but nursing his wounds and stewing over his downfall:

"Ged—the one who might really have helped—Ged ran away. Ran off like a whipped dog, and never sent sign or word to her, never gave a thought to her or Therru, but only to his own precious shame. That was his child, his nurseling. That was all he cared about. He had never cared or thought about her, only about power—her power, his power, how he could use it, how he could make more power of it. Putting the broken Ring together, making the Rune, putting a king on the throne. And when his power was gone, still it was all he could think about: that it was gone, lost, leaving him only himself, his shame, his emptiness."

This, Le Guin argues, is what our construction of masculinity can make of men. Even a courageous, heroic, truly good man like Ged has built his entire identity upon having more power than other people, and when that is no longer the case he reverts back to being a terrified, emotionally-repressed teenager again. The rest of the wizards in the book are presented in much the same light- emotionally repressed, terrified of losing their power, and arrogant. It is only when Ged's worst fears do in fact come true that he is able to actually begin to live in a genuine way and forge a healthy identity for himself as a real man as opposed to a man whose entire sense of himself is constructed on notions of empty power. As Le Guin puts it in the afterward:

"In Tehanu he can become, finally, fully a man. He is no longer the servant of his power."

This is the strange, pitiable paradox of masculinity: men have constructed themselves as the more powerful gender, but this construction of power leads to constant fears of being perceived as weak and unmanly. Again we come back to the notion of empty power- if your power is built on others' fear and leads to your own constant fear of weakness, what is it truly worth? And with that in mind, what are the other ways that we might be able to define power in a healthier and more grounded way?

“Why are men afraid of women?"
"If your strength is only the other's weakness, you live in fear," Ged said.
"Yes; but women seem to fear their own strength, to be afraid of themselves."
"Are they ever taught to trust themselves?" Ged asked, and as he spoke Therru came in on her work again. His eyes and Tenar's met.
"No," she said. "Trust is not what we're taught." She watched the child stack the wood in the box. "If power were trust," she said. "I like that word. If it weren't all these arrangements - one above the other - kings and masters and mages and owners - It all seems so unnecessary. Real power, real freedom, would lie in trust, not force."
"As children trust their parents," he said.”

Again, what cannot be healed must be transcended. We must find a way to transcend what is unmendable and unendurable in our current construction of power dynamics, and the quiet revolution of Tehanu offers just one promising alternative.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
September 26, 2018
Of all the fantasy realms I’ve read about, lived in, imagined, there is only one I prefer to Earthsea and that’s Tolkien’s. So I hope that illustrates how highly I regard this series.

Earthsea is beautiful and as eloquently described as ever in Tehanu. There’s just something about the careful way Le Guin writes that makes this world seems so complete. She doesn’t waste words and her novels are always quite brief and very character driven, though somehow I have a keener picture of Earthsea than most other fantasy realms.

Her stories never stop moving forward.

This one focuses on a much older Sparrowhawk, one who has lost his sense of self. After years of saving people and performing great feats with his magic, he is dried up and spent: he has nothing left. What is a mage without magic? Nothing, he would tell you. And they’re sad words to hear because the character has always been somewhat of a leader, an inspirer of others who were ready to give up. So this takes on a rather introspective turn as he attempts to overcome his depression by reconnecting with some old friends.

He is sad, forlorn and without hope and the writing is loaded with bleak emotions. The only other writer of epic fantasy I have found who can capture such human feeling within her books is Robin Hobb. I think returning readers need to be really careful with this one and approach it with an open-mind. This was unlike all the other books; yet, it brought them altogether perfectly and into what Le Guin originally thought was the conclusion before she wrote The Other Wind.

“He was so intense, so serious, armoured in the formality of his rank and yet vulnerable in his honesty, the purity of his will. Her heart yearned to him. He thought he had learned pain, but he would learn it again and again, all his life, and forget none of it.”


Ursula Le Guin is one of my favourite fantasy writers. And she is painfully under read in comparison to some leading names. Her works are not as clever as Tolkien’s, and she did not invent her own language(s) or comprehensive history, though her world really has influenced a large part of modern fantasy. I see a lot of her ideas paralleled in video games (namely the elder scrolls universe) and the works of later writers.

So, my point is, she’s not a writer to be missed for fantasy fans, especially those who want to read traditional fantasy at its finest. This is fourth book in this series now, a series that is consistently good yet manages to bring in new ideas with each new instalment.

Earthsea Cycle
1. A Wizard of Earthsea- Four worthy stars
2. The Tombs of Atuan- A redeeming four stars
3. The Farthest Shore- A strong four stars
4. Tehanu - A sad four stars


Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Insta | Academia
Profile Image for Annie.
970 reviews317 followers
June 18, 2016
Yes, it's obvious this book is written by a woman.

Your point, everybody?

Like, God, do you even understand how many books are "so obviously written by a man?" Historically, nearly all books have been written by men. Certainly most of Western canon has been. And for most of those, there's no mistaking it: they were written by men, would not have been written by a woman, could not have been written by a woman.

Why? Because in them, female characters are written only as decorations and toys for the male characters, are drawn so vaguely and so stylized that they're barely recognizable as human beings with internal lives and self-driven motivations and needs.

(Let me just... let me just... have you ever read Hemingway? Seriously? Do you think a woman would ever, ever, ever have written a character as ridiculous and pathetic and unreal as Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls? WHAT A JOKE.)

In any case, I hardly think that's what le Guin's done here. Yes, she has richly drawn female characters around whom the story centers (can you even deal with it?) but her male characters don't suffer for it. Ged isn't exactly neglected or mistreated by le Guin. In fact, he seems more complete and deeper and more real in this novel than in the Wizard of Earthsea.

Yes, there are a lot of shitty male characters, too. Of course, there are a lot of shitty men IRL. Them's the breaks.

That's the rant. Anyway, what le Guin has done with Tehanu is nothing short of remarkable. It's sensitive, well-plotted and paced, sincere and warm and earnest. She treats the reader gently, tenderly, but firmly, and never succumbs to trite cliches. She never chooses the answer that is simply easier, or more exciting, if it reduces the bones of the story to something less honest.

Perfect afterword, too. "Maybe the change coming into Earthsea has something to do with no longer identifying freedom with power, with separating being free from being in control."

And what le Guin says of the conversation between Moss and Tenar on the difference between men and women:

"Moss is pretty contemptuous of men in general, having been treated by them with contempt all her life. That's all right, and I find her discussion of men's power and women's power harsh, incomplete, but interesting. Then she goes off into an incantatory praise of mysterious female knowledge: 'Who knows where a woman begins or ends? I have roots, I go back into the dark!' And she ends with a rhetorical question- 'Who'll as the dark its name?'

'I will,' Tenar says. 'I lived long enough in the dark.'

I've often seen Moss's rhapsody quoted with approval. Tenar's fierce answer almost always goes unquoted, unnoticed. Yet it refuses Moss's self-admiring mysticism. And all Tenar's life is in it."

UGH. Le Guin is just so... so together, so conscious, so self-aware.
Profile Image for Kate.
515 reviews29 followers
February 24, 2012
This is a difficult Earthsea book to read. After Ged's adventures crossing the sea and dealing with Kings, Princes and Mages, this book stays pretty much firmly on Gont and he hardly appears.

Instead the book concentrates on Tenar (from the "Tombs of Atuan") and her life on Gont Island and that of the small damaged girl Tenar finds in the road one day who has been so badly burned and mistreated that she is terribly deformed.

The book deals with discrimination on the basis of appearence, the everyday sexism of the society, and the will of a strong woman to defy that sexism and live her life and protect her adopted, damaged child, and also care for her damaged rescuer turned lover (Ged).

It's a quiet but incredibly powerful book with a stunning and unexpected ended. I highly recommend it.

Another rereading this year (2012), and this book impressed me even more, it's utterly beautiful in so many ways. The power of love and it's ability to redeem is made clear here. It's hard to believe that this is considered a children's book as it has more powerful things to say about love and living than the majority of books written for adults.
Profile Image for Brian.
Author 1 book1,023 followers
January 24, 2018
This is the fantasy book that I've always hoped would be written but thought impossible in the genre: a beautifully crafted tale of humanity where the magic and dragons take the back seat. It's ok if it isn't the best fantasy you've ever read, but to me it's the most perfect fantasy novel. It makes me want to be a better reader, a better writer, a better person.

In 2017 I spent so much time reading ULG that many of the 133 books begin to pale. I haven't added up all the pages but between the entire Earthsea cycle, all of her novellas, two books of short stories and a Hainish cycle book I can say that I'm an Ursula Le Guin acolyte. She's a treasure. The world is a better place because she decided to put pen to paper and teach us.

Rest in peace, Ursula. Your gift to humanity will forever remind us that we are made of stars.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,162 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2014
I must have been about 10 when I read the original Earthsea trilogy for the first time and was just blown away by it. I loved it and have re-read it many times since. I daydreamed about going to Roke and proving to all those narrow-minded wizards that a woman could be as good at magic as a man. I even tried to make my own model of the tombs of Atuan.

I was thrilled when Le Guin decided to write another story in that world - until I read it. I was deeply disappointed by this heavy-handed update in the series. If at 10 I was able to see that the Earthsea society was patriarchal and misogynistic, as an adult I certainly don't need it Spelt Out To Me In Words Of One Syllable So I Get The Point. I'm also capable of understanding that an author can craft a world and put words in mouths of characters without necessarily approving of it all.

Perhaps my biggest objection is the violence she had to do to the characters of Tenar and Ged to fit into her brave new world. Le Guin is a talented writer. She could have made her point without being anywhere near this clumsy.

I remember getting into a discussion about this book when it first came out, back in the dim, dark ages of Usenet. One of the posters said there are actually two Ursula Le Guins. Good Ursula is a gifted storyteller who writes beautifully crafted and thought provoking novels. Bad Ursula never lets the story get in the way of The Message. Tehanu was written by Bad Ursula.
Profile Image for Lena.
199 reviews91 followers
October 14, 2021
This book is quite different from the rest of the serious although it continues the plot of The Furthest Shore. It has a lot of misogyny and violence against women. The characters are annoying - sometimes it's hard to understand their motives and stupid actions. And endless philosophical conversations about "the nature of men's and women's power" is just sexist. Also the plot is boring and predictable.
Profile Image for Michael Tildsley.
Author 2 books8 followers
April 8, 2012
This book never really feels like book #4 in the Earthsea Cycle to me. The first hundred pages or so did not feel needed. The darkness, sexuality, and gender role issues in this book, though valid on their own merits, felt really out of place to me in this fantasy world. It would be like if Wicked were the fourth sequel in the Oz series. The political and social agendas do not jive with the previous books.

My other gripe is that this book would have been infinitely more entertaining if it had been written from Tehanu's perspective. The other three books are written in this way, from Ged to Tenar to the young prince. The logical, pattern-driven expectation is that Tehanu should be next in a line of perspectives. Getting to know the classic characters and seeing the stressful situations through her eyes would have been so much better. Instead we get Tenar again. She is old and bitter at the world.


Also, to those who would say that Tehanu's perspective would give away too much to soon concerning her true nature as a dragon person, I have two things to say. One, Le Guin spills the beans early on with the folktale of the fisher woman and Tehanu's continued interest in said dragon people. Two, imagine how much more entertaining and unique it would have been to get inside the mind of this new creature for more than just the last eight pages of the book. What is her opinion on Ged, the broken hero of the series? What does she think of Tenar, the former priestess of darkness, as a foster mother? One of Kurt Vonnegut's rules on writing is not to leave the reader in the dark, but to tell your audience as much as you can as fast as you can. I can see the merit of that rule clearly through the follies of this novel.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews27 followers
February 21, 2019
Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, #4), Ursula K. Le Guin
Tehanu continues the stories of Tenar, the heroine of the second book of the Earthsea series The Tombs of Atuan, and Ged, the hero of the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه ژانویه سال 2008 میلادی
عنوان: دریای زمین کتاب 4 - تهانو؛ نویسنده: ارسولا کی. لوژوان (لگوین)؛ مترجم: پیمان اسماعیلیان خامنه؛ ویراستار: نیلوفر خانمحمدی؛ تهران، قدیانی، 1386، در 360 ص، جلد 4 از مجموعه شش کتاب در شش جلد؛ شابک دوره: 9789645365835؛ شابک کتاب 4: 9789645362803؛ موضوع: داستانهای خیال انگیز از نویسندگان امریکایی سده 20 م
در این جلد از کتاب «گد» پس از از دست دادن قدرت جادویی‌ خویش به سرزمین خویش برمی‌گردد، از طرفی «تنار» آورنده صلح، پس از مرگ همسرش «فلینت کشاورز»، با دخترکی به نام: «تهانو» زندگی می‌کند، که از دست پدر و مادر کودک آزار خود، جان سالم به در برده، اما نیمی از بدنش سوخته است....؛ نقل از داستان: «تمام ماه در مراتع جوار رودخانه اردو زده بودند. یک مرد که خودش را تعمیرکار دوره‌ گرد جا زده، که در واقع دزد است، یک زن همراهش است. مرد جوان‌تری هم اغلب کنار آنهاست. هیچ‌کدام کاری نمی‌کنند. فقط دزدی و گدایی می‌کنند، و روزیِ آنها از درآمد آن زن است. گروه‌های تبهکار، و سارقان جاده‌ها هم، به سراغشان می‌روند. اگر جای تو بودم، این روزها درِ خانه‌ ام را قفل می‌کردم. یک روز همان مرد جوان‌تر وارد دهکده شد و من هم جلو در خانه‌ ام ایستاده بودم، که گفت: بچه حالش خوب نیست. من که درست بچه را پیش آنها ندیده بودم. مثل قاقُمی کوچک بود که هر بار نگاه میکردم، بیدرنگ پنهان میشد، طوری که مطمئن نبودم درست دیده ام یا نه؛ برای همین گفتم: حالش خوب نیست؟ تب کرده؟» پایان نقل ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
August 14, 2017
I think this was an interesting installment for the Earthsea books not because it continued the grand tradition of huge fantasy implications and events, but because it flips our expectations and gives us a very domestic view of Earthsea.

That's not to say that evil things don't happen, because they do, but the scope is pulled all the way back in, with Tenar from book 2 and Ged meeting up again after almost a lifetime, with her as a middle-aged woman and Ged much changed after the events of book 3, having lost his magic.

Reader expectations can be a huge complication to any tale that wants to be told. If I hadn't gone into this with my eyes wide open, I might have been rather upset. As it is, I judged this book in my mind against a vast collection of fantasy novels rather than the highest expectations of LeGuin's other novels and I didn't find it wanting. In fact, I quite enjoyed the deeper exploration of what it means to be a woman in Earthsea, with the different kinds of magic, the complications, and the down-to-earth feel. If Ged is the wind, then the female side is the earth. No surprise, I'm sure, but it was quite well done.

As for the plot, it didn't drag for me. I've read much, much worse. :) The setup at the end was quite interesting, too.

Final estimation? It's not on the same level as the other three, but it does explore the world of Earthsea in a rather interesting way that includes two of my favorite characters from the previous books. Sparrowhawk isn't mighty and righteous or just trying to fix his mistakes. He's just a man. That's okay. :)
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,895 followers
August 29, 2018
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to articulate how and why the genius writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s work pierces my soul as I read more and more of it. There is so much hard-earned, plainspoken, painful, loving wisdom in this book. It feels like she absorbed everything that she had created in the first three Earthsea books, written decades earlier, and found a way to filter them through her own accumulated life experiences and ideas, and poured everything that she was into this new tale. It feels profoundly personal to her in a way that is just magical and utterly moving.
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 2 books13 followers
January 20, 2020
Wow, what a masterpiece. I've never read anything quite like it, and I'm not sure how to describe it in order to properly convey my feelings. It's a relatively mundane fantasy novel, but by that I don't mean it's boring...to borrow a quote from Le Guin, instead of focusing on "typical" heroes of the genre, it focuses on "...heroics from outside and underneath, from the point of view of the people who are not included. The ones who can't do magic. The ones who don't have shining staffs or swords. Women, kids, the poor, the old, the powerless."

This is a truly subtle and nuanced work that builds upon the three books that come before it (this was published in 1990, eighteen years after the prior volume).

There is something about Le Guin's prose style that really speaks to me. It's easy to follow along with, yet it is filled with meaning, with emotion, and with thought-provoking moments.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books750 followers
August 29, 2018
I was not prepared. If Wizard of Earthsea is a coming of age tale, and Atuan is about the power of self, where Farthest Shore speaks of death and the power of adulthood, Tehanu is the story of the power of the feminine. All the joy, all the horror, the frustration, loss, fear, deep love, the resilience and resentment. It's here, in this book, in plain English, served on a platter made with both great satisfaction and abiding contempt.

A master wordsmith shaped not just an allegory of femininity, but the truth of it, in its full complexity and hypocrisy. Be warned, it is not an easy read. Either it will speak to you so directly you will know anger, fear, and despair...or, if you have not reached for the feminine inside yourself, shame. And if you feel neither, perhaps you live under Aspen's curse. May some dragon free you, and may she choose to be kind about it.

Profile Image for Apollo Hesiod.
89 reviews48 followers
March 16, 2019
Very enjoyable, now I need to find out what happens with Therru, on to the next book.
Profile Image for Martine.
145 reviews692 followers
September 13, 2008
Tehanu is the fourth entry in the Earthsea Cycle. It was written years after the original trilogy, and it shows: It is markedly different from the other books, both in style and in substance. Sadly, it is also inferior to the earlier books. Le Guin had picked up a strident feminism in between The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and it shows in Tehanu in the worst way possible. Literally every female character in the book is worthy (even dirty, crazy Aunty Moss), whereas all the men in the book are weak and ineffective at best and downright obnoxious at worst. There are so many scathing remarks about men in the book that it made me groan at times. (And I'm not even male. I can only imagine how a male reader must feel about this book.)

It's a pity Le Guin had to ruin her book like this, for the story itself, about the former High Priestess of Atuan who adopts a special girl and finds she is very special indeed, is interesting. It successfully weaves together loose threads from the previous books and sets up a new series, which, alas, I haven't read yet. I look forward to reading more about Tehanu in The Other Wind, which I hear is much better than Tehanu. But still. What a sub-par book. Three stars because I like the characters and the story, two stars for the writing.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
930 reviews440 followers
April 28, 2022
Este no es un libro de fantasía, es un libro sobre la vida misma.

En la reseña del anterior libro, La costa más lejana, me preguntaba qué es lo que Le Guin quería contarnos para retomar Terramar 18 años después de terminar la trilogía de una manera tan perfecta como lo hizo.

Y lo que me he encontrado es que quería contarnos una historia real, no de fantasía. Una historia donde una viuda adopta a una niña a la que han violado y quemado. Su día a día en una sociedad que desprecia lo diferente y que teme a las mujeres por ser mujeres, pero donde también hay personas bondadosas.

Los elementos de fantasía que aparecen son tangenciales, y, si no estuvieran, el núcleo de la historia seguiría funcionando. Aquí ya no nos vamos a encontrar con los viajes del mago Ged a través de Terramar hablando con dragones, luchando contra hechiceros y derrotando a las sombras. Aquí no hay magia, pero la supervivencia en el día a día me ha parecido más épica que cualquier dragón.

Y por supuesto, la forma tan detallista y cuidadosa con que escribe Le Guin hace que lo que narra cobre vida y la leas como si estuvieras leyendo la historia más épica de todas.

Me ha recordado mucho a Paladín de almas, de Bujold, un libro donde no pasa nada, pero que no consigues soltar porque lo que estás leyendo es real.
Profile Image for Macade.
2 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2012
I loved the first 3 Earthsea books...but this book was just too weird. I could never tell, nor did I care, that the first three books were written by a woman. Also, I didn't notice any political or social agendas in the first 3(real world agendas). Tehanu is very strange and hard to read because it is so different from the first 3 books. It REALLY feels like a woman wrote it, it has a very strong undertone of woman's suffrage. It also has very dark themes about a young girl being raped and how the main character is also afraid of being raped. Since when has rape and sexual fear been a theme in any of these books? It just seems very strange and out of place, which made it almost unreadable to me. I read it to the end though because I kept hoping that it would eventually become an earthsea worthy book...sorely disappointed in this author for ruining a perfectly good fantasy series. It would be like Tolkien writing a 4th Lord of the Rings book about Gandalf's life after his wizarding power has been taken away and he's afraid of a local orc who teases him, but he can't do anything about it (you get the idea). Please save your good image of Earthsea and DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.
Profile Image for Jerzy.
492 reviews108 followers
April 20, 2015

It's possible that people who have never experienced much actual trauma or severe discrimination might not understand how on-target this book can be. If that's you, you'd probably find it really interesting to check out Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman for a solid overview of how/why trauma survivors can be crippled by fear in seemingly irrational ways. And The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz is a surprisingly good book on male violence (and not just against women).

Reading the first 3 Earthsea books, I couldn't understand why some people called Le Guin a "feminist writer." In Tehanu this finally comes across clearly - and it works very well. I love that each of the Earthsea books is very different, and this one certainly takes fantasy novels in a new direction. Dealing with your own weaknesses and other people's ignorance and fear in daily life can take far more courage and perseverance than any heroic quest. Honestly, the feminism of this book is no different from themes that are found in all her other books: no matter what status or power you have, it's important to have respect for people, maintain balance in your actions, and not rely excessively on force.

I'm not sure what to make of the ending, which doesn't tie up some loose ends... but then that's sort of her point, right? Things are never neat and tidy. Life is complex; life goes on.

Previously: The Farthest Shore
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
January 28, 2018
I could not like this book very much as a child because I think it takes an adult mind to feel the depth of its questions and to understand the pain and the characters' reactions. It is dark, there is death, there is horrible evil of the most mundane sort, wreaked by men only and not by magic. What is power and what does it mean to have it, and then to have it taken away? What is a man's power? What is a woman's power?

Now I think this is probably the strongest book of the Earthsea series (or at least of the quartet), but it wouldn't have been nearly as great a book without the previous tales and the writing of those books. You can clearly see Le Guin's own evolution, as a writer and a thinker and a woman, through the first four books of Earthsea, and it culminates in Tehanu.

Where are the women in A Wizard of Earthsea? Here.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews158 followers
January 8, 2021
I’m gonna keep this relatively considering that this is a review on the fourth book in the series and no spoilers. What I can say is that Ursula K. Le Guin was really an author ahead of her time, doing things that nobody did when Earthsea was being written. I mean, this book follows a middle-aged woman, when most fantasy today are still about powerful and heroic young people. This has people well past their prime trying to survive, trying to live out the repercussions and the things that they’ve gone through in their lives, and this is brilliant for that.

I also really enjoyed the acknowledgments in my edition, because the author explains exactly why she did this and how she defied the norms of the time. I mean, I would love for more fantasy TODAY to be doing what Le Guin did thirty years ago. Not to mention that she decided on a cast of characters that weren’t primarily white, which I think is fantastic. Sure, maybe it’s not much today, but for the time that this was published, I think that what did is phenomenal.

I really liked the characters, and the story is really easy to follow and it actually feels refreshing. Now, I haven’t read a huge amount of traditional fantasy, I haven’t been able to get into it as the few I have read are often full of tropes, sexist, and Tolkien clones. This doesn’t feel like that and I know the author explicitly went out to do things were not entirely safe. Granted, she was a white woman, but white authors also weren’t writing stories in this vein at the time and I’m hugely appreciative of the influence of Earthsea.

I also like that it’s hard to put this novel into any genre, or any of the Earthsea novels. Many books distinctly feel and read like, middle-grade, YA or adult. See, this book certainly has many adult themes that one can pick up on and it deals a lot with grief and trauma, and darker things, like rape and murder. Not to mention that the characters are older people in this, even though we see them as youngsters in A Wizard and Atuan. However, the length of the book is short enough for middle-grade and shorter than the majority of YA novels(especially YA fantasy today). Now I know a lot of these marketing labels weren’t there yet, however, authors generally have a target audience and for me, this series so far can really be read by anyone that is familiar enough with language and rhetoric, which I think is fantastic. It also does feel timeless.

Now, these books aren’t like my favourite or anything, I’ve certainly read much better stories and I’ve liked a lot of characters more. This is why it’s a four star, as I’ve rated the first four Earthsea books. I feel that as someone that reads a fair bit of adult fantasy, I’m always wishing for more depth, detail and worldbuilding. I mean certainly, the depth and detail is there if you look at it, yet the author doesn’t go far enough, though I understand why, for it to transcend a precise target audience.

Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews967 followers
November 10, 2017
I finally completed my reading of the Earthsea cycle. The first book is all about the wizard, Ged, coming into his power and adulthood, and the second is all about Tenar, a child selected to preside over an ancient temple under the belief that she is the reincarnation of the previous priestess. In the third book, Ged sets out with an aristocratic youth to save the world, and in this final installment, Tenar cares for an abused girl, whom she names Therru ("fire" in her own language). Possibly, this book was my favourite. Possibly, that's because in my opinion it's the most feminist, in terms of challenging patriarchal assumptions and control.

As a foreigner in a conservative rural society, Tenar has gained acceptance through a degree of conformity, meeting the prevailing expectations of women. So often novels are about navigating and resisting societal pressure/oppression, but it's a little unusual to have a story about a middle-aged woman caring for a child and various other folks take centre-stage in a YA-ish fantasy. What's awesome is that Le Guin, I think, succeeds in putting that story on the same level of importance as the previous installments (Tenar's care for Therru seems no less vital than any of Ged's acts in the earlier books), while at the same time showing how gender structures her struggle. Misogyny is not the preserve of bigots, it is built into language and ways of knowing.

As in the other books in the cycle, particularly the second, where trust is so touching, what I enjoyed most here was connecting with the characters and feeling for them in their relationships, but I think in those terms this is the richest book. In Tenar's world, interconnection is in the texture of everyday life, not a mystery to be uncovered.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
502 reviews68 followers
December 5, 2019
Less than a novel, more an introspective exploration of gender in Ursula Le Guin's own Earthsea world (and ultimately a commentary on the real world). Full of speculation and conversations on what gives men power and why women don't have it, or don't take it, and if a female wizard is possible in the Earthsea world, this is how I know and love Le Guin best, and probably why I was enjoying this novel far more than the previous three, which all seemed to me to be beautifully written but ultimately plotwise weirdly passive stories of wizards and dragons. Le Guin doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but she lets her characters speculate and ask questions for her (and us). If she had written all the novels like this, or from this POV, I'd have been invested from the start, but alas, such were not the times. At least Le Guin has no qualms tackling the status quo openly.
Profile Image for Tolgonay Dinçer.
20 reviews46 followers
September 19, 2017
Yerdeniz serisi okuduğum ilk fantastik seriydi, zamanında çok beğenmiştim ama yarım kalmıştı. Kaldığım yerden devam etmek istememe rağmen bu kitaptan sonra yine ara vereceğim. Kitabı sevemedim, bana hitap edemedi. Ursula'nın başka kitaplarını okuyup onlarda sevebilmeyi umuyorum.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
December 7, 2010
OK, so I've quit procrastinating and started typing...

The first three Earthsea books were written in a relatively short space of time (published 1969-73, IIRC). They were all there when I first picked up A Wizard of Earthsea, maybe just over a decade after its initial publication - the series was complete. Let's face it, there is no requirement for a fourth book. Ged is getting old, his magic is gone, but Earthsea has a King and the Rune of Peace again. The story is over. Then, after a gap of time almost as long as I was old, Tehanu was released.

"??????!!!!!!," I said, loudly, and bought a copy. Maybe Ged gets his magic back, I thought. Maybe he sails the North Reach - or even has to go to Hogenland, I thought. Actually, he goes home, herds some goats and gets married. Imagine my shock! The entire book is set on Gont, there is no quest and Ged just mopes about being miserable. What a heap of rubbish.

Except, of course, this is Ursula LeGuin, so it isn't rubbish (though there are a lot of bad smells) - instead there was quiet excellence and I was being stupid, caught in the pitfall trap made by the gap between expectation and reality.

Tehanu is not epic fantasy. Tough luck. Get over it. That might take a long time, though. Every time I re-read the Earthsea books after 1990, I was tempted to just not bother with Tehanu but each time I liked it more than the previous time, until, by the time The Other Wind was released it did not occur to me skip its predecessor.

How do I feel this time round? I feel that there are the Earthsea books and there are the New Earthsea books and that Tehanu is the first of these, even though it was never planned either at the time of A Wizard of Earthsea or that two more books would come after it. The latter three books seem to be a reaction to the first three and to epic fantasy in general. Put another way, the Great Feminist Revision of Earthsea started here, though in a small, quiet way, with one woman taking in an abused child and a lost man mourning for his lost power.

The discussion of the roles of women in Archipeligan society is clearly a transposed discussion of women's roles back here in the "real" world as well as in epic fantasy generally. Tenar's position of mother, farm manager and labourer goes undervalued, hardly noticed. It may as well be called, "housewife." It's very sexist, as is the distinction between wizards (men) and witches (women). Wizards are powerful, educated, noble, wise. Witches are dirty, poor, weak and evil. Unfortunately, the wizards aren't always wise or noble; sometimes they are stupid, self-serving and nasty and if the witches are often selfish, at least they haven't been seeking immortality or breaking the natural order with their magic. When Ged and Tenar discuss this, hearing Ged spout a heap of sexist nonsense is painful. I expect better from him. He's just a victim of his education, though and it is hard to question everything you've been taught and am I any different, really? I've been brought up to believe that woman deserve respect and equal opportunity, equal reward, that child-rearing and managing a home are important and hard jobs. I didn't come to that conclusion in the face of enormous pressure to conform to the contrary.

I can now relate to Ged's situation better, too. It must be difficult to step from being the most powerful man in the world to being weaker than most, unprepared and in but a moment. It is unsurprising and natural that he should grieve for what he has lost. It is lucky for him that he finds Tenar, who gives him something different in its place: love. Their romance seems entirely natural, indeed somehow incipient in The Tombs of Atuan.

So, as usual LeGuin gives deep insight and characterisation and makes a powerful, important point, but this book only gets three stars, because of LeGuin's one weakness - the plotting. Here, the plot rambles, disappears, comes back, goes again then sort of piles up at the edge of a cliff and gets squashed under Kalessin's belly. This lack of narrative drive is the sole flaw in the book, which, thankfully, despite its themes, never deteriorates into mere male-bashing. It was an anti-climactic end to the series, though - I'm so glad that The Last Book of Earthsea turned out to be a terrible misnomer.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jenny.
163 reviews56 followers
February 22, 2017
Ήθελα πολύ να παραθέσω κάποιο απόσπασμα του βιβλίο στην κριτική μου ώστε να πάρετε μια ιδέα,αλλά δεν μπορούσα. Για να εκτιμήσει κανείς με τον καλύτερο τρόπο τα νοήματα του βιβλίου πρέπει να το διαβάσει ολόκληρο.. και,πιστέψτε με, αξίζει τόσο πολύ αυτή την ανάγνωση!!

Το "Τεχανού" είναι το τελευταίο μέρος της τετραλογίας της Γαιοθάλασσας. Εγώ δεν το γνώριζα, είδα στη βιβλιοθήκη το όνομα της Λε Γκεν, το άρπαξα, το διάβασα. Υπάρχουν αναφορές σε γεγονότα των προηγούμενων βιβλίων, αλλά διαβάζεται άνετα μόνο του.

Η υπόθεση: μια χήρα, η Γκοχά, παίρνει υπό την προστασία της ένα κορίτσι που επέζησε από μια επίθεση με φωτιά που την άφησε παραμορφωμένη. Μαζί, ξεκινάνε να βρούνε τον ετοιμοθάνατο μέντορα της Γκοχά, τον μάγιστρο Ογκήον, και η καθεμιά ανακαλύπτει αλήθειες για τον εαυτό της και τον κόσμο γύρω τους. Η ιστορία είναι από την οπτική γωνία της Γκοχά και διαδραματίζεται σε έναν φανταστικό τόπο, το νησί Γκοντ.

Μάγιστροι, μάγισσες, δράκοι και παραμύθια μπλέκονται με τραγωδίες της ζωής καθημερινές: το θάνατο, την παιδική πορνεία, το μισογυνισμό, την απέραντη κι ατέλειωτη ανθρώπινη κακία.

Το προτείνω σε όλες κι όλους σας.

[Readathon17: 9/52 "Ένα βιβλίο με 1 λέξη μόνο στον τίτλο"]
Profile Image for Tome.
82 reviews2 followers
May 10, 2017
100 Stars.
If more children--boys--read the Earthsea saga, finishing off with "Tehanu," the world wouldn't have this fucking "meninist" problem.
Loss, shame, the weight of love: it's all explored here, with patience and honesty.

“She thought about how it was to have been a woman in the prime of life, with children and a man, and then to lose all that, becoming old and a widow, powerless. But even so she did not feel she understood his shame, his agony of humiliation. Perhaps only a man could feel so. A woman got used to shame.”

Re-reading this series was a beautiful, emotional experience, and I'm sad it's over, yet very grateful.

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky.

—The Creation of Éa
Profile Image for Gabi.
698 reviews123 followers
September 22, 2019
Tehanu is my favourite out of the Earthsea quartett (I have yet to read the story collection and the last novel). What irked me in the trilogy is made the main topic here: The way only men seem to shape the world in Earthsea and how women are only allowed in their assigned spaces and functions.

It was utterly satisfying to accompany Tenar as she starts to question those standards and tries to wiggle her way into a society that wasn't meant for her in the first place.
Profile Image for Neda.
435 reviews77 followers
May 18, 2016
Wow... In less than 10 pages Le Guin is able turn all the tables, lead the reader to climax and finish the novel altogether.. She is the master of storytellers in my regard.
Highly recommended
Profile Image for Caterina .
943 reviews15 followers
October 3, 2015

Serinin her kitabında biraz daha seviyorum ejderhaları diye başlayayım. Bu defa okuduğum diğer iki kitaptan daha farklı "daha derin" tabir edebilecegim şeyler de vardı. Kadına ve kadının düşünce tarzına yapılan ince göndermeleri okumak çok keyifliydi. Sanırım bu yüzden diğer kitaplarda favori karakterim Gedken bu defa Tenar diye yaptım grizgahı.

Dikkatimi çeken satırlar vardı örnek olması açısından paylaşayım:

#1 Sonra kurtuldum, seninle ve Ogion ile kurtuldum, bir an için. Ama bu benim özgürlüğüm değildi. Sadece, bana seçme şansı verilmişti; seçtim... Kendimi bir çamur gibi, bir çiftlik, bir çiftçi ve çocuklarımızın hizmeti için şekillendirmeyi seçtim. Kendimi bir kap yaptım. Kabın biçimini biliyordum, çamurunkini değil... Hayat bana dans ettirdi, dansları biliyordum. Ama bu dansları yapanın kim olduğunu bilmiyordum.

#2 "Ne zaman bir kadın, kadın olduğu için güçlü olur?"
" Çocuklarına karşı herhalde.Bir süre için..."
"Ama kapılar kilitli?"
"Çünkü kıymetlimsiniz."
"a, evet. Biz değerliyiz. Güçsüz olduğumuz sürece..."

Ölmeden bu seriyi mutlaka okumalısınız!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,887 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.