Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88. You may know her because of the Ghibli film Tales from Earthsea, or just because there’s a lot of overlap between people who love the wonderous visual worlds of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and those who love the writings of Le Guin.
She was a science fiction writer and so much more—one of the great literary geniuses of our time, a writer who dazzled in many genres, and a visionary whose imagination of the future was decades ahead of everybody else’s.
What you might not know is that she was a huge inspiration to Hayao Miyazaki, including his masterwork Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga—both its grand themes of ecology and society, and fantastical details like the wind machines in Nausicaä’s home valley.
Miyazaki actually asked to create an Earthsea animation in the 1980s, but knowing nothing about him she turned him down; eventually his son Goro got to direct the Earthsea film in 2006. Most of us fans have very mixed feelings about the result, but maybe we can at least be glad it’s there to speak to the connection between Ghibli’s worlds and Le Guin’s.
I believe I speak for many of us Ghibli fans in saying I’m deeply saddened by her passing, and joyful that she lived in and was able to share her visions with this world.