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[Earthsea mainpage] Gedo Senki
(Tales from Earthsea)

Goro Miyazaki's Blog Translation (Page 2)

15th December 2005

Part 2 - I liked Book One[1] when I was in High School

In the previous entry, I wrote about how I reread the Earthsea books when I was involved in the planning for the film adaptation, and how I made a fresh discovery about magic.

Knowing the principles[2] of the world. Knowing the true form that every object possesses. And then knowing true names. This is the magic of Earthsea the stage on which the tales are set.[3] It is not a case of learning the spells lets you make beams of light shoot from your hands and blast enemies, or transform yourself into a monster.

However, even in the Earthsea books, magic is not the same as righteousness.[4] Magic is a system of knowledge whose foundation is words, and that power can be used for both acts of good and acts of evil.

When I was a high school student, out of the three volumes that had been published at the time, I liked Book One the best.

In the first book, Ged is depicted as an ambitious and brave boy. Through both talent and effort he acquires magical power, gaining fame and social status. He is motivated by an overwhelming drive to escape from the monotony of everyday life and nurtures a strong antagonism to rivals and anyone else who gets in the way of his ambition.

At that time I was able to simply overlay the boy Ged onto myself. This was not a question of loving or hating, but the feeling that I myself was Ged. My high school student age, and the era of the early eighties produced that reality I guess.[5]

But this ambition is what causes Ged to fail.

In this first book, the Master Summoner says to Ged, who is lying ill: "You thought as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower; until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do..."[6]

Knowledge is the basis of magic. But it's not the case that you can just amass a lot of knowledge and then wield huge powers.[7] If, at the same time, you don't know "what you must not do" and "what you must do", you will merely meet with repeated painful mistakes. The greater the power you possess, the more limited your path becomes. No, in fact, the more you must limit it yourself.

In this way, Ged, in the story, learns the importance of the "Balance". That is how to balance the light and darkness inside himself, the bright parts and dark parts of his soul.

Myself at that time, I was able to accept this not as "a sermon" but as "an important teaching". Through Ged's form, I was able to see the darkness in my own soul.

But now, 20 years after, my impressions on reading the first book afresh were completely different to before.

Translator's Notes

[1]: The title of the first book is "A Wizard of Earthsea". [JP="Kage to no Tatakai"]. In this blog (so far) the director refers to the series as a whole and calls the individual books 'Book One', 'Book Two', 'Book Three' etc.

[2]: The character (理) which is used here can be variously glossed as principle, theory, logic etc.

[3]: Literally "in which 'Ged no Senki' takes place." He seems to be talking more about the books, but in Japanese, the name of the series of books and the movie are the same, so he could be referring to both.

[4]: 正義 means "The Side of Right"/"Good"/"Truth, Justice and the American Way"/ etc.

[5]: That is, he is saying that as teenager in the early eighties, the natural self-centredness of adolescents and the "greed is good" mentality of the eighties made him appreciate this aspect of Ged's character and identify with him.

[6]: This is the original text from p 73 of my copy.

[7]: It is not the purpose of magic. It may be possible, but doing so is not a good thing.

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