Book Review: Tehanu

I’ve hated the entirety of this series so far, but apparently I’m a glutton for punishment (or am stuck due to a sunk cost fallacy).

The Book

Tehanu read 2021

Tehanu
Author: Ursula LeGuin
1990
Amazon Link

Whatever, if you want to see me whine about the earlier books in the series, you can see A Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore here if you want. But you shouldn’t, because literally no one agrees with me that these books aren’t good.

Non-Spoiler Review

Short version: I hated it.

Long version: This book did have the advantage over the others that it wasn’t so plot-ambitious that it glanced over too much information. Zooming in on Goha/Tenar/Arha’s (yes, the one from Tombs of Atuan) feelings was a good way to go. This book didn’t feel as nonsense-mythological or like a story out of the Bible. The narrator focus was also the main character, a change from earlier.

But, like in Tombs of Atuan, nothing that main character did really mattered. The entire book is about how Goha keeps running around trying to not get raped or beaten, trying to keep this 6-year-old child from being raped, beaten, and burned AGAIN, how all of the female characters are raped and beaten for being female, and how male characters like King Arren and Ged/Sparrowhawk are the only ones who effect change.

I was so enraged by the repeated rape threats and constant fear that these characters experienced that I made the mistake of reading the afterword. This thing was considered feminist – how? It’s about ladies being useless and getting raped. There isn’t hope, not really, not when all the problems are solved either by men or non-human women who can turn into dragons. Women who are given the opportunity for different (a.k.a. male) power always turn it down. The characters ask themselves, pretty directly, what women’s power is: the answer is basically “We don’t know, but we assume it’s something.” There’s nothing shown, nothing had, nothing proven that women have other than suffering and death. The only reason I’d call this feminist is it mentions menstruation, which I usually only see in feminist literature.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I said above, the main character never really does anything, but things are done to her. In the very beginning, the wizard Ogion dies, and she’s able to stay in his house because people haven’t quite decided who’s going to inherit it (though Ged is supposedly that person). Goha is considered a good placeholder, even when she takes in a 6 year old that has been beaten, raped, and thrown in a fire. Everyone thinks the child is a monster, and three people (the relatives who originally raped the little girl) constantly chase Goha and want to kill and rape the two to death as punishment. Goha never saves herself, just runs around while men like King Arren save her.

Even Ged, whose magical powers had been taken in The Farthest Shore, was able to fight off the rapists when Goha just locked herself in a closet. Goha did think about how vulnerable Therru was after locking herself in the closet, but luckily Ged was around to stab them with a pitchfork. Justice was only sought because Ged made it happen, because male constructs got things accomplished.

Worst of all: a mage in Re Albi’s castle put Goha under a mind control spell. She ran from Re Albi while the spell was weak, since rapists were coming after her and Therru, but she was lured back. Upon coming back, she became senseless and unable to understand language while the mage tied her up like a dog and kicked her “in the breasts.” It was nonsense suffering.

One could argue that Goha did have an effect by keeping care of Therru. This made Therru like her, or perhaps Goha helped the burned child live long enough to show that she was really a dragon. It was completely, 100% bullshit. I saw it coming from a million miles away, and despite being a dragon, Therru was still mostly helpless throughout the book because she is female.

In the end, Ged is all that really matters as he moves into Ogion’s house.

Next week:

I’m starting a new set of books. You can read my reviews of Tales of Earthsea and The Other Wind on Goodreads, because apparently I can’t put things down once I start them.

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