Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Platypus of Earthsea: The Platypus Reads Part XXXIV

*Warning* Spoilers ahead if you haven't read "A Wizard of Earthsea" or "Phantasties" yet.

I've been reading the works of two master fantasists in tandem: George MacDonald's "Phantasties" and Ursula LeGuin's "A Wizard of Earthsea." LeGuin has called MacDonald the "grandfather" of all fantasy writers, so I should have suspected that she would draw from his work ages ago.* However, the link between Ged's quest to destroy his shadow and Anodos' quest to lose his shadow only just struck me this past week. The central plot of both books is the same: young man enters into a world of magic, loses his own shadow through arrogance, experiences the destruction caused by his shadow, tries to lose it, and in the end is forced to confront and accept his own death.

The question is: do both writers understand the shadow to be the same thing? LeGuin calls it the shadow of Ged's death. MacDonald seems to link Anodos' shadow to death in some way, but it is death that sets Anodos free from his shadow. Ged, on the other hand, merely has to accept his shadow as a part of himself in order to conquer it. There is another link in that both shadows represent the real or potential evil that each character has done or could do. They also rob both characters of any joy in the world and lose their potency in places of strong magical protection (ie. the Palace of the Fairy Queen, the Four Cornered Cottage, Roke, Ogion's Cottage). Whether these links mean that the two shadows have the same symbolic value is still unclear to me, but my interest is definately piqued.

*As a correction, this quote should actually be attributed to Madeleine L'Engle, not Ursula LeGuin.  That aside, the connection between the two shadows remains an interesting one.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Platypus Prepares For the End

Because school's out June 5th!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Platypus Returns to Pulp: The Platypus Reads Part XXXIII

It's May, and that means that it's time for my annual return to pulp. First on this Spring's list is "Podkayne of Mars" by Robert A. Heinlein. I'm told that Heinlein's work is inconsistent, and that I should probably start with "Starship Troopers" or "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," but this is what I've got on hand. If it doesn't pass the sniff test, then I promise I won't hold it against Heinlein. I'm also considering some Howard, Leiber, and a return to Lovecraft. We'll see how far I get!