I first came to Earthsea through Atuan and its tombs and Tenar. Actually, years before I read that book I pored over paintings inspired by Atuan which were in an art book of fantasy worlds given to me by my brother. Excerpts and images from Tenar's story drew me long and slow into the whole of it; I finally borrowed it at a library, and went on from there to buy the whole series. (I almost never get to buy books, but some you simply have to.)
So for me, strangely, the stories of Earthsea were about Tenar. Even the stories that did not include her, about young Ged, and then Ged and Arren travelling to the farthest shore, taught me mostly about the men Tenar loved, and why she loved them. I don't know why I took these stories in such a womanly way. Perhaps it's because I related strongly to Tenar, to the homespun life she chose, to her sensible strong ways that were, in my mind, real magic - the magic of healing silences in people, between people.
Because Tenar was the heart of the stories for me, I saw with her an arc of how Earthsea and its magic evolved towards at least the first glimmerings of feminism. And I saw how this did not happen through great events or political force, but in intimate moments, personal relationships, the transformative powers of love.
Through her books, Ursula gifted me with the certainty that a woman's simple life is important, beautiful, magical, heroic. That it is worth writing about.
I'd been rereading The Other Wind only last week. When I heard yesterday that Ursula had died, it seemed to me part of the story. She had gone walking in the forest. I feel heartbroken that we have lost yet another light just when we need it. And I weep for the terrible times we find ourselves in, that the passing of elders is more than a sorrow, it is a fearful thing which leaves us feeling even more bereft than public grief normally does.