When I heard a few years ago that Studio Ghibli was making an Earthsea movie, it prompted me to finally get around to reading A Wizard of Earthsea. I had tried it once as a child, when a librarian recommended it to me, but I really couldn’t get into it at that age. Years later I read some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s short stories, and then some of her novels for adults, and became a fan.
What I like about her work as an adult is probably what made her work difficult for me as a child: she writes like an anthropologist. She comes by this honestly; her father was the anthropologist famous for finding a language familiar to a man named Ishi, the subject of the book Ishi: Last of His Tribe. Le Guin is very good at creating believable imaginary cultures, but as a kid I found some of the ideas just too alien to follow.
This is not the first time an Earthsea story has been made into a movie. So far, the new Ghibli movie (which is not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, but by his son) is not getting a better reception than the live-action, made-for-TV one. The most positive comments I’ve come across are along the lines of “A bad Studio Ghibli movie still beats other movies,” “Hey, at least it has dragons,” and “Well, I liked it.”
Tales is based mostly on the third Earthsea book, The Farthest Shore, (despite having the same title as a short story collection, Tales from Earthsea). The movie is due to be released on August 13 in theaters in the United States, which gives you just enough time to read the books first!