August 15, 2004

i show you yourself

Posted in books tagged , at 12:14 pm by placeinthestars

I reread The Tombs of Atuan yesterday. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and both a comfort read and a lesson in writing.

And I think I can see why I was so drawn to Remus when I reread certain bits of Ged’s interaction with Tenar. Because Ged is The Man. One of my earliest fictional boyfriends, right up there with Han Solo and Faramir, once he gets over himself and stops talking smack. I mean, I love him even when he’s a cocky little bastard, but I love him most of all in The Tombs of Atuan (and also in Tehanu, for similar reasons. Hmmm… The powerful made powerless… I might have to think about that.)

Anyhow. Quotage from Ged, because we loves him, precious, oh yes we does. Spoilery for the book. Big time spoilery if you haven’t read it. And if you haven’t read it, why haven’t you? Go read it now!

“How is it that you know my name?”

He walked up and down the room, stirring up the fine dust, stretching his arms and shoulders in an effort to shake off the numbing chill.

“Knowing names is my job. My art. To weave the magic of a thing, you see, one must find its true name out. In my lands we keep our true names hidden all our lives long, from all but those whom we trust utterly; for there is great power, and great peril, in a name. Once, at the beginning of time, when Segoy raised the isles of Earthsea from the ocean deeps, all things bore their own true names. And all doing of magic, all wizardry, hangs still upon the knowledge–the relearning, the remembering–of that true and ancient language of the Making. There are spells to learn, of course, ways to use the words; and one must know the consequences, too. But what a wizard spends his life at is finding out the names of things, and finding out how to find out the names of things.”

“How did you find out mine?”

He looked at her a moment, a deep clear glance across the shadows between them; he hesitated a moment. “I cannot tell you that. You are like a lantern swathed and covered, hidden away in a dark place. Yet the light shines; they could not put out that light. They could not hide you. As I know the light, as I know you, I know your name, Tenar. That is my gift, my power. I cannot tell you more. But tell me this: what will you do now?”

Mmm… I find that last bit quite seductive. I admit freely being a big fan of Ged/Tenar, even as a youngster, and especially before I knew it was canonically impossible, though I still say if he’s weakened by the Nameless Ones, that spell is probably weakened too, because my god, the UST between them down in the darkness. I mean, come on!

“What do you wish me to show you?”

“What can you show me?”


“How you brag and brag.”

“No,” he said, evidently a little stung. “I do not. I didn’t mean to, anyway.”

“Show me something you think is worth seeing. Anything!”

He bent his head and looked at his hands awhile. Nothing happened. The tallow candle in her lantern burned dim and steady. The black pictures on the walls, the bird-winged, flightless figures with eyes painted dull red and white, loomed over him and over her. There was no sound. She sighed, disappointed and somehow grieved. He was weak; he talked great things but did nothing. He was nothing but a good liar, and not even a good thief. “Well,” she said at last, and gathered her skirts together to rise. The wool rustled strangely as she moved. She looked down at herself, and stood up in startlement.

The heavy black she had worn for years was gone; her dress was of turquoise-colored silk, bright and soft as the evening sky. It belled out full from her hips, and all the skirt was embroidered with thin silver threads and seed pearls and tiny crumbs of crystal, so that it glittered softly, like rain in April.

She looked at the magician, speechless.

“Do you like it?”


“It’s like a gown I saw a princess wear once, at the Feast of Sunreturn in the New Palace in Havnor,” he said, looking at it with satisfaction. “You told me to show you something worth seeing. I show you yourself.”

“Make it–make it go away.”

“You gave me your cloak,” he said as if in reproach. “Can I give you nothing? Well, don’t worry. It’s only illusion; see.”

He seemed not to raise a finger, certainly he said no word; but the blue splendor of silk was gone, and she stood in her own harsh black.

She stood still awhile.

“How do I know,” she said at last, “that you are what you seem to be?”

“You don’t,” said he. “I don’t know what I seem, to you.”

And more from that scene near the end, possibly my favorite conversation they have, even more than the one just above.

“I don’t know what to do. I am afraid.” She sat erect on the stone chest, her hands clenched on in the other, and spoke loudly, like one in pain. “I am afraid of the dark.”

He answered softly. “You must make a choice. Either you must leave me, lock the door, go up to your altars and give me to your Masters; then go to the Priestess Kossil and make your peace with her–and that is the end of the story–or, you must unlock the door, and go out of it, with me. Leave the Tombs, leave Atuan, and come with me oversea. And that is the beginning of the story. You must be Arha, or you must be Tenar. You cannot be both.”

The deep voice was gentle and certain. She looked through the shadows onto his face, which was hard and scarred, but had in it no cruelty, no deceit.

“If I leave the service of the Dark Ones, they will kill me. If I leave this place I will die.”

“You will not die. Arha will die.”

“I cannot….”

“To be reborn one must die, Tenar. It is not so hard as it looks from the other side.”

“They would not let us get out. Ever.”

“Perhaps not. Yet it’s worth trying. You have knowledge, and I have skill, and between us we have….” He paused.

“We have the Ring of Erreth-Akbe.”

“Yes, that. But I thought also of another thing between us. Call it trust…. That is one of its names. It is a very great thing. Though each of us alone is weak, having that we are strong, stronger than the Powers of the Dark.” His eyes were clear and bright in his scarred face. “Listen, Tenar!” he said. “I came here a thief, an enemy, armed against you; and you showed me mercy, and trusted me. And I have trusted you from the first time I saw your face, for one moment in the cave beneath the Tombs, beautiful in darkness. You have put your trust in me. I have made no return. I will give you what I have to give. My true name is Ged. And this is yours to keep.” He had risen, and he held out to her a semicircle of pierced and carven silver. “Let the ring be rejoined,” he said.

She took it from his hand. She lipped from her neck the silver chain on which the other half was strung, and took it off the chain. She laid the two pieces in her palm so that the broken edges met, and it looked whole.

She did not raise her face.

“I will come with you,” she said.

Come on! They join the ring together – he gets all sweaty and strainy and it trembles in her hand! Isn’t that a metaphor for sex if I ever saw one?

Well, okay, it maybe isn’t, but there is something just so so hot about their whole interaction, even though they don’t actually have sex in tToA.

Anyhow, Ged is just so… gentle and yet relentless and he has a sense of humor and he’s still stung when called on being proud… *loves*

I’m trying very, very hard not to let even the idea of Shawn Ashmore and Kristen Kreuk playing these scenes get me down. It’s not happening. It is NOT happening.

*practices denial*



1 Comment »

  1. Paul Voermans said,

    When I first read The Farthest Shore my heart beat so everything seemed to be coming from far away yet shouting, each word plucking my soul. It left me dazed. Since then I have asked others about that ending and never found a like one.

    Rereading The Tombs, recently – and then all the rest of the Earthsea books – I found myself more attracted to ToA, perhaps because when I first read them I was a young teenager.

    I so get what you’re saying. Lately I’ve been sharing these books with my partner, reading them myself for the first time again through her eyes.

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