A glossary of people, places & objects in Earthsea

Now showing glossary items relating to industry & crafts


See Ship-building


Carding using carding combs is mentioned on Gont, as part of the preparation of goats' wool for spinning

Sources: Finding Words, T


Bright blue or crimson (dragon's fire) dyes are mined on Lorbanery as ores (eg emmel-stone); dye-making on that island is a profession carried out by sorcerers (the Dyers of Lorbanery). Plant-derived dyes of red madder or unspecified yellow are mentioned for domestic dyeing on Gont

Sources: Lorbanery, FS; Hawks, T


See Trade guilds


Also known as: Technology

Earthsea is a pre-industrial society; the most advanced crafts practised are smithying, weaving, tanning, dyeing, pottery, glass-blowing, metal refining, mining, quarrying, masonry and ship-building. Milling of grain appears to be performed by hand on some islands, though a water mill is mentioned on Gont. Mining involves some use of machinery: 'rusty wheels and machines by a pit'a are mentioned. Many crafts are traditionally gender specific, mining and domestic building & weaving being performed by women, ship-building by men. Although some items are traded, the great majority are produced in situ. Some crafts, such as dyeing and possibly metal refining, require magic.

The level of technology varies greatly throughout the islands and between cities and villages. In Havnor City, even in the Dark Years, relatively advanced tools such as a bubble level are used by shipbuilders; mining and mercury refining in the Samory mines on Havnor use machinery. Rural areas, islands in the Reaches, at least parts of the Kargad Lands and the Children of the Open Sea, however, appear to be entirely pre-industrial, using bronze, copper, wood, stone, shell or bone implements

Sources: The Finder, TfE (a)

Related entries: Materials


See Weaving

Metal refining

Like mining, metal refining uses a higher level of technology than many other crafts in pre-industrial Earthsea. In the Samory mines on Havnor in the Dark Years, quicksilver (mercury) refining is performed in a roaster tower by heating ore over a wood fire and in ovens, with multiple rounds of condensation; the work is done by slaves whose life expectancy is said to be only a year or two. Magic may also be used in metal refining; furnaces are found in the magicians' workroom of the Roke School of Wizardry, and metal refining is listed among the arts practised there

Sources: Orm Embar, FS; The Finder, TfE

'The roasting pit took up the center of a huge domed chamber. Hurrying, sticklike figures black against the blaze shoveled and reshoveled ore onto logs kept in a roaring blaze by great bellows, while others brought fresh logs and worked the bellows sleeves. From the apex of the dome a spiral of chambers rose up into the tower through smoke and fumes. In these chambers, Licky had told him, the vapor of the quicksilver was trapped and condensed, reheated and recondensed, till in the topmost vault the pure metal ran down into a stone trough or bowl…'

[The Finder, TfE]

Related entries: Mining; Industry


Mining of ores and metals is traditionally done by women. Unusually for pre-industrial Earthsea, mining sometimes involves some use of machinery: 'rusty wheels and machines by a pit'a are mentioned at the mines at Samory on Havnor, though shovelling into buckets appears to be the main method by which ore is extracted

Sources: The Finder, TfE (a)

'Because they were smaller than men and could move more easily in narrow places, or because they were at home with the earth, or most likely because it was the custom, women had always worked the mines of Earthsea. These miners were free women, not slaves like the workers in the roaster tower. … Licky… did no work in the mine; the miners forbade it, earnestly believing it was the worst of bad luck for a man to pick up a shovel or shore a timber.'

[The Finder, TfE]

Related entries: Metal refining; Industry


Also known as: Boat-building

Traditionally performed only by men, it was supposed to be unlucky for women to watch a keel being laid (though the boat-builder of Thwil at the time of the founding of Roke School of Wizardry was a woman). Ships on Havnor are built of oak timber, with masts of pine; carpentry tools used there for ship-building include a plane and a bubble level

Sources: The Finder, TfE; Darkrose and Diamond, TfE


Spinning using a drop spindle and sometimes a distaff is an oft-mentioned occupation of women, performed both indoors and outside, often while doing other activities such as talking or minding children. A spinning wheel is used in the well-to-do Oak Farm on Gont. Much peasant clothing appears to be homespun

Sources: Finding Words, T; Home, T; The Finder, TfE; Dragonfly, TfE

'The witch emerged with a soapstone drop spindle and a ball of greasy wool. She sat down on the bench beside her door and set the spindle turning. She had spun a yard of grey-brown yarn before she answered.'

[Dragonfly, TfE]


See Industry

Trade guilds

Also known as: Guilds, Workers' guilds

Organisations of people working the same trade; examples include the Seamasters and the miners' guild

Sources: The Dragon Council, OW


Also known as: Looms

Handlooms are common household items throughout Earthsea, and much peasant clothing appears to be homespun. In all cultures of Earthsea, it appears to be predominantly women and girls who weave and spin cloth for domestic use. However, professional weavers on Gont include both women and men (eg Weaver Fan); men are also involved in making silk for export on Lorbanery, where professional silk-weavers operate in worksheds. Household weaving is not restricted to the lower classes; even ladies such as Lady Serret participate in the activity, and well-to-do Yarrow in Ismay has a tapestry-loom, 'its tall frame inlaid with ivory'a. All the woollen cloth at the Place of the Tombs on Atuan is woven locally by the novices/priestesses in the weaving room on 'great looms always warped with dull black wool'b. 'Weavings of different colors and weights of yarn'c are used in the Kargad Lands for keeping accounts. The Children of the Open sea (raft people) have looms on their rafts on which the women weave their cloth from nilgu fibre derived from a brown seaweed

Sources: The Hawk's Flight, WoE; Iffish, WoE (a); The Wall Around the Place, ToA (b); Lorbanery, FS; The Children of the Open Sea, FS; Hawks, T; A Description of Earthsea, TfE [c]

'…through windows lit with a dim ruddy gold from within as the short day darkened he saw women at their looms, turning a moment to speak or smile to child or husband there in the warmth within the house.'

'It would be a decent living. The bulk of the work was dull, always the same over, but weaving was an honourable trade and in some hands a noble art. And people expected weavers to be a bit shy, often to be unmarried, shut away at their work as they were; yet they were respected.

[Iffish, WoE/Hawks, T]

Related entries: Spinning

Workers' guilds

See Trade guilds



WoEA Wizard of Earthsea
ToAThe Tombs of Atuan
FSThe Farthest Shore
OWThe Other Wind
W12QThe Wind's Twelve Quarters
TfETales from Earthsea

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