The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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The Left Hand of Darkness: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
This chapter takes the form of an ancient Orgota Creation Myth. This myth begins with the beginning of the world, when there is only sun and ice. The sun melts a valley in the ice, and from this valley three shapes come to life. One of them says, “I bleed,” another “I weep,” the third, “I sweat.” The three shapes climb out of the valley and create the world, sculpting mountains and hills, rivers, plants and animals. 
This chapter, told as an Orgota myth, provides the reader with insight into the culture of Orgoreyn. It at once illuminates the foundation of the nation’s culture and the basis of their spiritual life, if not necessarily the basis of one of the two major religions (Yomeshta or Handdara).
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In addition, the ice-shapes create thirty-nine sleeping men. The ice shapes allow themselves to melt into milk, which flows into the men’s mouths and wakes them. The first man to wake up is named Edondurath. He is afraid of the other men waking around him and kills all but two. Of these remaining brothers, one is nameless and the other is named Haharath. Haharath escapes but Edondurath tracks him down and kills him.
This myth acts as a kind of warning — Edondurath’s fear of other people leads to the murder of his siblings. On Gethen, where life is hard, and therefore especially precious, this likely reads as a particularly heinous crime, and so Edondurath’s fear is especially dangerous.
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Edondurath returns to his home on the ice and builds a house out of his brothers’ frozen corpses. The corpses speak, and continually ask, “Does he burn?” and then answer themselves, “No.” Eventually, Edondurath enters kemmer, and the corpses shout “He burns! He burns!” Edondurath’s final living brother comes to join him in kemmer, and Edondurath becomes pregnant with the race of man.
Along with accounting for the birth of mankind, this myth covers the first kemmering as well. Here, kemmering brings together a murderous brother with the man he would have killed, and from their unlikely union comes the human race. As is often the case in Gethenian mythology, a kemmering pair is able to overcome a greater animosity and bring love and peace into the world.
Themes
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All of Edondurath’s children have a piece of darkness within them “because they were born in the house of flesh” and “therefore death follows at their heels.” According to this story, in the beginning there is only sun and ice, but in the end there will be only ice and darkness.
Although not tied to a specific religion, the concept of a “piece of darkness” lodged within the soul of mankind echoes Handdara principles. The Handdara believe every person contains both darkness and light within them, and both are necessary for life to endure.
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Get the entire The Left Hand of Darkness LitChart as a printable PDF.
The left hand of darkness.pdf.medium