earthsea tv series

Standing alongside J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series as one of the fundamental pieces of high fantasy storytelling is Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea series, a collection of novels set in a fantasy archipelago of hundreds of islands where magic lays in a delicate balance. Or, at least it should be. Forgotten in classrooms and ignored by major Hollywood studios, we have yet to receive an adaptation that does justice by Le Guin’s sweeping, majestic series, which spans five novels and nine short stories. But maybe we will soon.

A24 is developing an Earthsea TV series based on Le Guin’s novels with Nightcrawler producer Jennifer Fox, who originally optioned the rights to the series last year and received the blessing of Le Guin before her death in 2018.

Deadline broke the news that A24 and Oscar-nominated producer Jennifer Fox (Nightcrawler, Michael Clayton) are teaming up to develop the acclaimed Earthsea books for TV. Fox is producing the series, which will be shopped to networks “soon,” according to the outlet.

“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,” said Fox in a statement. “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, gave his support, adding, “Ursula long hoped to see an adaptation of Earthsea that represented a collaboration between her ideas and words and the visual storytelling of others. 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.”

Fox optioned the book series last year and originally gained the blessing of Le Guin to turn Earthsea into a series of films, before Le Guin’s death in January 2018. But that adaptation has been re-envisioned as a TV series — not the first time the Earthsea series has been adapted to the medium. A supremely awful Earthsea miniseries aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2014, much to the author’s chagrin. A beautiful but ultimately hollow 2006 Studio Ghibli anime film, Tales from Earthsea, also proved a disappointment for fans of the series and for the author herself, who had granted the rights to Ghibli due to her love for Hayao Miyazaki’s films (his son Goro would end up directing instead). Both adaptations took a loose approach to Le Guin’s material, opting for more cliched fantasy stories over her more high-concept themes.

While A24 seems an unusual studio to take on such an ambitious high fantasy series, with their speciality in prestige indie dramas and horror, you can’t deny the intriguing combination of talent. Fox is the producer behind the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton, and has produced other films like Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq, The Bourne Legacy, and the upcoming Scott Z. Burns movie The Report. Fantasy isn’t quite her repertoire either, but character dramas and thrillers are — which may be a refreshing approach to take with Earthsea.

I only hope that this adaptation will not only be able to carry over Le Guin’s more abstract themes of magic as a means to understanding human nature, but stay true to the diversity that she paints in her novels — the Earthsea series significantly focuses on characters of color as Le Guin has criticized “the general assumption in fantasy” that characters should be white.

No director or writer has yet been announced for the Earthsea TV series.

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