A glossary of people, places & objects in Earthsea

Now showing glossary items relating to materials & fabric

Building materials

Buildings in towns or cities in the central region of the Archipelago are typically constructed of dressed stone, with roofs of slate or red tile. Bricks are also commonly used, for example, in Pendor, Orrimy on Hosk, for the barracks of the Samory mines on Havnor and a mixture of brick and stone for stables on Way. Rural huts are usually constructed from wood, with thatched rooves. Elsewhere in Earthsea, other materials are used: plastered clay in Hort Town, hurbah-twigs for thatch in Lorbanery, wattle in Astowell, yellow clay bricks on Atuan, marble in the Court of the Terrenon on Osskil & Re Albi mansion house on Gont, plastered stone, cedar, red-veined marble & gilt in the Kargish temples on Atuan. The wealthy Havnor City boasts towers of white marble & alabaster, bridges faced in mosaic work, and roofs of tile and bronze; even the quays are marble

Related entries: Houses, town


Blue stone used for making talismans against rheums, sprains and stiff necks, and as a dye ore at Lorbanery

Sources: Hort Town, FS; Lorbanery, FS


Clothing fabrics mentioned include silk, satin, fur, sheepskin, wool, fleecefell, felt, leather, linen, velvet, cloth of gold, cloth of silver, gauze and lace. Feathers are used for decorative purposes, eg on a headdress in Hort Town and on dress armour/helmets in the Kargad Lands. Although fabrics are traded and sold in eg Hort Town market, much clothing throughout Earthsea appears to be made by women on handlooms at home. The Children of the Open Sea make a fabric from nilgu fibre (brown seaweed).

Fabrics for other purposes mentioned include painted silk (fan), felt (blankets), linen (sheets), tapestry (hangings), damask (tableware), leather (animal collars, sword sheaths, packs, sacks, bottles, flasks), net (bags), grass (bags), canvas (awnings, mats, tarpaulins, mattress covers), burlap (a coarse hemp/jute canvas) and sailcloth

Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q; Hort Town, FS; The Children of the Open Sea, FS; Hawks, T; Finding Words, T; Home, T; Palaces, OW


Kargish warriors wear tall red plumes on their helmets and their lances are decorated with plumes; their court armour (at least at the time of the High King) is silver mesh armour interwoven with feathers. Possibly in imitation of this style, Seserakh's carriage and its horses' headstalls are decorated with tall red plumes in Havnor City. A feathered headdress is worn by a market tradeswoman in Hort Town. The raft of the House of the Great Ones (the temple of the Children of the Open Sea) bears tall poles at its corners, decorated with tufts of sea-bird feathers. Feather or down coverlets and mattresses are mentioned in the cold climes of Gont and Osskil

Sources: Warriors in the Mist, WoE; The Hawk's Flight, WoE; Hort Town, FS; The Children of the Open Sea, FS; Winter, T; Palaces, OW; Dolphin, OW

Related entries: Headgear; Weapons; Beds and bedlinen


Silky material made from the fine underwool of goats from the north-eastern isles, including Gont and the Andrades; Gontish work is finer, having six or more warp strings to the finger's width, while Andradean work has only four. Also shawls and similar made from the fabric, suggested for female winter wear

Sources: Hort Town, FS; Worsening, T

'…a great cream and brown square, woven of the silky hair of the goats of the north-eastern isles.'

[Hort Town, FS]


Wood appears to be the most common fuel in most places. Coal is also mentioned occasionally. Lookfar has a little charcoal stove, and charcoal is burned in the temples on Atuan. Peat fires are mentioned, eg on the High Marsh on Semel. Oil lamps are sometimes used, for example at Hare's house in Hort Town, and lamps burning attar of roses (an essential oil) are used in the Temple of the Godking on Atuan. The people of Astowell in the East Reach, lacking wood, burn goat-dung and broom-faggots. Other fuels, such as mineral oil or gas, are not mentioned

Related entries: Lights


Discs of loto-shell decorate the prow of the Osskilian longship Ged takes from Orrimy

Related entries: Decorative arts


Steel and iron are commonly used for implements on the wealthy central islands. Metals are scarce in the Kargad Lands; Kargish soldiers use weapons and armour of bronze, wood and leather, though court armour at the time of the High King is silver mesh. Despite the scarcity of metal, many iron objects (including chains, chests, bolts, keys, a key ring and an iron door) are mentioned at the Place of the Tombs on Atuan, as well as a dagger and ceremonial sword of steel. Many islands in the Reaches, such as the Hands and Obehol, use bronze, copper, wood or stone implements. On the island of Astowell, in the far east, there is no wood, and tools of stone and shell are used, while the ocean-dwelling Children of the Open Sea (raft people) make their implements from whalebone, wood and nilgu (seaweed).

Containers are commonly made of pottery (eg jade-green pitcher, handle-less clay cups, clay bottle & pottery teapot on Gont) or rushwork/wicker. Bronze, brass and copper containers are also mentioned, on Atuan and elsewhere (eg bronze trays for burning herbs and a brass basin for sacrificial blood on Atuan; copper cauldrons in the kitchens at the Roke School of Wizardry; brass vases of perfume in Hort Town; bronze & brass vessels in Vetch's house on Iffish). Glass containers are mentioned occasionally (eg Ged drinks wine from squat cups of thick greenish glass on Gont; Lebannen offers wine in heavy glass goblets aboard the Dolphin and in crystal goblets in the New Palace; Mr Underhill entertains with crystal tableware on Sattins island); windows are glazed at least in wealthier houses; there is a glass lamp in the king's cabin on the Dolphin. A stone jug is mentioned on Atuan. The New Palace has an alabaster lamp.

Gold is used as high-value currency, occasionally for jewellery (eg Lebannen wears a light gold chain; the pirate Egre wears a gold-studded leather collar; Seserakh wears gold rings) and decoration (eg Lebannen's sword sheath has gold inlay); other uses mentioned include gold plates & goblets and a gold key at the Court of the Terrenon (Osskil), a gold-weighted state robe worn by Lebannen, gold breastplates in the hoard on Pendor, the gold roof of the Temple of the God-brothers, assorted treasure at the Tombs of Atuan and the gold covering which once sheathed Morred's High Seat. Silver is used as currency, very commonly for jewellery (eg sorcerers at Roke wear silver cloak clasps; Serret wears a silver net in her hair; Ged wears a silver chain bearing the half Ring of Erreth-Akbe on Atuan, and the ring itself is silver, Lebannen buys a silver brooch for his mother in Thwil) and for decoration (eg the New Palace on Havnor has a table inlaid with silver and ivory); other uses include silver keys (Court of the Terrenon and the Tombs of Atuan), silver-mesh Kargish court armour, a silver tray aboard the Dolphin, silver tableware on Sattins, silver trumpets at the Havnor New Palace, and Sege's silver-tipped staff. Various precious and semi-precious stones are mentioned for jewellery and other decorative uses (eg opals in the Lady of O's hair; seed pearls on Anthil's dress; a dress embroidered with amethysts and topaz in the Atuan treasury; emeralds in the hoard on Pendor; Tosla's ruby earring). Ivory is used for currency, ornaments and toys (eg a carved dolphin in ivory or bone given to Tehanu; ivory dice-sticks), decoration (Yarrow's tapestry-loom on Iffish has an ivory inlay), decorative furniture (eg painted ivory tables and an ivory footstool at the Tombs of Atuan); the back door of the Great House of Roke is fashioned of ivory and horn. Bone figures are mentioned as toys on Gont

Related entries: Building materials


Also known as: Wicker

Wicker baskets, hand made from rushes, are commonly used as containers for carrying food. Alder adapts a covered poultry basket to transport his kitten, Tug. Oak Farm on Gont has a cane-bottomed chair, presumably made from some form of rushwork

Sources: Bettering, T; Winter, T; Palaces, OW


See Rushwork



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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