Earthsea (miniseries)

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Legend of Earthsea
DVD cover
Written by Ursula K. Le Guin (novels)
Gavin Scott (teleplay)
Starring Shawn Ashmore
Kristin Kreuk
Danny Glover
Isabella Rossellini
Sebastian Roché
Chris Gauthier
Theme music composer Jeff Rona
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Producer(s) Hallmark Entertainment
Bender-Brown Productions
Editor(s) Allan Lee
Cinematography Steve Danyluk
Running time 172 mins
Distributor Sci-Fi Channel
Original release December 13, 2004 (2004-12-13) – December 14, 2004 (2004-12-14)

Legend of Earthsea (later shortened to Earthsea) is a two-night television miniseries adaptation of the "Earthsea" novels by Ursula K. Le Guin. It premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel in December 2004.


In the land of Earthsea a young wizard named Ged is having visions about a priestess named Tenar. Meanwhile, the evil king, Tygath, wants to unite the land and to release the Nameless Ones; demons from whom he hopes to learn the secret of immortality. Knowing the legend of a great wizard (Ged), whose coming is prophesied, he sends men to attack Ged's village. Rather than continue to work with his father, a blacksmith, Ged prefers to learn witchcraft from an elderly woman. When the invasion comes, Ged uses a spell to create mist and lures the invaders over a cliff, saving the village. However, Ged also falls off the cliff.

Tygath tries to convince the high priestess Thar to release the Nameless Ones, but she refuses and is repeatedly poisoned by another priestess, Rosa, who has been tricked by the king's lover Kossil.

A magus named Ogion arrives at Ged's village and revives Ged. He tells Ged his soul's true name, which contains his power, and takes him for training. Recklessly, Ged attempts to learn magic quicker and is sent to a magic school where he meets Jasper, the school bully, and becomes friends with another student, Vetch. Ged shapeshifts into a hawk to compete with Jasper, who then challenges him to raise a spirit from the dead leading to the accidental release of a Nameless One. The demon attacks Ged, but is driven away by the Archmage. The Archmagus of Roke tells him that this Nameless One is extremely powerful, will become The Gebbeth, and will hunt Ged down and try to possess him, using Ged's power for further destruction. He tells Ged to go anywhere it will not look for him, until Ged can find its true name and destroy it.

With the help of Jasper, King Tygath takes control of the magic school; Tygath throws a knife at the Archmagus, apparently killing him and making Jasper the Archmagus.

With the help of his old teacher, Ogion, Ged confronts The Gebbeth and attempts to drown him using a snare. However, it escapes, having absorbed Ged's likeness and voice. The Gebbeth kills people and Ged's school friend Vetch, now a magus himself, chases after Ged until he realizes that Ged is not possessed by the Gebbeth and they decide to hunt it together.

The Gebbeth lures them into an attack by the dragon Orm Embar, but Ged uses the dragon's true name to bind him and ask him three questions. The dragon tricks him into wasting his first question, and with his second he finds the Gebbeth's location. The dragon also offers to tell him where to find the two pieces of the Amulet of Peace, which when reunited would save Earthsea, or Ged could ask the true name of the demon. Ged decides to ask where the pieces of the amulet are.

Meanwhile, Thar appoints a successor, Tenar, and gives her the incantation to release the Nameless Ones. Tygath is furious and arranges for Tenar to be imprisoned near the entrance to the labyrinth. Kossil strangles Rosa and frames Tenar, leading to her imprisonment.

Ged and Vetch return to the magic school in search of help in decoding the dragon's puzzling answers. The school is now under Jasper's control, but when Jasper leads them into his chambers, he reveals himself to be the archmagus in disguise, having survived Tygath's attack and turned the real Jasper into a village fool as punishment for his crimes. He sends Ged and Vetch to unseal the Nameless Tombs on Atuan, near the king's castle, but Ged is captured and brought before Thar, who mistakes him for an evil wizard.

In the labyrinth, Ged is locked in the cell next to Tenar. They break out and recognize each other from their visions. After Thar dies (but not before realizing Kossil is Rosa's murderer), Kossil tries to force Tenar to reveal the incantation, and when she refuses to tell, Tygath kills Kossil and leads Tenar to the gate of the Nameless Ones.

Vetch finds his way to the tomb first and is killed by the Gebbeth. Ged encounters Tygath and fights him, but has to escape into the tomb where he encounters the Gebbeth. Ged realizes its true name is his own, because it is the darkness in himself. The demon is absorbed into Ged making him whole again, and strengthening him in fighting Tygath when he enters the tomb. Tygath forces Tenar to release the Nameless Ones with the incantation. The Nameless Ones are released, and kill Tygath before flying away to wreak havoc on Earthsea. Ged reveals a part of the key to the labyrinth's door to be the second half of the amulet. The Amulet of Peace is made whole, dispelling the Nameless Ones with a bright light and restoring peace to Earthsea.



The series was produced by Hallmark Entertainment in association with Bender-Brown Productions. It was adapted by Gavin Scott (The Mists of Avalon) from the Earthsea novels for executive producers Robert Halmi, Sr. (Merlin, Gulliver's Travels, Animal Farm), Lawrence Bender (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Kelly Brown (Roswell). The series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewing the miniseries, the book The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy claimed Legend of Earthsea "totally missed the point" of Le Guin's novels, "ripping out all the subtlety, nuance and beauty of the books and inserting boring cliches, painful stereotypes and a very unwelcome 'epic' war in their place".[1] The Moria website's review of "Legend of Earthsea" states "Earthsea feels exactly like tv filler. In the books, Ursula Le Guin expended a great deal of time creating a world with a depth and culture, but nothing of this survives in the mini-series". The review also argues Legend of Earthsea "is shabbily and indifferently directed" and "The dialogue is dreadfully clunky and often excruciatingly bad".[2]

Author's response[edit]

Le Guin, author of the novels on which the miniseries is based, was not involved in the development of the material or the making of the production. She has written a number of responses to the handling of this adaptation of her works, "A Whitewashed Earthsea"[3] and "Frankenstein's Earthsea".[4] She noted, "When I sold the rights to Earthsea a few years ago, my contract gave me the standard status of "consultant"—which means whatever the producers want it to mean, almost always little or nothing.,"[3] and that, "Mr. Lieberman, one of the producers, published a statement telling people what 'Ursula' (whom he has never met) 'intended' by the books. That changed the situation. They were taking advantage of my silence by sticking words in my mouth. I put a reply on my website...."[4]


  1. ^ Pringle, David, ed. (2006). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Carlton. p. 145. ISBN 1-84442-110-4. 
  2. ^ "Legend of Earthsea". Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Le Guin, Ursula K. (December 16, 2004). "A Whitewashed Earthsea". Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Le Guin, Ursula K. (January 2005). "Frankenstein's Earthsea". Locus Magazine. Retrieved October 12, 2012. 

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