- Virginia Johnson
No one really liked Duny in A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. The boy was wild, proud, and full of temper-- well-suited to the company of the goats he herded. Then came the day when he overheard his aunt chanting a spell to call her goat down from the roof of her house. He remembered the rhyme and later spoke it to his own herd:
"Noth hierth malk man hiolk han merth han!"
The first time he said it, they came to him all together, staring with their yellow eyes. Duny laughed and shouted the rhyme again. They pushed towards him with their thick, ridged horns. Duny ran all the way to town with the goats close beside. The villagers laughed at him and cursed the animals.
One woman did not laugh. She said a word to the goats, and they dispersed, returning to their grazing and bleating. This spell-speaker was Duny's aunt. She had done the necessary things for him when he was small and motherless, but for some years she had thought nothing more about him.
"Come with me," she said to Duny.
She magically bound the boy to silence and would have bound him to her service if she could. But Duny was too strong. Every day that he studied with his witch aunt, he became stronger. He began to learn the true names of things, for every creature, including himself, had one, and, by knowing their names, a magician might hold them in his power.
The island of Gont where Duny lived was nothing more than a mountain in a storm-tossed sea. The larger events of Earthsea often passed them by completely. Yet a raiding party from the Kargad Empire could not resist making Gont their next conquest. As the smoke climbed to darken the sky above the village, the people sharpened their spears and waited, little knowing their fate would lie in the hands of the witch's apprentice.
A Wizard of Earthsea is the first book of the Earthsea trilogy which traces the remarkable adventures of the great wizard Sparrowhawk, who was once known as Duny. The library has print, audio, and downloadable versions available.