The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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A Gethenian religion interested in the interaction between light and darkness. Although the Handdara have mastered the art of seeing the future through the Foretellers, Handdarata believe no question is worth asking, as everyone already knows the answer to the final question—death. Handdarata believe the only way to keep on living is to live in ignorance, as though they do not know what is coming next.

Handdara Quotes in The Left Hand of Darkness

The The Left Hand of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by Handdara or refer to Handdara. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ace Books edition of The Left Hand of Darkness published in 1987.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“But we in the Handdara don’t want answers. It’s hard to avoid them, but we try to.”
“Faxe, I don’t think I understand.”
“Well, we come here to the Fastness mostly to learn what questions not to ask.”
“But you’re the Answerers!”
“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”
“No—”

“To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Faxe (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. No Handdara, no Yomes, no hearthgods, nothing. But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion…. Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable—the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?”

Related Characters: Faxe (speaker), Genly Ai
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The luck that had turned in Ethwen now turned the world with it under my hand. I never had a gift but one, to know when the great wheel gives to a touch, to know and act. I had thought that foresight lost, last year in Erhenrang, and never to be regained. A great delight it was to feel that certainty again, to know that I could steer my fortune and the world’s chance like a bobsled down the steep, dangerous hour.

Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

…Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and river and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession…Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.

Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Light is the left hand of darkness

and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying

together like lovers in kemmer,

like hands joined together,

like the end and the way.

Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

“Fear’s very useful. Like darkness; like shadows.” Estraven’s smile was an ugly split in a peeling, cracked brown mask, thatched with black fur and set with two flecks of black rock. “It’s queer that daylight’s not enough. We need the shadows, in order to walk.”
“Give me your notebook a moment.”
He had just noted down our day’s journey and done some calculation of mileage and rations. He pushed the little tablet and carbon-pencil around the Chabe stove to me. On the blank leaf glued to the inner back cover I drew the double curve within the circle, and blacked the yin half of the symbol, then pushed it back to my companion. “Do you know that sign?”
He looked at it a long time with a strange look, but he said, “No.”
“It’s found on Earth, and on Hain-Davenant, and on Chiffewar. It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness…how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow.”

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Left Hand of Darkness PDF

Handdara Term Timeline in The Left Hand of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the term Handdara appears in The Left Hand of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
Ai hopes to find a Fastness, and to discover more of the Handdara religion, which was not deeply examined by the Investigators. Ai has heard of the Foretellers... (full context)
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...like to speak to, Ai admits he’s “exceedingly ignorant,” which he has forgotten in the Handdara religion comes across as bragging. (full context)
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
Goss takes Ai to a clearing where two men are practicing Presence, a kind of Handdara meditation. Ai notes that Handdara are “given to negatives,” and so refer to this as... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ai enjoys his time in Otherhord. The town and the Handdara help Ai understand Karhide better, especially the “silent…fecund darkness” in its politics and culture. His... (full context)
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
Ai wonders why even though Handdara can predict the future there is still conflict on Gethen. Faxe explains it can be... (full context)
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
The Handdara don’t want answers, even though they are the Answerers. Their task is to “exhibit the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...of Time always. The text also notes that those who “call upon the darkness,” the Handdara, “are made fools.” (full context)
Chapter 14
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...is slightly suspicious. Estraven explains he used his dothe-strength, revealing that he is of the Handdara, a fact Ai had not known. Ai doesn’t understand why Estraven has helped him, which... (full context)
Chapter 15
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...and “luck.” Ai suspects this is related to the talent of the Foretellers of the Handdara. He also thinks it is related to the Yomeshta belief in seeing “everything at once:... (full context)
Chapter 16
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...remarks that the Yomeshta would argue “man’s singularity is his divinity.” Ai wonders what the Handdara would say, and although they do not have a “dogma,” Estraven repeats a related song,... (full context)