"Miss Le Guin was not involved in the development of the material or the making of the film, but we've been very, very honest to the books," explains director Rob Lieberman. "We've tried to capture all the levels of spiritualism, emotional content and metaphorical messages. Throughout the whole piece, I saw it as having a great duality of spirituality versus paganism and wizardry, male and female duality. The final moments of the film culminate in the union of all that and represent two different belief systems in this world, and that's what Ursula intended to make a statement about. The only thing that saves this Earthsea universe is the union of those two beliefs."
I've tried very hard to keep from saying anything at all about this production, being well aware that movies must differ in many ways from the books they're based on, and feeling that I really had no business talking about it, since I was not included in planning it and was given no part in discussions or decisions.
That makes it particularly galling of the director to put words in my mouth.
Mr Lieberman has every right to say what his intentions were in making the film he directed, called "Earthsea." He has no right at all to state what I intended in writing the Earthsea books.
Had "Miss Le Guin" been honestly asked to be involved in the planning of the film, she might have discussed with the film-makers what the books are about.
When I tried to suggest the unwisdom of making radical changes to characters, events, and relationships which have been familiar to hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world for over thirty years, I was sent a copy of the script and informed that production was already under way.
So, for the record: there is no statement in the books, nor did I ever intend to make a statement, about "the union of two belief systems." There's nothing at all about the "duality of spirituality and paganism," whatever that means, either.
Earlier in the article, Robert Halmi is quoted as saying that Earthsea "has people who believe and people who do not believe." I can only admire Mr Halmi's imagination, but I wish he'd left mine alone.
In the books, the wizardry of the Archipelago and the ritualism of the Kargs are opposed and united, like the yang and yin. The rejoining of the broken arm-ring is a symbol of the restoration of an unresting, active balance, offering a risky chance of peace.
This has absolutely nothing to do with "people who believe and people who do not believe." That terrible division into Believers and Unbelievers (itself a matter not of reason but of belief) is one which bedevils Christianity and Islam and drives their wars.
But the wizards of Earthsea would look on such wars as madness, and the dragons of Earthsea would laugh at them and fly away...
Toto, something tells me Earthsea isn't Iraq.
I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien "intended..." would people think they'd been "very, very honest to the books"?