Ged (Earthsea)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ged /ˈɡɛd/ is the true name of a fictional character in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea realm.[A] He is introduced in A Wizard of Earthsea, and plays both main and supporting roles in the subsequent Earthsea novels. In most of the Earthsea books he goes by the Hardic name Sparrowhawk.

Character overview[edit]

Ged is the main protagonist in A Wizard of Earthsea in which he is a serious and arrogant boy who matures into "one of the wisest and most powerful magicians in the land".[2] He has red-brown skin.[3]


At birth Ged was given the child-name Duny by his mother. He was born on the island of Gont, son of a bronzesmith. His mother died before he reached the age of one. As a small boy, Ged had overheard the village witch, his maternal aunt, using various words of power to call goats. Ged later used the words without understanding of their meanings, to surprising effect. The witch knew that using words of power effectively without understanding them required innate power, so she endeavored to teach him what little she knew. After learning more from her, he was able to call animals to him. Particularly, he was seen in the company of wild sparrowhawks so often that his "use name" became Sparrowhawk. By the age of twelve, Ged had learned all the village witch could teach him.[4]

When Ged was twelve, the island was attacked by raiders from the nearby Kargad lands. This attack changed Ged's life forever. When the Kargs attacked, Ged, seeing the doom of his village, used two spells to protect his people from the Kargs. The first spell enveloped the village in a fog that hid the villagers from the Kargs. The second created illusions in the fog. Ged's need to cover a large area in fog for a long time overspent his strength, leaving him semi-conscious.

The witch was unable to heal Ged, but the island's great wizard, Ogion, had heard the tale of Ged's deed and sought him out. Ogion healed Ged and later returned to perform a naming ceremony on his 13th birthday for his passage out of childhood where Ogion gave him the "true name" of "Ged". After the naming ceremony, Ogion took Ged as a pupil in the wizardly arts.

Sensing the latent power within Ged, but understanding Ged's youthful impatience to be trained faster than Ogion was willing, Ogion gave Ged the choice to stay or to attend the wizard school on the island of Roke. On Roke, Ged was a very good student, but his arrogance and a dispute with a classmate caused him to try a very dangerous spell: he attempted to call the spirit of the long-dead queen Elfarran. He succeeded in calling Elfarran, but an evil shadow-spirit slipped in through the "door" Ged had opened between the living world and the dead. This evil power hunted Ged until he was able to name the shadow and thus understand it was a dark part of himself—his materialised evil. By successfully naming the shadow Ged demonstrates he has a complete sense of his own magical powers and identity as a person; these understandings fully signify Ged's entrance in manhood.[4]

Sometime later, Ged recovered the second half of the broken ring of Erreth-Akbe (having been given the first half during his flight from the shadow) from the Tombs of Atuan, thus restoring a force for peace in Earthsea. In the process he met and befriended Tenar, the high priestess of the Nameless Ones who dwelt in the tombs, and took her away from Atuan.

Ged was later appointed as Archmage, the head of the wizard school of Roke.

In his last year as Archmage Ged embarked on a quest to halt the decline of magical power from Earthsea. During the course of his journey Ged met and befriended a prince named Arren, who would eventually become King Lebannen, the first king of Earthsea for many centuries, after fulfilling an ancient prophecy. During the quest they discovered that the wizard Cob, an old enemy of Ged, had mastered the ancient lore of the Grey Mage and become in his own right a great mage and a dragon slayer. His obsessive desire to secure immortality had led him to open a door in the land of dead to the land of the living which had led to the decline of magic.

In a titanic battle where Ged forced Cob to confront the truth of his existence, the Archmage had to sacrifice his own power to ensure the survival of magic within the world.[5]

After this, Ged lived with Tenar on Gont, in Ogion's house after the old mage died, although both of them were involved in some further adventures.

Portrayal in adaptations[edit]

The 2004 Sci Fi Channel miniseries Legend of Earthsea, loosely based on the first two books of the series, cast white actor Shawn Ashmore to play the part of Ged. This alteration of the character's race was criticized by Le Guin as a whitewashing of Earthsea.[3] (Among other changes, the miniseries also reversed the character's names, making "Ged" his common use-name and "Sparrowhawk" his true name.) In the 2006 animated adaptation by Gorō Miyazaki, Ged is portrayed as having slightly darker skin.[6]


  1. ^ Ged is a Scottish and northern English word for any fish in the pike family.[1]
  1. ^
  2. ^ Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters, Second Edition, ed. Una McGovern (Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers, 2004), page 261.
  3. ^ a b Le Guin, Ursula K. (2004-12-16). "A Whitewashed Earthsea". Retrieved 2008-11-12.
  4. ^ a b Mathews, Richard. Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination. (New York: Routledge, 2002), pages 139, 141.
  5. ^ The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, eds. Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 2000), pages 180–181.
  6. ^ Le Guin, Ursula K. (2006). "Gedo Senki: A First Response to 'Gedo Senki,' the Earthsea film made by Goro Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli". Archived from the original on 2011-07-17.