Signum Collaboratory

Tenar the Triple Goddess of Earthsea

Susan Dillon

Academic Production Hall

"Putting on Her Best Face: Tenar the Triple Goddess of Earthsea"

Ursula K. Le  Guin once remarked “the strength of fantasy is the strength of the Self” (Do-it-Yourself-Cosmology 124). Tenar, first introduced in The Tombs of Atuan and twenty years later as the protagonist of Tehanu, is Le Guin’s strongest proof of this statement, especially when viewed through the archetype of the Triple Goddess. Although not currently accepted academic theory, Robert Graves first introduced the concept of the triple goddess in his work The White Goddess, published in 1948. He also introduced variations on the concept, including mother/bride/layer-out and maiden/nymph/hag (Sosa); the maiden/mother/crone designations are most closely related to Tenar’s journey of self-awareness and self-acceptance in the Earthsea series. The concept of the Triple Goddess, once worshiped in ancient civilizations, and whose archetype can be found in various mythologies, likens the stages of the moon and the seasons of the year to the stages of womanhood. Le Guin’s Tenar is crafted, perhaps consciously, perhaps not, as the Triple Goddess of Earthsea. 
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