Werel (Voe Deo)
|Created by||Ursula K. Le Guin|
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Werel is a fictional planet in the 'Ekumen' science fiction novels of Ursula K. Le Guin. It is the fourth planet of a yellow-white star. Its dominant nation, Voe Deo, colonised Yeowe, the previously uninhabited third planet, after contact with the Ekumen. It is one of two planets named Werel in the Hainish cycle.
Werel and Voe Deo
Werel was colonised by the ancient Hainish people, long ago. There seem to have been no native animals: all existing animals are of Hainish origin, as are some of the plants. Like most planets of the ancient Hainish expansion, it lost touch and forgot its origins. When the Ekumen (re)contacted Werel, it was divided into many nations, which for millenia had had social systems where the dominant black-skinned ethnic group (the "owners") enslaved the lighter-skinned ethnic group (the "assets" or "dusties"). The dominant nation on Werel at that time was Voe Deo.
(This Werel should not be confused with the Werel of Planet of Exile and City of Illusions, which is the third planet of the orange giant star Gamma Draconis. In the introduction to the collection The Birthday of the World, Le Guin admits an error in reusing the name and indicates she had forgotten its prior use.)
Contact with the more technologically advanced Ekumen caused varying degrees of panic among Werel's nations, and led to Voe Deo developing a space program and colonizing Yeowe, at that time uninhabited. The vast majority of the settlers were assets owned by Voe Deans, and in the initial years, the asset population was almost entirely male. This led to a social system among the assets where hypermasculinity was prized and formalized homosexual relationship patterns developed. When female assets arrived in larger numbers, they found themselves at the bottom of the existing social hierarchy.
The Voe Deans exploited the natural resources of Yeowe for a few hundred years and caused a great deal of damage to its environment. Most of the native life forms were destroyed and replaced with transplants from Werel. Concepts of freedom leaking in from the Ekumen led to a widespread revolt by Yeowe's assets, which ultimately defeated the Voe Dean military force there. (The other nations of Werel saw the revolt as a Voe Dean problem and refused to assist in suppressing it.) Voe Deo had access to a weapon of mass destruction, the "biobomb", but decided not to use it against the rebellion. Yeowe's independence struggle occurred within the lifetimes of some of the characters in Four Ways to Forgiveness.
The example of Yeowe inspired the assets of Voe Deo to start their own revolt on Werel. The resulting civil war is part of the background of the short story "Old Music and the Slave Women".
Rakuli and other worlds
The star 'RK-tamo-5544-34' has 16 planets, including Werel and Yeowe. Life also developed on the fifth planet, Rakuli. But it is arid and cold, fit only for its native invertebrates and not yet used by the Werelians.
- Cadden, Mike. Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005) page 174.