Fans of fantasy literature, rejoice. A24 Studios and Oscar-nominated producer Jennifer Fox are in the early stages of development of a new Earthsea television series. Ursula K. Le Guin’s epic tale of Earthsea, an archipelago of hundreds of islands with a colorful collection of inhabitants, spans six books written between 1968 and 2001. Le Guin’s fantasy series has been compared to the works of Tolkien based of the artful fantasy world-building they share.

Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, written in 1968
Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, written in 1968

Earthsea has prior film treatments

SyFy Channel had a run with Earthsea back in 2004, producing a mini-series co-written by LeGuin herself. That series focuses on the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea, written in 1968. It tells the story of a young wizard named Ged and a young priestess named Tenar, played by Shawn Ashmore and Kristen Kreuk respectively. With the help of the magus, Ogion, played by Danny Glover, they take on a wicked king who controls The Nameless Ones, in search of immortality.

SyFy's Earthsea, 2004
SyFy Channel’s Earthsea, 2004

Studio Ghibli gave Earthsea an anime treatment in 2006 based on the short stories of another book in the series, Tales from Earthsea. In this adaptation, some of the same characters are brought in but appears to happen at a different time in the lore. The stories are similar in nature, pitting a couple of young heroes against an evil force using magic to gain immortality.

Studio Ghibli's Earthsea, 2006
Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea, 2006

The story basics aren’t new to the fantasy genre by any stretch, but the storytelling is rich and different enough that it casts a new light on the age old good-vs.-evil story line.

Are the books worth the read?

The short and long answer is yes. Fantasy fans are hardcore about certain authors in the genre. Fantasy authors are hardcore about others writing in the genre. Neil Gaiman, who is well-known in many genres, has this to say about Le Guin’s world of Earthsea:

“I read everything I could by her (Le Guin)… Her essays on writing changed me as a young writer, made me see the craft more seriously and made me try always to remember the joy in it… The trilogy made me look at the world in a new way, imbued everything with a magic that was so much deeper than the magic I’d encountered before then. This was a magic of words, a magic of true speaking.

Neil Gaiman
Authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman

Gaiman also talks about a letter he once wrote to Le Guin that said this:

“You have no idea how nervous I am at the idea of writing to you. You’ve been one of my heroes since I bought A Wizard of Earthsea with my pocket money at the age of 11. Your SF shaped my head as a teenager, and told me that anything was possible and that events occur in context. Your essays on writing shaped me as a writer.”

Neil Gaiman in a fan letter to Ursula Le Guin

The six books of Earthsea were written between 1968 and 2001, finishing the series with The Other Wind. To read them in order, they are: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind. Tales from Earthsea is a small departure, covering a collection of short stories while the others are full novels.

A24’s Earthsea will be different

Illustrated complete works of Earthsea, by Le Guin and Illustrator Charles Vess

There hasn’t been any news on which of the books or stories from the series will make up this new show, but the producer is taking it to heart. Jennifer Fox was not bashful about her praise for the stories or how she plans to handle them:

“Ursula Le Guin is a literary legend with a huge fan base and her work has been translated into practically every written language on the globe. She is second only to Tolkien in influence in this genre, and before she died last year, she agreed to put her most beloved work in my hands. This project is, therefore, a sacred trust and priority for me as well as an opportunity to create an iconic piece of American culture.”

Producer Jennifer Fox

Cheers, Jennifer. We’re looking forward to it!

Have you read the books or seen either adaptation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We’ll keep you updated on how production is going when we learn more. Stay tuned to That Hashtag Show for this, and all things in Geek Pop Culture!

Source: Library of America; Nerdist