Monday, June 16, 2008

Quote: Ursula K. Le Guin

The three passages below are from Ursula Le Guin's recent Annals of the Western Shore series. It's not actually one quotation from each book; two are from Voices (book 2), which I have now declared my very favorite of her books that I've read. The third is from the third book, Powers. The whole series, starting with the first book, Gifts, touches on questions of power: what it means, how to recognize it, and how to use (or not use) it. The books all have different main characters, in different places, but those characters are significant in the following books (rather like the Earthsea Cycle), letting it feel more like continuity than a loss of it.

"I'm sorry, now, for that girl of fifteen who wasn't as brave as the child of six, although she longed as much as ever for courage, strength, power against what she feared. Fear breeds silence, and then the silence breeds fear, and I let it rule me. Even there, in that room, the only place in the world where I knew who I was, I wouldn't let myself guess what I might become."

- Voices (Annals of the Western Shore, book 2)

"I always wondered why the makers leave housekeeping and cooking out of their tales. Isn't it what all the great wars and battles are fought for—so that at day's end a family may eat together in a peaceful house? The tale tells how the Lords of Manva hunted and gathered roots and cooked their suppers while they were camped in exile in the foothills of Sul, but it doesn't say what their wives and children were living on in their city left ruined and desolate by the enemy. They were finding food too, somehow, cleaning house and honoring the gods, the way we did in the siege and under the tyranny of the Alds. When the heroes came back from the mountain, they were welcomed with a feast. I'd like to know what the food was and how the women managed it."

- Voices (Annals of the Western Shore, book 2)

"The first true leader I knew was this boy of seventeen, Yaven Altanter Arca, and I have judged others by him. By that standard, leadership means personal magnetism, active intelligence, unquestioning acceptance of responsibility, and something harder to define: a tension between justice and compassion, which is never truly satisfied by one without the other, and so can seldom be wholly satisfied."

- Powers (Annals of the Western Shore, book 3)