If you haven’t noticed, TV studios are pretty keen these days to adapt fantasy series. Netflix has The Witcher. Showtime has The Kingkiller Chronicle and Gormenghast. Amazon is bringing The Wheel of Time to the small screen, as well as a show based on The Lord of the Rings, HBO is debuting His Dark Materials, and on and on. Fantasy authors new and old are having their stories optioned for TV all over the place. Look what you hath wrought, Game of Thrones! LOOK AT IT!
In this context, it’s no surprise that someone is looking to adapt Ursula K. Le Guin Earthsea Cycle for TV. Consisting of six books written between 1968 and 2007 (one of which is a short story collection) and four short stories, the Earthsea series takes place on an archipelago of hundreds of islands surrounded by an uncharted sea. Without getting too far into the weeds, the story concerns the delicate balance of the islands being disrupted by those who would use magic to impose their will on the land and the people.
Le Guin died in 2018, but before she passed, she gave her blessing to Oscar-nominated producer Jennifer Fox (Nightcrawler, Michael Clayton) to adapt her books as a series of movies. The entertainment industry being where it is, the project has been reimagined as a television series. Deadline reports that Fox has teamed up with studio A24 and is getting ready to shop the project around to networks. HBO, are you listening?
Earthsea is as epic as any tale in the genre, but distinguishes itself in a couple of ways. For one, it’s a little more introspective than, say, The Lord of the Rings, and concerned with understanding human nature. Also, most of its characters are people of color, which is fairly unusual in for epic fantasy, at least historically.
Predictably, Fox herself is jazzed about the project. “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 said. “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.”
Le Guin’s son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, is also on board. “Ursula long hoped to see an adaptation of Earthsea that represented a collaboration between her ideas and words and the visual storytelling of others,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that, with Jennifer Fox and A24, we have a bedrock of producing and development experience that can bring the sweeping narrative and moral truths of my mother’s work to screen.”
Seeing as Earthsea has been around for so long, there have been a few adaptations, although none that set the world on fire. The Sci Fi Channel (now SyFy) aired a three-hour movie called Legend of Earthsea back in the mid-2000s. It was loosely based on A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, the first and second books in the series:
Then there was Tales from Earthsea in 2006. This one was made by Studio Ghibli, the people behind animated classics like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away:
I’m more than ready for a big, splashy Earthsea adaptation. This one could be exciting.