The Other Wind

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The Other Wind
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorUrsula K. Le Guin
CountryUnited States
Published2001 (Harcourt Brace & Company)
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback)
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3562.E42 O84 2001
Preceded byTales from Earthsea 

The Other Wind is a fantasy novel by the American author Ursula K. Le Guin, published by Harcourt in 2001. It is the fifth and final novel set in the fictional archipelago Earthsea. It won the annual World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and was runner up for the Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel, among other nominations.[1]

The Other Wind is a sequel to Tehanu, the fourth novel, and to "Dragonfly", one story collected in Tales from Earthsea.


Alder, a minor village sorcerer who is adept at mending, has been tormented by dreams since the death of his beloved wife Lily. Every time he falls asleep, he is brought to the wall of stones, the border between the world of the living and the Dry Land of the dead. The dead, including Lily, beseech him to be set free. He sought guidance from the masters of the school of wizardry on Roke island. The Master Patterner advises him to seek out Ged on the island of Gont. Ged, the ex-Archmage, is powerless as a wizard, but knows more of the world of the dead than anyone living. Alder finds Ged, who is alone at the time, as his Kargish wife Tenar and adopted daughter Tehanu have been summoned to Havnor to counsel King Lebannen. Ged listens to Alder's tale and recommends he go to Havnor to speak to both the king and his family.

Alder sails to the big island of Havnor and tells his story to the already assembled council. Lebannen is concerned, but has other worries. The king of the Kargs, a warlike people from the East who despise sorcery, has sent his daughter to marry Lebannen as the price for peace between them, a demand that angers Lebannen. Furthermore, dragons have been menacing the islands in the archipelago closest to their territory on the western-most islands. Soon after Alder arrives, dragons encroach further into the archipelago than ever before, finally to Havnor itself. The king and his people ride to negotiate with them. Tehanu goes with him because she appears to have some kinship with dragons, having as a young girl summoned the great dragon Kalessin, who called her ‘daughter’, but is now departed, “flying on the other wind”. She speaks to one of the raiding dragons who delivers a cryptic message, to the effect that the dragons are angry that men have stolen part of their lands in the furthest west. The dragons do, however, agree to a truce, and to send an emissary.

The dragon Orm Irian arrives shortly after, taking human form of a young woman to address the king and his council. The legends of the dragons, the mages, and the Kargs are retold and compared. It is revealed that dragons and men were once one people, but parted ways: Dragons chose a life of freedom and immortality in the Furthest West, while men chose a life of mastery, power, and rebirth, promising to give up magic. However, men reneged on their bargain, and the first mages cast spells that stole some of the beautiful Western Lands from the dragons, for men to go to after death. But in their attempt to create an eternal life, the old mages had instead created the Dry Land, a grim, unchanging, desolate place where their souls languished forever. The party decide to sail to Roke, the center of the world, to seek a resolution.

The King's party debates with the masters of the great school of magic on what course of action to take. The two groups travel together magically to the Dry Lands to the Wall of Stones, which the dead are vainly attempting to tear down. Alder begins to dislodge a stone, each stone in the wall as seen in the Dry Lands being one of the spells used to carve it out of the dragons' Western Lands. Alder is joined by Tehanu, then the others, each using magic to unmake the wall. Once the wall is sufficiently breached, the imprisoned dead rush free to return to the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and Alder is reunited with his wife Lily and dies. The dragon Kalessin arrives and completes the demolition, and the Dry Land returns to its beauty and is rejoined with the dragons' Western Lands. Tehanu is finally able to transform into an uncrippled dragon.

After the balance of the world is restored, the king marries the Kargish princess, whom he has come to love and admire, and Tenar returns to Gont and to Ged.


The Other Wind continues the stories of Earthsea characters Lebannen, Tenar, Tehanu, and, in a minor role, Ged, from the previous books. With the exception of Tehanu, these characters are already fully developed, and there is little further development.

Tehanu, now a young woman, is still very shy and emotionally dependent upon her adoptive mother, Tenar. Nevertheless, she reluctantly agrees to accompany the King on a mission to meet and parley with the dragons, in part because she can innately understand their speech. On their first encounter with a dragon, despite the creature's apparent hostility and her own particular fear of fire, Tehanu rides forward to meet it in the hope that it would recognize and honor her kinship with the eldest dragon Kalessin who called her "daughter" in the book Tehanu. In the denouement of the Other Wind, Tehanu transforms herself into dragon form, and is thus freed from the burden of the injury humans inflicted upon her human body in childhood.

The theme of reconciliation underlies this book. In addition to Tehanu's personal reconciliation with her own nature, the sorcerer Alder is reconciled with his dead wife, Lebannen with his future bride, and through that marriage, a lasting peace with Kargad is forged. The disparate lores of Paln, Roke, and Kargad are each shown to be imperfect reflections of the true history of the world. The spells which were intended to create a perpetual afterlife, that stole away the Dry Land, are dissolved; with its boundary removed, the arid place revives and merges back into the dragons' Western Lands, from which it had been carved away thousands of years ago. The dead at last gain their release from the Dry Lands, and the cycle of death and rebirth is re-established for all.


  1. ^ "Ursula K. Le Guin". Index of Literary Nominees. The Locus Index of SF Awards. Locus. Retrieved 2017-12-12.


  • Bernardo, Susan M.; Murphy, Graham J. (2006). Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion (1st ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-33225-8.
  • Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-99527-2.
  • Drout, Michael (2006). Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature (1st ed.). China: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 978-0-7607-8523-2.

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