Nov 10

Everyone else is wearing leggings here! Why can't hawks do it? eh!?Click for full image

Tam W’s Art Direction: This is a great work of fantasy, so naturally we want it to look as retro, cliched and formulaic as possible. I’m talking men in tights! If you do decide to depict a wizard turning into a bird, don’t forget to catch him in the act. And make it man-sized, never mind what the novel says!
Published 1975

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 8.06 out of 10)

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28 Responses to “A Wizard of Earthsea”

  1. Phil Says:

    Changing him into a bird doesn’t sound so bad (ask the previous recipient of the spell who, now a crow, walks away from the scene, but HALF a bird is a bit of a problem. He’ll never get of the ground with those legs.

  2. THX 1138 Says:

    I’m imagining him taking off and yelling “BIIIIRD-MAAN!” as he flies towards the sun’s energy-giving rays.

  3. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    The problem the city gents had with marketing the book was distinguishing it from all the other “Wizard” and “Earthsea” related titles. The glut of them, if you will. They wanted to show this was a “Wizard of Earthsea”. Not the “Wizard of Earthsea”. Not any happenstance “Wizard of Earthsea”.

    Their solution was to make the “a” bigger than anything on the front–the author’s name, the Penguin logo–and also obscure it behind ornamental vinework.


  4. SI Says:

    Best episode of medieval blind date ever!

  5. A.R.Yngve Says:

    Note how big the Penguin Books penguin’s head is getting….
    Oh my God, it’s going to explode!

  6. Chris Reynolds Says:

    As keeps happening with the Earthsea book covers (and indeed the anime and TV versions), the characters have been whitewashed: the character with the curtain is Vetch, and the one looking surprised is Jasper (Ged is the one changing into the hawk). Now here is the description of Vetch and Jasper in the book: “…a heavyset fellow called Vetch … He had the accent of the East Reach, and was very dark of skin, not red-brown like Ged and Jasper and most folk of the Archipelago, but black-brown.”

  7. Tim Says:

    This cover is the reason I didn’t discover Earthsea until I was 21. One day someone will answer for this.

  8. Phil Says:

    A penguin with a large head is called a puffin.

    A children’s book from Penguin is called a Puffin.

    A rip-off Penguin biscuit from Asda is called a Puffin.


  9. Hal Says:

    Yes, I have this one! It was my sister’s first encounter with Le Guin…strangely, she didn’t seem put off by the cover, despite her artistic training.

  10. fred Says:

    I am confused. No one is carrying or holding a sword, dagger, mace, quarterstaff, jousting lance, spear, morningstar, quarterstaff, sling, bow, crossbow, catapult, battering ram, or glowy wizardy hand thingy in what I assume is a cover for a fantasy novel.

  11. Trish Says:


  12. Nix Says:

    Judging by the curtain, the artist also seems to be confused about the difference between ‘wizard’ and ‘conjurer’. (Also, sparrowhawks aren’t that size, so either a lot of shrinking is about to happen or Ged’s changing into a roc.)

  13. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    I sense I have offended the ornithological community.

    I’m sorry.

    I was distracted by the a.

  14. Jerk of all Trades Says:

    While considerably goofier-looking than his previous attempts at creating perfect beings, Doctor Frankenstein’s newest failure was, nonetheless, every bit as belligerent.

  15. Jerk of all Trades Says:

    Also I think the string lights are an excellently hokey touch.

  16. A.R.Yngve Says:

    “Behold! The unfortunate soul who hung up his Christmas string lights too late… and was cursed by Father Christmas to become — THIS!!”

  17. drlemaster Says:

    He’s half man and 90% bird, kinda like a centaur is half man and 80% horse.

  18. Smith Says:

    Oi! Are you looking at my bird?!?

  19. Alessandra Says:

    We have sparrowhawks regularly nesting in my back yard. The smallest raptor, they’re cute little blue-gray things. THAT looks more like a golden eagle!

    This looks like we’ve interrupted an Edwardian boys’ school performance of “Jupiter and Ganymede.”

  20. Jane Says:

    That isn’t a string of Christmas lights–it’s a string of tings.

  21. NGpm Says:

    Anybody a fan of the DQ commercials in the States? This is a rock and roll falcon. “It’s great to be back in Boston, yeah!”

  22. Tam Fu Wing Says:

    Actually, now that I look at it again, maybe a hawk is emerging from a rift in space in front of Ged. That could be what’s going on there.

  23. Tom Noir Says:

    Didja see the legs on that bird??

  24. anon Says:

    Which is a worse way to be a half-bird, this or the other way round?

  25. A.R.Yngve Says:

    I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.

  26. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @anon: how about left vs. right?

  27. anon Says:

    @DSWBT: Ouch!

  28. Ryan Says:

    I checked this exact printing of the book out of the school library based on the cover, and I was VERY CONFUSED when I figured out from the text, about seven-tenths of the way in, that the main characters were black. Very. Confused. Literally had to go back, start over, and re-do all the mental pictures in my head.

    This was perhaps the first time I realized that cover illustrations might not dutifully and faithfully represent the contents of the pages. Upon further consideration, I then went back and checked out a lot of other science fiction works with terrible, dreary 1960s/1970s covers and found the stories to be very good, unlike the covers.

    So when 1980s Baen came along, at least their cheerful Renaissance Fair covers made me want to read the books instead of repelling me.

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