His true name, Ged, was given bythe mage Ogion; its meaning is unknown. His mother's name for him was Duny. His use-name, Sparrowhawk, was given to him as a child for his habit of calling hawks to him. He often uses the alias Hawk when travelling (Hort Town, FS; On the High Marsh, TfE), and this is the name he later goes by in retirement on Gont.
As a child, Ged's described as 'a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy', with thin arms (Warriors in the Mist, WoE). Aged thirteen, he's as tall and strong as a fifteen-year-old (The Shadow, WoE) and in his early teens he's 'light and lithe and strong' (The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE), though his injuries later rob him of his quickness.
As an adult, his most notable feature is the terrible scarring on the left side of his face: 'the scars on one side of his face: old scars long healed, whitish on his dark skin, four parallel ridges from eye to jawbone, as if from the scraping talons of a huge claw' (The Man Trap, ToA). The scars are elsewhere described as livid grey, and extend to his shoulder.
Ged describes his own appearance at nineteen as 'lank and harsh' (Iffish, WoE). He's hawk-nosed, with a profile described as 'hard as a rock' (Hort Town, FS). His dark eyes are often described as fierce and bright. His rare smile is 'sweet, joyous smile that was always startling on his hard face' (The Children of the Open Sea, FS). His hair is presumably dark, as other colours would be rare outside the Kargad lands. Presumably also, he's normally clean shaven as he 'acquired a sparse beard' during his time in the Labyrinth (The Western Mountains, ToA). He has long slight hands. His skin is variously described as red brown, copper brown or reddish dark, which is the most common colour in the Archipelago (The School for Wizards, WoE): dark by comparison with the white-skinned natives of Kargad, but lighter than the inhabitants of Way & the Outer Reaches. In middle age, he has 'a short straight vigorous figure' (The Rowan Tree, FS). From his disdainful/envious views of foppish Jasper, one might guess he'd never been graceful (The School for Wizards, WoE).
In' On the High Marsh' (TfE), in his early days as the Archmage (probably in his late thirties or early forties), he's described as having 'a blunt face and a pleasant look, dressed plain'. By The Farthest Shore, some five years later, he's said to be between forty and fifty, 'his face was lined and old in the cold shadowless light' (The Madman, FS). His hair probably initially retains at least some dark colour, as the dragon singeing he receives turns it white (The Dragons' Run, FS); the later reference to his hair being grey in that chapter may refer to the singed colour. In Tehanu, Tenar describes him: 'Though a short, slight-built man, he had been compact, vigorous; now he was thin as if worn down to the bone, worn away, fragile. Even the scars that ridged his shoulder and the left side of his face from temple to jaw seemed lessened, silvery. And his hair was grey.' & later: 'He still had an ashy, shadowy look to him. It was not the grey hair only, but some quality of skin and bone, and there was nothing much to him but that. There was no light in his eyes. Yet this shadow, this ashen man, was the same whose face she had seen first in the radiance of his own power, the strong face with hawk nose and fine mouth, a handsome man. He had always been a proud, handsome man.' (Bettering).
The trilogy doesn't focus on Ged's clothing. When he leaves home as a thirteen year old he wears a leather coat, cut down to his size, a shirt and breeches (Warriors in the Mist, WoE). All the students on Roke wear dark-grey cloaks, clasped with silver at the neck for those who had gained the sorcerer status (The School for Wizards, WoE). When he goes as a mage to Low Torning, he wears a heavy dark-blue cloak, a gift from the villagers (The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE). In the Labyrinth on Atuan, 'His clothes were those of any winter traveller or pilgrim, a short heavy cloak, a leather tunic, leggings of wool, laced sandals; there was a light pack on his back, a water bottle slung from it, a knife sheathed at his hip.' (Light under the Hill, ToA), and these clothes are very similar to the Gontish clothes that Ogion gives Ged (Hunting, WoE), though the latter mentions a linen shirt. The only time it's mentioned that he wears fine clothing ('a tunic of silk and cloth-of-silver like a lord. ... boots of glove-leather and a cloak lined with pellawi-fur'; The Hawk's Flight, WoE) he is uneasy, and the false clothes seem a portent of later betrayal. As the Archmage on Roke he wears a hooded cloak of white wool (The Rowan Tree, FS), similar to the garb of previous archmages, but in his travels with Arren, he sometimes strips down to a loincloth and turban made of sailcloth (Sea Dreams, FS).
Ged's voice is often described as quiet or soft, and sometimes dry or cold. In later life, as the Archmage, he speaks rarely, and his voice can be 'harsh in quality, but gentle in intonation' (Hort Town, FS). It's described as a 'hard, clear voice, cold as the cold magelight in the fog' when he speaks to the slavers who abducted Arren (Magelight, FS); when he mourns the deranged dragons '[h]is voice rang like struck iron' (The Dragons' Run, FS) and similar wording is used of his voice speaking to Cob in the Dry Land. Even as the Archmage, he retains his Gontish accent (Hort Town, FS). He can transform his voice at will, the voice of the alias Hawk he uses to avoid recognition in Hort Town being completely different in tone and accent from his natural voice (Hort Town, FS). His voice has a different quality when speaking in the Old Speech: 'In speaking [Old Speech] the mage's voice was much clearer than when he spoke Hardic, and seemed to make a kind of silence about it, as does the softest touch on a great bell.' (The Dragons' Run, FS).
On interests and attributes
He's a skilled and experienced sailor as an adult, and seems to enjoy swimming and fishing. When relaxed, he sings ‘lilting drone of nonsense words’ more suitable for a goatherd than an archmage (Sea Dreams, FS). He has unusually sharp eyesight, even in middle age (The Dragons' Run, FS).
It's impossible to distill Ged's character in a few words or quotations: one of the delights of the trilogy is watching how his essence alters as events buffet him around and, almost by the way, he evolves from humble goat herd to one of the most powerful men in the Archipelago. Here are a few milestones on his journey...
As a young child he's described as ‘loud and proud and full of temper’ (Warriors in the Mist, WoE), and later at Re Albi: '...he yearned to stay with Ogion, to go wandering through the forests with him, long and far, learning how to be silent. Yet other cravings were in him that would not be stilled, the wish for glory, the will to act. Ogion's seemed a long road towards mastery, a slow bypath to follow, when he might go sailing before the seawinds straight to the Inmost Sea, to the Isle of the Wise, where the air was bright with enchantments and the Archmage walked amidst wonders.' (The Shadow, WoE)
At Roke: '...when the rare wild mood came over him and he joined them to lead their games on the lengthening evenings of spring. But for the most part he was all work and pride and temper, and held himself apart. Among them all, Vetch being absent, he had no friend, and never knew he wanted one.' (The School for Wizards, WoE)
Ged describes himself at that time (by comparison with Irioth): ' "There was a rivalrous spirit in him that made him look on any power he did not have, any thing he did not know, as a threat, a challenge, a thing to fight against until he could defeat it. There are many boys like that. I was one. But I was lucky. I learned my lesson young." ' (On the High Marsh, TfE)
On arrival in Low Torning, the villagers describe him as 'a strange grim young fellow who spoke little, but he spoke fairly, and without pride' (The Dragon of Pendor, WoE)
In Hand, 'These were such people as he had known as a boy in the Northward Vale of Gont, though poorer even than those. With them he was at home, as he would never be in the courts of the wealthy, and he knew their bitter wants without having to ask.' (Iffish, WoE)
Ogion says of him ' "...there was always some hawk in him. They called him Sparrowhawk in his village because the wild hawks would come to him, at his word. Who are we? What is it to be a man? Before he had his name, before he had knowledge, before he had power, the hawk was in him, and the man, and the mage, and more -- he was what we cannot name. And so are we all." ' (Worsening, T)
As the Archmage, he's described as being a relatively silent, reflective man. Arren describes him thus:
'He was a rather silent man, though perfectly good-humoured. No clumsiness of Arren's fretted him; he was companionable; there could be no better shipmate, Arren thought. But he would go into his own thoughts and be silent for hours on end, and then when he must speak there was a harshness in his voice, and he would look right through Arren. This did not weaken the love the boy felt for him, but maybe it lessened liking somewhat; it was a little awesome. '
(Hort Town FS)
Ged's deeds are listed in the timeline.
On magic, and the call to magedom
'At first all his pleasure in the art-magic was, childlike, the power it gave him over bird and beast, and the knowledge of these. And indeed that pleasure stayed with him all his life.' (Warriors in the Mist, WoE)
On Roke, before his injury: 'The other prentices had soon learned they could seldom match themselves against Ged either in sport or in earnest, and they said of him, some in praise and some in spite "He's a wizard born, he'll never let you beat him." ' (The School for Wizards, WoE)
'He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of each place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay a jewel at the bottom of a dry well.' (The School for Wizards, WoE)
After his injury: 'The trouble he had had in speaking spells wore off over the months, and skill returned to his hands: yet he was never so quick to learn as he had been, having learned a long hard lesson from fear.' (The School for Wizards, WoE)
' "Tenar, I go where I am sent. I follow my calling. It has not yet let me stay in any land for long. Do you see that? I do what I must do. Where I go, I must go alone." ' (The Western Mountains, ToA)
' "I've been pretending that I am free... That nothing's wrong in the world. That I'm not Archmage, not even sorceror. That I'm Hawk of Temere, without responsibilities or privileges, owing nothing to anyone..." ' (Hort Town, FS)
The Master Changer says of him as the Archmage: 'To him the world is even as this Stone of Shelieth: he looks and sees what is and what must be...' (Orm Embar, FS).
' "But how is it that ... all have lost their art, but you keep yours?"/ "Because I desire nothing beyond my art," Sparrowhawk said.' (Orm Embar, FS)
'There was indeed a kind of lightheartedness in him now, a pure pleasure in his skill, which Arren, seeing him always so careful, had not guessed. The mind of the magician takes delight in tricks; a mage is a trickster.' (Orm Embar, FS)
|WoE||A Wizard of Earthsea|
|ToA||The Tombs of Atuan|
|FS||The Farthest Shore|
|OW||The Other Wind|
|TfE||Tales from Earthsea|
Last updated: 13 December 2004