Saturday, August 13, 2011

Darkness

This post is about Ursula K. Le Guin's book The Left Hand of Darkness, and I really don't recommend reading beyond the big bold "spoilers" unless you've read the book.

But first...

I finally, FINALLY realized that the "l" is supposed to be capitalized in her name, making it Ursula K. Le Guin, not Ursula K. le Guin, as I'd been typing it. Darn it darn it darn it darn it...my apologies to Le Guin, if she ever happens across this blog. And if I ever have copious amounts of time I will go back through all my posts about her books and fix the tags.

SPOILERS

So, I'm going to start examining all the references to shadows! I doubt I'll talk about each and every reference in one post -- it's a pretty formidable task.

"I'm not anyone's servant. A man must cast his own shadow. . . ." (20)

The first reference to shadows. It doesn't really tell us much.

"[...] for murder is a lighter shadow on a house than suicide" (23).

Here we see it implied that something which is bad is a shadow.

" 'Tell them at Shath I take back my name and my shadow.' Not many days after this Getheren took sick and died. [. . .] they say that from that time on the domain prospered again [. . .]" (26).

So when Getheren took back his name he also took back his shadow, and he soon died. It's not stated that he died because of taking back his shadow, but I think the implication is there.

Why?

"The Foretellers gathered and went together into the darkness. At the end of the darkness Odren spoke the answer [. . .]" (43)

(I'm highlighting references to Handdara so that I can find them again easily.)

So, the Handdara go into the darkness. But what is the darkness?

"As I went on along the path I realized that a whole village or town was scattered about in the shadow of that slanting forest [. . .]" (55)

 The village of the Fastness is in shadow.

"Behold, we must sully the plain snow with footprints, in order to get anywhere" (57).

I'm including this here because we see footprints due to the shadows in them.

This has been a favorite quote of mine for some time, and...and even though I think I know what Goss is saying I can't explain it!

"All at once his white shirt blazed out, and I came out after him from shadow into full sunlight on a wide green meadow" (57).

I noticed during my last reading that Faxe seems to be made of light. Sort of. Anyways, where Therem is always described as dark, Faxe is described as bright and almost as though he provides light.

"In that noon sunlight he shown of his own light" (58).

Again, Faxe.

"Under that nation's politics and parades and passions runs an old darkness, passive, anarchic, silent, the fecund darkness of the Hnaddara" (60).

This tells us not only that Handdara has shaped Karhide as a nation, but also that the darkness (if Genly understands it correctly, which I think he does..sort of) is part of the Handdara tradition.

"[...] and in the center of all darkness Faxe: the Weaver: a woman, a woman dressed in light. [. . .] The light burned sudden and intolerable, the light along her limbs, the fire, and she screamed aloud in terror and pain, [. . . .] There was a movement in the darkness [. . .] 'Light, light,' said an immense voice in vast syllables once or innumerable times. 'Light. Log ont he fire, there. Some light' " (66).

This is at the end of the Foretelling.

The Handdara are most comfortable with the dark, and yet doing a Foretelling seems to require letting in light. The Weaver even seems made of light, even when he is not doing a Foretelling. And the light seems to come out of the darkness...

I notice that, in the end, the physician requires light, so that he can see to the Zanies. I'm not sure what to make of that, though it seems important.

"For that instant I saw him as I had seen him in the dark, as a woman armed in light and burning in a fire, crying out, 'Yes--' "(67)

Faxe, again.

"The energy builds up and builds up in us [. . .] once said that if the Weaver could be put in a vacuum at the moment of the answer, he'd go on burning for years" (67).

 Faxe, explaining things.

" 'In the darkness,' he said, 'there were ten; not nine' " (68).

Here we see that even though Faxe was burning bright, he sees himself as coming from the darkness, which tells us something about the Handdara.

"Light fell gray among dark branches [. . .]" (69).

Light turning into darkness in the Fastness... Interesting, and this brings to mind the implication that ignorance can be gained, as we see on page 56.

"I may be sent to Erhenrang to the kyorremy; well, if I go, I take back my status and my shadow, but my foretelling's at an end" (70).

Ok, I wasn't going to jump ahead of myself, but I can't resist...

We already know that shifgrethor comes from an old word for shadow, so my guess is that by taking back his shadow is stepping back into the world of shifgrethor.

Or wait, could it actually have something to do with the fact that Faxe is so full of light, and that he'd be giving that up? But I know that he's still full of light at the end of the book...

"Within the white hood Faxe's face was tired and quiet, its light quenched" (71).

So we see that Faxe doesn't always radiate light. Hmm...

...

Enough for now. I'll write more in another post, and I'm sure that I'll get into references again that are not directly related to the Handdara.

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