A Reply to Some Statements Made by
the Film-Makers of the
Earthsea Miniseries Before it was Shown
"Miss Le Guin was not involved in the development of the material or
the making of the film, but we've been very, very honest to the
books," explains director Rob Lieberman. "We've tried to capture all
the levels of spiritualism, emotional content and metaphorical
messages. Throughout the whole piece, I saw it as having a great
duality of spirituality versus paganism and wizardry, male and female
duality. The final moments of the film culminate in the union of all
that and represent two different belief systems in this world, and
that's what Ursula intended to make a statement about. The only
thing that saves this Earthsea universe is the union of those two
Sci Fi Magazine
I've tried very hard to keep from saying anything at all about this
production, being well aware that movies must differ in many ways
from the books they're based on, and feeling that I really had no
business talking about it, since I was not included in planning it
and was given no part in discussions or decisions.
That makes it particularly galling of the director to put words in my mouth.
Mr Lieberman has every right to say what his intentions were in
making the film he directed, called "Earthsea." He has no right at
all to state what I intended in writing the Earthsea books.
Had "Miss Le Guin" been honestly asked to be involved in the
planning of the film, she might have discussed with the film-makers
what the books are about.
When I tried to suggest the unwisdom of making radical changes to
characters, events, and relationships which have been familiar to
hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world for over thirty
years, I was sent a copy of the script and informed that production
was already under way.
So, for the record: there is no statement in the books, nor did I
ever intend to make a statement, about "the union of two belief
systems." There's nothing at all about the "duality of spirituality
and paganism," whatever that means, either.
Earlier in the article, Robert Halmi is quoted as saying that
Earthsea "has people who believe and people who do not believe." I
can only admire Mr Halmi's imagination, but I wish he'd left mine
In the books, the wizardry of the Archipelago and the ritualism of
the Kargs are opposed and united, like the yang and yin. The
rejoining of the broken arm-ring is a symbol of the restoration of an
unresting, active balance, offering a risky chance of peace.
This has absolutely nothing to do with "people who believe and
people who do not believe." That terrible division into Believers
and Unbelievers (itself a matter not of reason but of belief) is one
which bedevils Christianity and Islam and drives their wars.
But the wizards of Earthsea would look on such wars as madness, and
the dragons of Earthsea would laugh at them and fly away...
Toto, something tells me Earthsea isn't Iraq.
I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings
had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever
after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien "intended..."
would people think they'd been "very, very honest to the books"?
Ursula K. Le Guin
13 November 2004
Copyright © 2004 by Ursula K. Le Guin