Tuesday, 1 April 2014

An Opening Invocation

The great wizard Sparrowhawk, in his youth, apprenticed with the most famous mage of all Gont, a land which was itself famous for wizards. The apprenticeship that would start him on the long road to mastery of the Art Magic began not with the study of spells or ancient books of lore, but with a walk in the woods.

From the tiny village that had been the boy Sparrowhawk's whole world, up through the steep forests that mantle the mighty shoulders of Gont Mountain, master and student walked day after day, lodging in the huts of strangers where they passed through villages, sleeping outdoors where there were none. The master walked in silence and the apprentice followed in silence, watching hungrily for his first lesson in magic.

But no magic came. They walked, that was all, the mage keeping his easy silence and the boy growing day by day more disappointed. His master worked no wonders and spoke only when it was needful to speak, even then saying nothing particularly wise. When they stopped for the night he didn't even cast a simple spell to keep the rain off- instead he lay down under a fir tree and fell asleep, smiling at the downpour.

Finally Sparrowhawk could hold in his frustration no longer. One day he burst out: "Why haven't I learned anything yet?"

The master halted and regarded him mildly. "Because you haven't found out what I am teaching," he said. Then he pointed to a small plant growing beside the path and asked its name.

The boy did not know. "What is its use, master?"

"None I know of," replied the mage. "But when you know it in all its seasons root and leaf and flower, by sight and scent and seed, then you may learn its true name, knowing its being: which is more than its use. What, after all, is the use of you? or of myself? Is Gont Mountain useful, or the Open Sea?" After another half mile or so he added, "To hear, one must be silent."

This story comes to us from Ursula K. Le Guin's famous novel A Wizard of Earthsea, from which this blog gratefully takes its name. The story of the young Sparrowhawk and his master is the seed from which the whole tale takes root and grows, and there are good reasons it's considered a classic. If you haven't already, I highly recommend seeking out a copy next time you're in the mood for fine fantastical yarn-spinning at its best. It concerns the deeds of Sparrowhawk the Wizard, the ambition that leads him to great recklessness in his youth, and the long and arduous unlearning he must go through in order to understand himself and his place in the world.

What I like most about the story of the boy and his master is what it says about what a wizard is. There's something about the master falling asleep in the rain with a smile on his face that just tickles me. A wizard is someone who listens more than they speak, a person of power who refrains, most of the time, from using power; most of all a wizard is someone who gets wet.

As for "A Wizard of Earth"? For a long time I've been wanting a place to record and share my thoughts, observations, and attempts at explaining what I see happening around me. For my friends and relatives who have seen me striding along with brow furrowed in concentration, or gazing out a window with a distant look on my face, these writings will be a window onto my inner conversation with myself, a conversation you are more than welcome to join by adding your comments and thoughts below. For those who have come across this blog by chance, welcome as well, and by all means make yourself at home.

Nature is my theme; both the magic of nature and the nature of magic. To be a wizard, I think, would be very grand, but to call the Earth my home and myself a simple apprentice is enough for me. Earth is my origin and my destiny, the only place in the universe I truly belong. To spend a lifetime, or thereabouts, as a student of nature- listening, learning, getting wet- seems to me a delightful prospect, and to pass on that delight by whatever means I can would enrich the experience considerably. And so I begin, under a new moon, on a day sacred to fools and all that is solemnly playful, and we'll see what comes of it.


  1. Nice one Dylan! I am warmed and in suspense for the next post already. Magic is afoot:-)

  2. This is excellent, Dylan! Great writing and great storytelling! Looking forward to more! (I'm going to get Brandon to read them, too!). -- Mark

  3. Sara, Mark, many thanks- more is indeed on the way.

    And Brandon, welcome :)