Origins of the Shadow in A Wizard of Earthsea
Ged, the main character in The Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin, through an act of pride and spite unwittingly unleashes a powerful shadow creature on the world, and the shadow hunts Ged wherever he goes. After failing to kill Ged the first time, he learns the only way to destroy the shadow is to find its name. What Ged must realize is the shadow was created by the evil in his own heart. Also, the shadow is not entirely evil, and Ged can actually draw strength from it. In doing so, Ged will realize that the only way to discover the shadow’s name is to discover that he and the shadow are one. Carl G. Jung in Man and His Symbols, describes the shadow as containing the hidden, repressed, and unfavorable “tendencies” of the conscious personality. “Such tendencies form an ever-present and potentially destructive ‘shadow’ to our conscious mind.”
This shadow takes form in mythology as a dark, shadowy, and imposing figure or as “the cosmic powers of evil, personified by dragons and other monsters.” (Henderson 111) This shadow is shown to Ged in different forms: “...Like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous...it was like a black beast, the size of a young child, though it seemed to swell and shrink; and it had no head or face, only the four taloned paws with which it gripped and tore.” (LeGuin 61) As it appeared when the shadow was first created. Later as the shadow pursued him, it held the same form. “The shadow did not have the shape of man or beast. It was shapeless, scarcely to be seen, but it whispered at him, though there were no words in its whispering, and it reached out towards him.” (LeGuin 81). Once Ged stops running, the shadow takes on a more identifiable form “...now some likeness to a man, though being shadow it cast no shadow.”
The last form the shadow takes are the images people that Ged has come across in his life, “An old man it seemed, gray and grim, coming towards Ged; but even as Ged saw his father the smith in that figure, he saw that it was not an old man, but a young one. It was Jasper: Jasper’s insolent handsome young face, and silver-clasped gray cloak, and stiff stride. Hateful was the look he fixed on Ged across the dark intervening air...and it became Pechvarry. But Pechvarry’s face was all bloated and pallid like the face of a drowned man, and he rea...
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... to face his fears.
“In silence, man and shadow met face to face and stopped. Aloud and clearly, breaking that old silence, Ged spoke the shadow’s name and in the same moment the shadow spoke without lips or tongue, saying the same word: ‘Ged.’ And the two voices were one voice. Ged reached out his hands, dropping his staff, and took hold of the shadow, of the black self that reached out to him. Light and darkness met, and joined, and were one...’Estarriol’, he said, ‘look, it is done. It is over...the wound is healed...I am whole, I am free.’” (LeGuin 179-180) On the condition that one succeeds in assimilating and integrating the conscious mind the lost and regained contents. Since they are not neutral, their assimilation will modify the personality, just as they themselves will have to make certain changes. “If we could see our shadow, we should be immune to any moral and mental infection and insinuation.” (Jung 79)
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin, published by Bantam Spectra Books. Fantasy Novel
Man and His Symbols, edited by Carl G Jung and M.-L. von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, Aniela Jaffe, published by Dell Books, non fiction.