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Watch: Learn About Ursula K. Le Guin’s Important Predecessor to Harry Potter


Watch to learn why Neil Gaiman thinks Harry Potter wouldn’t have existed without Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, a fantasy novel she published in 1968 featuring a wizard school.

American Masters presents the first documentary film exploring the remarkable life and legacy of the prolific and versatile author: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, premiering nationwide Friday, August 2 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app.


(waves rushing) - I had written a couple of short stories that took place on these islands where there were wizards and dragons.

In 1968 when the publisher, Parnassus Books, came to me and said, 'Would you write a young adult novel?'

(gentle music) These islands grew and, boom, this is a whole archipelago of islands, and now I draw the map, and I would name the rivers, and the mountains, and the cities, but I didn't know anything about them 'til I went there with my characters.

(waves rushing) As a boy, our hero was called Sparrowhawk, 'cause the wild hawks would come when he called them, but his true secret name is Ged.

Ged sails to Roke Island, the Isle of the Wise, hidden the heart of the archipelago.

From all over Earthsea, young men come to Roke to learn the art of magic, the craft of wizardry.

This was not, at that time, a well-known concept, the idea of a wizard school.

- I don't think 'Harry Potter' could have existed without 'Earthsea' having existed.

That was the original, the finest, and the best.

- 'In winter, he was sent across Roke Island 'to the farthest, northmost cape, 'where stands the Isolate Tower.

'There by himself lived the Master Namer.

'Kurremkarmerruk sat on a high seat, 'writing down lists of names that must be learned 'before the ink faded at midnight, 'leaving the parchment blank again.

(waves rushing) 'He might say, 'He who would be Seamaster ''must know the true name ''of every drop of water in the sea'' (gentle music) (waves lapping) (birds calling) Magic exists in most societies in one way or another.

And one of the forms it exists in a lot of places is if you know a thing's true name, you have power over the thing or the person.

And of course it's irresistible because I'm a writer.

I use words.

And knowing the names of things is, I do magic.

I do make up things that didn't exist before by naming them.

I call it Earthsea and there it is, it exists.

(gentle music)


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