The Dragons of Earthsea

Anna Isaacs '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Farthest Shore, Arren, an adolescent boy, brings news to the Archmage Ged that magic is seeping out of his homeland. In the following passage Ged explains to Arren that this loss of magic could only have been caused by a man because only men can cause and can remedy evil. Arren then wonders how one could define dragons in Ged's view of the world.

"But the dragons," said Arren. "Do they not do great evil? Are they innocent?"

"The dragons! The dragons are avaricious, insatiable, treacherous; without pity, without remorse. But are they evil? Who am I, to judge the acts of dragons?...They are wiser than men are. It is with them as with dreams, Arren. We men dream dreams, we work magic, we do good, we do evil. The dragons do not dream. They are dreams. They do not work magic; it is their substance, their being. They do not do; they are." [p.48]

Arren and Ged chase the man who is upsetting the balance of the world to the island of Selidor. Ged succesfully shuts the door between death and life, but the effort takes a great toll on him. As Arren tries to revive Ged, he spots an immense dragon near a stream.

It did not move. It might have been crouching there for hours, or for years, or for centuries. It was carven of iron, shaped from rock -- but the eyes, the eyes he dared not look into, the eyes like oil coiling on water, like yellow smoke behind glass, the opaque, profound, yellow eyes watched Arren. [p.249]

The old dragon Kalessin looked at him from one long, awful, golden eye. There were ages beyond ages in the depths of that eye; the morning of the world was deep in it. Though Arren did not look into it, he knew that it looked upon him with profound and mild hilarity. [p.253]


1. How does Ged convince Arren that dragons are higher beings than humans?

2. What is the significance of the dragon's eyes? What sort of language does Le Guin use to describe them?

3. How does the comparison of the dragon Kalessin with iron and rock show the reader the longevity of the dragon?

4. Must Le Guin include dragons in her world of Earthsea? Why or why not?

5. Does Arren feel a connection with Kalessin? If so, what is the significance of this?


Le Guin, Ursula K. The Farthest Shore. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

Victorian Web Overview Ursula K. Leguin Victorian courses

Last modified 15 March 2004