Origins of the Shadow in A Wizard of Earthsea
Ged, the main character in The Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin, through an act of pride and spite unwittingly unleashes a powerful shadow creature on the world, and the shadow hunts Ged wherever he goes. After failing to kill Ged the first time, he learns the only way to destroy the shadow is to find its name. What Ged must realize is the shadow was created by the evil in his own heart. Also, the shadow is not entirely evil, and Ged can actually draw strength from it. In doing so, Ged will realize that the only way to discover the shadow’s name is to discover that he and the shadow are one. Carl G. Jung in Man and His Symbols, describes the shadow as containing the hidden, repressed, and unfavorable “tendencies” of the conscious personality. “Such tendencies form an ever-present and potentially destructive ‘shadow’ to our conscious mind.”
This shadow takes form in mythology as a dark, shadowy, and imposing figure or as “the cosmic powers of evil, personified by dragons and other monsters.” (Henderson 111) This shadow is shown to Ged in different forms: “...Like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous...it was like a black beast, the size of a young child, though it seemed to swell and shrink; and it had no head or face, only the four taloned paws with which it gripped and tore.” (LeGuin 61) As it appeared when the shadow was first created. Later as the shadow pursued him, it held the same form. “The shadow did not have the shape of man or beast. It was shapeless, scarcely to be seen, but it whispered at him, though there were no words in its whispering, and it reached out towards him.” (LeGuin 81). Once Ged stops running, the shadow takes on a more identifiable form “...now some likeness to a man, though being shadow it cast no shadow.”
The last form the shadow takes are the images people that Ged has come across in his life, “An old man it seemed, gray and grim, coming towards Ged; but even as Ged saw his father the smith in that figure, he saw that it was not an old man, but a young one. It was Jasper: Jasper’s insolent handsome young face, and silver-clasped gray cloak, and stiff stride. Hateful was the look he fixed on Ged across the dark intervening air...and it became Pechvarry. But Pechvarry’s face was all bloated and pallid like the face of a drowned man, and he reached out strangely as if beckoning...Then the thing that faced him changed utterly, spreading out to either side as if it opened enormous thin wings, and it writhed, and swelled, and shrank again. Ged saw in it for an instant Skiorh’s white face, and then a pair of clouded, staring eyes, and then suddenly a fearful face he did not know, man or monster, with writhing lips and eyes that were like pits going back into emptiness.” (LeGuin 178-179) These are the images that the shadow has taken throughout Ged’s life, and the causes of Ged’s pride and hatred, which released the shadow in the first...