Story of Estraven the Traitor
Fable in Chapter 2 – About love – full brothers who break the incest taboo against vowing kemmer for life. In this tale pays the price with his brother’s suicide, his exile, and he loss of his left hand. Foreshadows the coming part of the story wherein Estraven is exiled out of his kingdom and onto the ice field, and yet lives to accomplish his mission.
Fable in Chapter 4 – Again about love, but one has a selfish desire to know something he has no business knowing. The other shows to what extent he is willing to sacrifice for the other the information he requires. Still, due to misunderstanding, the first one kills the other one his love, suffers madness because of it. Perhaps foreshadows the concept of knowing the “uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question” (70).
Fable in chapter 9 – Story of Estraven the Traitor. Again about love, and a forbidden love. Perhaps again foreshadows the friendship/love that develops between Estraven and Ai after the escape from prison and the journey across the ice plain.
Fable in chapter 12 – The Time and Darkness Myth attempts to describe the concept of time as understood by the Gethens, and how Meshe saw everything, “not what was, nor what will be, but what is” (164). Darkness is described as something “only in the mortal eye” (164). It is interesting that this myth follows long after Ai attempts to explain “the idea of timejumping” (37) to King Argaven.
Fable in chapter 13 – A creation myth “recorded in many forms” (237) for the Gethen, which begins with Ice, as their planet is overrun with ice and winter. This story embodies self-love which creates fear and rivalry, which leads to death. Yet at the end there is love, or at least coupling that produces offspring to people the world. In Gethen there is rivalry and suspicion that works to put self-interest in each domain above the interest of the planet as a whole.
I believe that all these stories are essential and agree with Ai that it all is one story. They illustrate the ways that different types of love can be experienced: whether in understanding and consummation; misunderstanding and betrayal; over-riding love of hearth, country, and mankind; and the sacrifice that love may demand. The creation myth illustrates that all men came from the same source, asks should we fear, murder and betray one another if that is so, and highlights the origin of such ‘darkness’. The time myth I believe underscores the concept that all things are understood in time, and the importance of patience: “time is the one thing that the Ekumen has plenty of” (27).
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace, 1969.
Asnwer these questions:
What do we learn about Estraven in Chapters 2 and 9?
What other information about the foretelling does Chapter 4 foreshadow?
What do we learn about the Gethenian concept of time in 12?