She was one of the best. I remember first reading The Earthsea Cycle in elementary school, hearing Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I still remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, (after I left Tolkien's Middle-earth) I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged.
She was the first fantasy author I read who dealt, philosophically, with death and inner balance. "Death and life are the same thing-like the two sides of my hand, the palm and the back. And still the palm and the back are not the same...They can be neither separated, nor mixed." That quote comforted me when my grandparents died.
And Dragons, because no one, but nobody, does Dragons like Ursula K. Le Guin. Because, in the Archipelago, a dragonlord it is not someone with a mastery of dragons but rather one whom the dragons will speak with. "People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within."
I owe her my own Fantasy series, the one I wrote and am still in the process of editing, for without Earthsea it would never have existed.
And I cannot forget The Annals of the Western Shore even if most have never heard of it. It is not Earthsea and is drastically different save in that it is also a quiet yet masterfully written fantasy where the great enemy and greater heroes are ordinary people, most without mystical power and knowledge. Rather, the power lies in the art of story, "To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well." It was such a powerful experience walking blind with Orrec Caspro, writing one's way into secret rooms with Memer Galva, and wandering to freedom with Gavir. As acclaimed Fantasy author Jo Walton (writer of The Thessaly Trilogy) once said, they are "like a retelling of an old fairytale."
"I always wondered why the makers leave housekeeping and cooking out of their tales. Isn't it what all the great wars and battles are fought for – so that at day's end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?" - Ursula K. Le Guin
“I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning." - Ursula K. Le Guin
Rest in peace, dragonlord. May you dance on the other wind.