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100 sci fi women #14: Tenar

First, let me give my apologies for failing to update this week, but work and children have kind of absorbed all my time. For that reason I am always happy to receive your contributions to the 100 Sci Fi women list at

Tenar The Tombs of Atuan, Tehanu and The Other Wind Ursula K Le Guin

Tenar grows from a young girl who has been dedicated to the service of the gods, to a mature woman, who cares for others and comes to understand the nature of women’s oppression. When she first meets Ged, she is very young and he helps her to learn that her service to the Nameless Ones is ultimately an unrewarding one for her. She is brave enough and strong enough to accept this, and to help Ged escape and, in so doing, gains her own freedom.  She then chooses to live an ordinary kind of life, the wife of a farmer, the mother of children. While still and outsider due to her different colour skin, she finds a place for herself until the death of her husband. While she is sure of her own abilities, she is faced with judgement by her own son. Her compassion leads her to take in Therru, a child who has been abused and burnt. It also leads her to care for Ged when he returns with his powers diminished. She is a woman who finds her own place in the world, despite the struggles imposed by her gender and her age, when both young and old.  her strength is her intelligence and her compassion, and yet she is willing to fight physically to protect herself and those for whom she cares. As Susan Bernardo and Graham Murphy note “Tenar especially confronts the victimization of women and girls, the terrible power of traditional views of the proper spheres of men and women, and the realization she must actively resist those two evils.”

“Oh yes. We’re precious. So long as we’re powerless….I remember when I first learned that! Kossil threatened me–me, the One Priestess of the Tombs. And I realized that I was helpless. I had the honor; but she had the power, from the God-king, the man. Oh, it made me angry! And frightened me….lark and I talked about this once. She said, ‘Why are men afraid of women?”

“If your strength is only the other’s weakness, you live in fear, ” Ged said.

“Yes, but women seem to fear their own strength, to be afraid of themselves.”


2 responses to “100 sci fi women #14: Tenar

  1. Pingback: Ursula Le Guin | Nerves Strengthened with Tea

  2. Pingback: Ursula K Le Guin « Flaming Culture

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