My aunt gave me a set of the original trilogy about 35 years ago for xmas, I think the year after she gave me my first copy of THE HOBBIT, and to this day Earthsea and Middle Earth are still the 2 high water marks against which all other fantasy is judged and found to be wanting. Except for Harry Potter, maybe.
Tolkien obviously nailed the whole epic adventure, but I think Le Guin succeeded by keeping her stories more grounded in the human. Tolkien painted with broad strokes, Le Guin is a master of nuance and fine detail.
I’ve read a lot of her other work, both adult and young adult stuff. but nothing has ever resonated with me as deeply as the Earthsea work. TEHANU was disappointing when I first read it, but I was a dumbass. It’s an Earthsea novel, sure, but the magic of the first 3 books is largely missing, replaced by the everyday. After about four reads, I finally started to see the power of it all.
The internet was a big help with Le Guin, as I wasn’t really aware of how deeply she wove the Taoist and Anarchist ideas into her stories until I started reading interviews with and biographical sketches about her. Tolkien was always so (over)discussed, that I knew without a doubt where he was coming from, but Le Guin’s impetus was always shrouded in mystery. Luckily, I had my head fully out of my ass when I read TALES FROM EARTHSEA and THE OTHER WIND and was able to get a handle on them pretty quickly.
Tolkien obviously created a more fully and minutely realized universe and history, but Le Guin was better, I think, at creating a more complex “now”. Composing her world of hundreds of islands instead of one large land mass was an excellent idea that allowed for an incredible amount of diversity. Thirty five years later, I’m on my second copies of the first four books, and they still continue to amaze.
It totally sucks, however, that the Sci-Fi channel fucked up that movie so bad. Where the hell is Peter Jackson when you need him?