March 31, 2021

G is for Gont

         (My A-Z Blog Challenge theme this year is Mythical and Imaginary Places.  Be sure to visit the Master List of participants to find enough blogs to keep you busy all day all month!)
        The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.  From the towns in its high valleys and the ports on its dark narrow bays many a Gontishman has gone forth to serve the Lords of the Archipelago in their cities as wizard or mage, or, looking for adventure, to wander working magic from isle to isle of all Earthsea.
        So begins A Wizard of Earthsea, first book in the Earthsea series by Ursula K. LeGuin, and with this we have our first imaginary place in this A to Z Challenge that is the creation of a single author rather than the shifting, morphing work of thousands of nameless storytellers over hundreds of years of folklore.  Unlike the mythical places of folklore, a single author’s geography is expected not to have contradictions or bits that don’t make sense.  It is generally much more detailed, more concretely imagined, and more deliberately crafted to support a specific story.
        Gont is something of a backwater in Earthsea, and the Gontish boy Sparrowhawk arrives at the school of wizardry on Roke in the center of the Archipelago with an enormous chip on his shoulder.  The geography helps drive the characters, and the character-interactions drive the plot and the themes.  Gont is then the setting of the fourth book in the series, where Sparrowhawk retreats in his perceived fall from grace, and former-priestess Tehanu of the second book has also retreated to try to live the “normal” life of an “ordinary” person.  Gont, in other words, represents the ordinary world far from the court of the king and the school of the mages that are so often the settings of high fantasy tales.  And yet Gont is where wizards come from, and where ordinary people, too, perform deeds of great courage, wisdom, and yes, magic.
        The MORAL of Gont: Never underestimate a hero from humble beginnings.
              OR:  Seriously, I don’t care how much the other kids goad you; it is never a good idea to  perform black magic.
        So, what’s the place that gives you the roots you’d want to return to when you need to reset?

[Pictures: Gont, illustration by Ruth Robbins from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, 1968;

Map of Gont by Margaret Chodos-Irvine from Tehanu by LeGuin, 1990.]


Sue Bursztynski said...

It’s been a long time since I have read this novel. Must go back and reread.

An interesting thought about an ordinary place that produces wizards! In fact, Terry Pratchett’s Ramtop mountains do exactly that. The place is full of very ordinary farmers living their lives, gossiping about the neighbours and doing their daily work, yet it has a high proportion of witches and wizards.

Olga Godim said...

I don't think Gont would be my place. I'm not much for a rural community. Give me a big city any day.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

I have never read the Earthsea books, but I heard a lot about them. They are on my TBR list. Sounds interesting!

The Multicolored Diary

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Sue, I hadn't made the connection that the Ramtops have a similar attribute.

Olga, I agree that full rural is not for me -- but I don't like fully urban, either. I love my suburbs, where the library is near enough to walk, but the walk is past trees and gardens!

Zalka, it's definitely a classic, and you'd recognize lots of classic folktale themes in it. I actually don't love books 1 and 3 (especially when I first read them as a kid), but books 2 and 4 are among my absolute all-time favorites. (And 5 was somewhere between those extremes.)

Lisa said...

I'd not heard of Gont because I've not read the books. I agree with you, Anne. Not rural, not full city! Not terribly suburb either.

JadeLi said...

Anne, Hayao Miyazaki made an anime movie, "Tales of Earthsea," that he based on LeGuin's books (even though she doesn't think it does.)

Sounds like a place that would be anything but boring.

I've pretty much lived within the same 10-mile radius my whole life so there is no "going back to" as I'm already here.

My "G" Jethro Tull song for today:

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Jade, there have been at least 3 or 4 film adapatations of Earthsea, and LeGuin hated them all!

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Someplace new to visit. Thanks for the recommendation.

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Goblins