A glossary of people, places & objects in Earthsea
Now showing glossary items relating to social & economic issues
Accounting & mathematics
Also known as: Mathematics
Sources: Mending the Green Pitcher, OW; Darkrose and Diamond, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE (a)
'…she found her son in the counting room going through ledgers. She looked at the pages. Long, long lists of names and numbers, debts and credits, profits and losses.'
[Darkrose and Diamond, TfE]
Archery is used for military purposes in the Archipelago; archers defend the New Palace in Havnor City and the Armed Cliffs of Gont Port, and a band of archers on the king's warships are suggested for combating dragons. However, the arrows used by villagers from Ten Alders on Gont to fight off a Kargish raiding party in around 1012 are said to come from hunting bows. Lebannen mentions archery among his courtly accomplishments as a youth in Enlad, whether for military or hunting purposes is not stated. Ogion is mentioned making a longbow on Gont, presumably for shooting game. Warriors of the Kargad Lands are not described as carrying bows
Sources: Warriors in the Mist, WoE; The Masters of Roke, FS; The Dolphin, T; The Dragon Council, OW
Related entries: Weapons
Beggary is said to be uncommon in the Archipelago during the main period of the Earthsea cycle, though the existence of itinerant beggars is mentioned, eg on Gont and Semel. Wandering wizards own few possessions and often beg for food and shelter, though this seems to be closer to an informal trade of services for hospitality; other itinerant professions may operate in a similar fashion. Beggars, sometimes violent, become common on Gont during the few years of unrest immediately preceding the restoration of the Archipelagan monarchy; they were also common on Havnor, and probably elsewhere, during the Dark Years
Sources: The Shadow, WoE; The Western Mountains, ToA; Going to the Falcon's Nest, T; The Finder, TfE; On the High Marsh, TfE
Wizards and mages in modern times normally practise strict celibacy; this is perceived as a means of conserving their power. It is achieved with spells of chastity, which bind both the wizard and observers not to think of sexual matters. This was not always the case: as powerful a mage as Morred was married, with a child. The sorcerer Ivory uses seduction spells on women, and disparagingly refers to the practice of celibacy as turning wizards into eunuchs, castrating themselves with spells to be holy. Most witches and many sorcerers do not practise celibacy, and sometimes have families (though witches rarely marry). The priestesses at the Place of the Tombs on Atuan promise their virginity to the gods they serve
Sources: Hawks, T; Dragonfly, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE
'…"that's the power of 'em, dearie. You don't think! You can't! And nor do they, once they've set their spell. How could they? Given their power? It wouldn't do, would it, it wouldn't do. You don't get without you give as much. … it's an uneasy thing for a man not to be a man, no matter if he can call the sun down from the sky. And so they put it right out of mind, with their spells of binding. And truly so. Even in these bad times we've been having, with the spells going wrong and all, I haven't yet heard of a wizard breaking those spells, seeking to use his power for his body's lust. Even the worst would fear to."'
Also known as: Money-lending
Sources: The Master, T; On the High Marsh, TfE; Dragonfly, TfE
Crime appears relatively uncommon in the central Archipelago during the main period of the Earthsea cycle. Hort Town on Wathort and the Hosk interior are described as lawless. During the few years of unrest immediately preceding the restoration of the Archipelagan monarchy, theft, poaching and violent crime, largely perpetrated by gangs of men, become substantially more common on Gont, though the murder, assault and rape committed by the group of tramps to which Handy belongs is still considered exceptional
Sources: The Shadow, WoE; Hunted, WoE; Going to the Falcon's Nest, T; Winter, T
Also known as: Money
Sources: Mice, T; The Master, T; On the High Marsh, TfE (a); Dragonfly, TfE
Burial is used both in the Archipelago/Reaches and the Kargad Lands. In the Archipelago, a vigil is held over the body, with words recited, candles and burning of oils. Village witches usually prepare bodies for burial, termed homing; the corpse is laid on the left side, with the knees bent, and a charm bundle is placed in the left hand. The Agnen rune of Ending is inscribed on coffin lids. Family graveyards are mentioned on Gont, both for the farmer Flint and for the Lord of Re Albi; Ogion is buried alone by the Old Mage's House. Rites of Mourning are enacted in Atuan for the deaths of priestesses; the ceremonies of burial and purification for the One Priestess last one lunar month
Sources: The Wall around the Place, ToA; Light under the Hill, ToA; The Dry Land, FS; A Bad Thing, T; Ogion, T
'…with Tenar and the others [Moss] had watched the night by Ogion's body. She had set a wax candle in a glass shade, there in the forest, and had burned sweet oils in a dish of clay; she had said the words that should be said, and done what should be done. …When she had laid out the corpse as it should lie to be buried, on the left side with the knees bent, she had put in the upturned left hand a tiny charm-bundle, something wrapped in soft goatskin and tied with coloured cord.'
Also known as: Schooling, Apprenticeship
Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q; The Shadow, WoE; The School of Wizardry, WoE; The Wall around the Place, ToA; Sea Dreams, FS; Orm Embar, FS; The Finder, TfE; Mending the Green Pitcher, OW; Palaces, OW; The Dragon Council, OW
Many industries/professions are traditionally gender specific in the Archipelago: mining, building, midwifery, spinning and domestic weaving being performed by women, ship-building, wizardry, sailing and the military by men. On Gont & Semel it appears unusual for men to perform household tasks, such as washing dishes or clothes. Other occupations, including farming, appear to be engaged in equally by both sexes. Though women were instrumental in founding the Roke School of Wizardry, the high arts of magic were restricted to men in 730. In Tehanu, a woman's roles are described as wife, mother and housekeeper, with men being said to hold the power. However, women form part of the island government on several islands in the East Reach, and Lebannen's King's Council contains multiple female councillors; historical rulers of Earthsea include many queens, though Ged dismisses them: '"A queen's only a she-king."'a On Gont, property appears to pass exclusively in the male line.
Sources: Kalessin, T; Bettering, T; Winter, T (a); The Finder, TfE; On the High Marsh, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE; The Dragon Council, OW
'…what a woman should do: bed, breed, bake, cook, clean, spin, sew, serve.'
[Kalessin, T/Winter, T]
Bowing the head or holding both palms open before the heart are traditional greetings across much of the Archipelago, while touching right hands palm against palm is a traditional greeting in Ea and the Enlades. In both the Archipelago and the Kargad Lands, bowing and curtseying are used in greeting royalty, and a stately embrace is used by royalty and nobility for bidding farewell in public. A Havnor courtier's gesture of respect involves kneeling on one knee and briefly touching the forehead to the recipient's right wrist, and a deep bow, with one knee touching the ground, is used in approaching the One Priestess on Atuan. Pointing the thumb, first and last finger of the left hand at someone means 'may you never come back!' in the Archipelago. During the Dark Years, women of the Hand identified each other by a hand gesture involving raising the first finger and then the other fingers, clenching the hand into a fist and finally opening it palm outwards.
Sources: The Prisoners, ToA; The Man Trap, ToA; Names, ToA; Finding Words, T; The Finder, TfE; Mending the Green Pitcher, OW; Palaces, OW; Rejoining, OW
See Trade guilds
Marriage appears to be a universal custom in Earthsea. Polygamy is practised by the Godking of Kargad and by the Children of the Open Sea (raft people), but not in the main Archipelago. Marriages appear to be exclusively male--female, although informal witch marriage between two witches is relatively common. With some exceptions, at the time described in the Earthsea series, wizards and mages usually keep celibate and do not marry; sorcerers and witches do sometimes form marriages. The raft people are judged to marry very young at fifteen to seventeen, suggesting that elsewhere marriage is normal rather later (despite the fact that adulthood is attained at thirteen in the Archipelago and fourteen on Atuan). Customs and rituals associated with marriage are little explained. Lebannen & Seserakh are betrothed an unspecified period prior to their wedding in a ceremony in the throne room of the New Palace, in which the future bride is given the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. Arranged marriages among the middle-classes are mentioned on Taon, and are the norm for noblewomen on Hur-at-Hur. In the Archipelago, a harpist is mentioned as playing for a wedding, and noble weddings involve dancing. In the Kargad Lands, a returned bride is considered dishonoured and may even be killed
Sources: The Ring of Erreth-Akbe, ToA; The Children of the Open Sea, FS; A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Mending the Green Pitcher, OW; Palaces, OW; Rejoining, OW
See Accounting & mathematics
Appears to be a relatively common practice in the Archipelago, increasing in the years immediately preceding restoration of the Archipelagan monarchy. The islands of Gont and Wathort are famous for their pirates, and the Lords of Gont, as well as the former Lords of Pendor, are said to engage in piracy. Egre and the wizard Hare are mentioned as a famous pirates
Sources: Magelight, FS; Mice, T
Sources: On the High Marsh, TfE
See Witch marriage
Slavery is practised across the South Reach, Osskil in the north, and the Kargad Lands at the time of The Farthest Shore. It appears to be outlawed in other parts of the Archipelago, such as Enlad. Slaves are transported in oared galleys in the South Reach, and sold at Amrun, Showl and Sowl. Ged comments that Lebannen would ' "fetch the price of a farm in Amrun market." 'a Named Archipelagan slavers include Egre and Gore. After coming to the throne, Lebannen fights the Siege of Sorra against slave traders of Wathort, and subsequently abolishes slavery across the Archipelago. Slave-labour, however, appears to remain a punishment for serious crimes.
Sources: Warriors in the Mist, WoE; Hunted, WoE; The Wall around the Place, ToA; Magelight, FS (a); Winter, T; A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Dolphin, OW
Shipping (and possibly other) taxes are raised from merchants of the Inner Lands by the King of All the Isles, subject to the vote of the King's Council. The lords and Ruling Princes levy local taxes and, after the restoration of the Archipelagan monarchy, village councils on Gont also levy local taxes to employ bailiffs
Sources: Home, T; The Dragon Council, OW
Items traded in the Archipelago and Reaches include ivory and fur from the northern isles, fleecefell from Gont and the Andrades, wine from the Andrades, turbie oil from the Ninety Isles, silk from Lorbanery, gauzes from Sowl, pearls from the Isles of Sand, slaves in the South Reach, timber on Havnor and from Gont, glass beads from Venway, and tin, ox hides and sapphires from the West Reach. In the Kargad Lands, opals, turquoises and cedar are traded from Hur-at-Hur. Trade in foodstuffs other than wine, oil and grain is not mentioned, possibly due to the long travel times between islands. Great markets are found in Hort Town (Wathort) and Amrun (South Reach), and presumably also on Havnor and at Awabath. Trade routes are threatened by piracy at the edges of the Archipelago (eg the northeastern seas around Gont) during the years immediately preceding the restoration of the Archipelagan monarchy
Also known as: Guilds, Workers' guilds
Sources: The Dragon Council, OW
Travel & transport
Ships are a major method of transport in Earthsea, and the only way of travelling any distance, as bridges between islands are rare. Despite this, it is said that many islanders have never been on a boat; presumably they never travel more than a few miles from their home village. For the villagers of Woodedge on Havnor, for example, 'Mount Onn was the world, and the shores of Havnor were the edge of the universe.'a Ged is famous as an explorer and sailor, as well as a mage. Havnor City has a network of inland canals.
Sources: The Shadow, WoE; The Great Treasure, ToA; Finding Words, T; The Finder, TfE (a); Darkrose and Diamond, TfE; On the High Marsh, TfE; Dragonfly, TfE; Palaces, OW; Dolphin, OW (b)
'Farmer, goatherd, cattleherd, hunter or artisan, the landsman looks at the ocean as at a salt unsteady realm that has nothing to do with him at all. The village two days' walk from his village is a foreign land, and the island a day's sail from his island is a mere rumour, misty hills seen across the water, not solid ground like that he walks on.'
[The Shadow, WoE]
Various devastating wars are mentioned during the early history of Earthsea. Around two thousand years ago, Morred fought the Enemy of Morred, leading to the ruin of Enlad and the engulfment of Soléa. Kargish raids were common in the time of Heru and Maharion, with several north-eastern islands falling; Maharion and Erreth-Akbe defeated the Kargs with the loss of the entire Kargish fleet in 430-440. Erreth-Akbe defeated the Firelord in around 440, at cost of the burning of Ilien. Raids from dragons, including Orm, were also common during the period from around 350 to 450, with the burning of several islands including Paln and parts of Havnor. The Dark Years following Maharion's death without heir in 452 were full of minor battles between warlords. In 620, Roke was sacked by the Lords of Wathort, while in 665, the fledgeling School of Wizardry of Roke defeated the fleet of the mage Early.
Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Palaces, OW
Sources: Mending the Green Pitcher, OW
See Trade guilds
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