Planets of the Hainish Cycle

The Many Planets Imagined by Ursula Le Guin

This excellent summary of the Hainish Universe was at one time part of the Wikipedia.  Sadly, there was a successful campaign to delete it as ‘unnecessary’.

Most of the work is not mine.  I reproduce it just as it was before the end, allowing for my web lacking things that the Wiki allows.  But I correcting a few obvious spelling errors.  Standardizing mostly on US spelling, since that is the most common in the text.

Note that Athshe was a source for the Hollywood film Avatar. The world’s exploitation and liberation is the theme the short novel The Word for World Is Forest, published in 1976 but based on a 1972 anthology story.  It is both grimmer and more realistic than the film.  It might be easier to film, but its message is much too radical even today for the mainstream film-makers.


Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle takes place in a science fiction universe that contains a number of planets, some of which have been explored and made part of an interplanetary group called the League of All Worlds and its successor, the Ekumen; others are explored and re-explored by the League and the Ekumen over a time frame spanning centuries. Le Guin has used approximately a dozen planets as primary settings for her novels; as such they have detailed physical and cultural descriptions. Le Guin reveals in The Left Hand of Darkness that at that narrative-time, there were 83 planets in the Ekumen, with Gethen a candidate for the 84th.


Aka is a monoethnic world that recently underwent an aggressive revolutionary change in technological status, during which almost all of the traditional culture was suppressed or rejected. Aka is governed by a despotic state which mandates a form of scientific theism and aims to turn its citizens into ideal “producer-consumers,” with the ultimate goal of attaining advanced spaceflight capabilities. Aka is the setting of most of The Telling.


Athshe is a forest planet (whose name means “forest”), also known as ‘World 41’ and called “New Tahiti” by Terrans. Athshe is peopled by a small, furred (but in fact fully human) group of HILFs (high-intelligence life forms).

Athshe was exploited for its timber resources, with the forests completely wiped out on many of its islands before a native revolt expelled the Terrans, as described in The Word for World is Forest.

Athshe’s plants and animals are similar to those of Earth, placed there by the Hainish people in their first wave of colonisation, which also settled Earth. A Cetian visitor categorically states that the native humans “came from the same, original, Hainish stock.”

It is not explained why the people of Athshe are green-furred and only one metre tall. Their sleeping cycles are also very different from the Hainish norm. There are two likely explanations: one is that the original settlers were genetically modified by the Hainish. On the other hand, enough time has passed since the original settlement for the locals to have naturally evolved in response to their environment.

The geography of Athshe is described by the antagonist Davison as:

“New Tahiti was mostly water, warm shallow seas broken here and there by reefs, islets, archipelagoes, and the five big Lands that lay in a 2500-kilo arc across the Northwest Quartersphere. And all those flecks and blobs of land were covered with trees. Ocean: forest. That was your choice on New Tahiti. Water and sunlight, or darkness and leaves.” [1]

The Athshe recognized Forty Lands of the world, the majority of which were small islands or reefs jutting out of the placid ocean. The main land features were an archipelago of five large islands in the northern right quarter of the planet.

  • Central Island, (known to the Athshe as Sornol) the largest and described by Davison as a subcontinent and the site of the headquarters of the Human colony.
  • Smith Island [2] separated from central island by a narrow straight. Smith Island is the site of much of the beginning of the story.
  • King Island. [3]
  • Dumpo Island (Known to the Ashthe as Rendlep) [4]
  • North Island, [5] remote and to the northern end of the archipelago.

The New Falkland Isles in the southern hemisphere were a remote and small island group.


Eleven-Soro is a world that had a high technology and then a massive crash. A strange introverted new culture has emerged, with women living alone and unwilling to talk to visitors. The post-collapse culture is described in the short story “Solitude” which appeared in The Birthday of the World.

The people of Eleven-Soro are of Hainish descent and briefly had the maximum population density of any known planet, with

“The greatest cities ever built on any world, covering two of the continents entirely, with small areas set aside for farming; there had been 120 billion people living in the cities, while the animals and the sea and the air and the dirt died, until the people began dying too.” [6]


Faraday has a prominent place in Rocannon’s World. Faraday is a young planet whose inhabitants embark on a career of interstellar war and conquest, and construct a secret base on the backward world where the book takes place, from which destructive ships could be launched to numerous targets while the League of all Worlds spends its force on subduing their home world. Seeing as the planet is named for a famous Earth physicist, it was evidently discovered and named by Terrans, who introduced its inhabitants to interstellar civilization (the Faradayans are specifically mentioned as having learned to play chess from Terrans).

Faraday seems loosely modeled on Imperial Japan – i.e., a relative late-comer to an existing civilization, which quickly takes up new technologies, builds up aggressive armed forces in order to carve out a bigger place for itself in that established civilization, oppresses weaker cultures and peoples which it encounters, and makes use of fanatic pilots ready to embark on suicide missions. The act of Rocannon at the end of the book results in the destruction of their secret base; Faraday’s aggressive designs are evidently checked (or destroyed, as it is mentioned in Rocannon’s World that the League is attacking the planet itself), and the planet is not heard of again in later books.

Ganam / Tadkla

Ganam is a very diverse world with some high technology. The inhabitants, or one group of them, are called the Gaman.

Ancient Hainish records refer to Ganam as ‘G-14-214-yomo’ and also Tadkla. The tale of the first two Ekumen visits is told in the short story “Dancing to Ganam” which appeared in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. It is described as one of the outermost seedings of the Hainish Expansion, and lost from the human community for five hundred millennia.


Gethen is a very cold, glacier-covered planet also known as “Winter”. It is inhabited by androgynous intelligent humanoids, surmised in The Left Hand of Darkness to be descended from genetically-engineered Hainish settlers. Other than The Left Hand of Darkness, Gethen also appears in the short stories “Winter’s King” and “Coming of Age in Karhide”.

The geography of Gethen is dominated by a central continent consisting of two large subcontinents joined together, where the majority of the story takes place. A large island called Sith is to the east of this main landmass and an archipelago is to the west. A frozen Antarctic continent called Peranter is located in the southern extreme of the planet.


Hain is the Prime World in the Hainish Cycle and is also known as Davenant and Hain-Davenant and is about 140 light-years from Terra/Earth. It is the oldest culture in both the League of Worlds and later the Ekumen. [7] Ekumen cultural observers, like Genly Ai in The Left Hand of Darkness, are trained on Hain. Three of the short stories in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea include details of life on Hain. More is seen in the first half of A Man of the People in Four Ways to Forgiveness.

The history of the people of Hain goes back three million years. [8] Hain is supposedly the original source of most intelligent life in the planets of the Ekumen, and some of the plant and animal life. [7] It once had a culture centered around high-technology which seeded humans or genetically-modified humans on various nearby planets, including Earth and the other worlds now in the League and Ekumen. The older, colonizing, high-tech culture crashed, and from it a more wisely re-built culture arose that is current during the narrative-present in the novels.

In the novels’ present, the Hanish can neither conceive children nor sire them without consciously deciding to do so. Conscious-choice conception is not described elsewhere among the Ekumen humanoids, and during the earlier seeding / colonial period, the Hanish genetic modifications included apparently experimental changes to human sexuality. [9] [10]

Evidence of the former high-tech life is all around Hain, along with demonstrations of the current Hainish indifference to it:

“Stse is an almost-island, separated from the mainland of the great south continent by marshes and tidal bogs, where millions of wading birds gather to mate and nest. Ruins of an enormous bridge are visible on the landward side, and another half-sunk fragment of ruin is the basis of the town’s boat pier and breakwater. Vast works of other ages encumber all Hain, and are no more and no less venerable or interesting to the Hainish than the rest of the landscape.” [11]

The character Havzhiva is a man who grows up on Hain, though he ends up working for the Hainish embassy on Yeowe. We see the ruins of past technology and learn of the highly localized social order that exists on some parts of the planet. Through his story we see the dual social systems working on Hain. Both the pueblo centered agrarian village life directed by local gods, moieties, lineage and inherited expectations on the one hand and also the interstellar Ekumen culture of the historians centered on the city of Kathhad, which the pueblo peoples describe as Crazy.


Hain is described as possessing two continents, referenced simply as the Great and the South Continent. We learn that Hain had been for several thousand years in an unexciting period marked by the co-existence of small, stable self-contained societies currently called pueblos, with a high-technology, low density network of cities and information centers called the temple. [12] A number of settlements are described:

  • Stse is a pueblo village on an isle on the north western coast of the South continent and the home of Havzhiva.
  • Etsahin is a larger town, and trading center on the mainland opposite.
  • Kathhad is home to the temple, and a center of the historians the interstellar Ekumen culture of Hain.
  • Darranda is a city of the southern continent, where Havzhiva had visited his uncle and from where Tiu his college girl friend had grown up. Although a city with some manufacturing it appears to have not been sprawling. The topography is implied to be hilly and the terraces of Darranda are mentioned throughout both Four Ways to Forgiveness and Another Story.
  • Other cities mentioned include Arkanan, Azbahan and Daha.

New South Georgia

New South Georgia is the location of the League of Worlds HILF Survey Base for Galactic Area 8, in Rocannon’s World. Its chief city is Kerguelen.  [HILF stands for Highly Intelligent Life Form.]

Outside of the fictional realm of the Hainish cycle, the Kerguelen Islands are in the Southern Indian Ocean, the New Georgia Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic territory South Georgia serves as the base of the British Antarctic Survey. With this in mind, we may imagine that New South Georgia, like Gethen, is a wintry Ice Age world. Since its name is taken from Terran landscape, the world was presumably discovered by Terrans.


O is a planet four light-years from Hain, described in the title-story of the collection A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. Its people are known as ki’O and it is notable for its unusual four-person “sedoretu” marriage system (a set combination of genders, sexual orientations, and both of O’s moieties). Two more tales about this world and its customs are found in the collection The Birthday of the World.

(O shares its name with the island of O in Le Guin’s Earthsea stories.)


Rokanan is the second planet of the star Fomalhaut, peopled by at least three high-intelligence life forms. It is the setting of the novel Rocannon’s World. The planet is described as Fomalhaut II during its exploration. Some references list it as Rocannon’s World, but Le Guin’s books refer to it as ‘Rokanan’, which is Rocannon’s name among the native Gdemiar.


Seggri is a planet noted for its extreme gender segregation, and for having sixteen adult women for every adult man. Its history is told in a novelette, “The Matter of Seggri” which appears in The Birthday of the World. The people are of Hainish descent. A Hainish visitor believes that the imbalance of the sexes is another ancient genetic experiment of her remote ancestors.

My ancestors must have really had fun playing with these people’s chromosomes. I feel guilty, even if it was a million years ago. [10]

The tiny minority of men on Seggri live imprisoned in complexes known as “castles” away from the rest of society from the age of puberty. Women have control and responsibility for all productive endeavors, including industry, governance, agriculture, business, and trade. Seggri is a matriarchal society, “a society where men have extreme privilege but no power”. [13]

Men in the castles engage in constant sporting competitions, some of which are quite violent. The castles are supported by stud fees paid by their female customers. Women identify the lovers they wish to hire during the numerous public sporting events. If a woman conceives an additional fee is paid to the castle. Women marry only other women, and men do not marry.

Men on Seggri wear their hair ornamentally long and dress ostentatiously (tailoring is one of the few male crafts on Seggri). In contrast, women crop their hair short and dress in a fashion considered drab by offworlders.

The castles themselves are governed by brutal despots who rule by force. The civil authorities in greater female society do not concern themselves with the castles’ internal affairs. The situation is rationalized in various ways by the matriarchy. Men are considered to be capable only of childish competition and acts of great courage, but not of endeavors requiring intellect and patience (although the women acknowledge that men can be very clever in strategizing in sports). Thus the castle system gives them the freedom to do what they truly love without burdening them with the drudgery of everyday work. The civil authorities assume that the men can rule themselves, and that the castle despots will not needlessly kill the men under their rule, because of the valuable stud fees the men command (a clear allegory to the argument that slaves were too valuable to mistreat during the slavery era in the USA).

Despite the narrow view of men by women on Seggri, men are greatly admired for their beauty and physical prowess. Some women spend vast amount of money hiring men as studs (apparently men are only available in this way for a fee). They are idolized by many young women on Seggri in about the same manner as rock stars in real society. Like rock stars, the high stud fees commanded by champion athletes makes them unattainable for the vast majority of women.


Terra is the Earth, the third planet of our solar system. Terrans are descendants of colonists from Hain. At some unspecified date, Terrans join the League of All Worlds, which includes the Cetians and other peoples of Hainish descent.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, it is said that ‘Hainish Normal’ people were placed among Terra’s own proto-hominid autochthones by the ancient Hainish ‘colonizers’. After that initial contact with Hainish civilization Terra experiences two more cycles of isolation followed by the restoration of extraterrestrial contact and community with other worlds.

The second period of contact with the interstellar Hainish community is the background for The Word for World is Forest, in which people from Terra appear as aggressive settlers of other planets, The Dispossessed, and Rocannon’s World. In The Dispossessed, Terra’s population is described as having collapsed from around nine billion to only half a billion people. Some time later, City of Illusions provides a detailed description of Terra in the depths of a third era of isolation.

A post-apocalyptic Earth is seen in City of Illusions as the story takes place across a large landmass, perhaps North America, which shows signs of an advanced, abandoned civilization under a rewilded landscape. A small number of humans live in tiny, isolated settlements where they retain some technologies from the past but are completely cut off from any communication with neighboring regions or with other worlds; there is only one city with high technology and energy-intensive construction. The events of City of Illusions lead up to the third period of Terran contact with other worlds, during which The Left Hand of Darkness takes place.

In the short story Dancing To Ganam, which takes place in the far future of the Hainish universe, it is said that an extreme religious movement called the Unists developed on Terra and engaged in mass slaughter of non-believers, and then of rival Unists sects. It is described as “the worst resurgence of theocratic violence since the Time of Pollution”. [14] The inclusion of this story is meant to show that even after so many millennia in the League and the Ekumen, Terra is still in many ways culturally primitive and prone to violent self-destruction.

It unclear if the “Time of Pollution” refers to the collapse referred to in The Dispossessed, the collapse seen in City of Illusions, or is another, unexplored dark period on Terra. Likewise the novel Always Coming Home is set on Earth, during a period of high sea-levels and technological collapse, with the only retained remnant of past high-technology being remote-access links to an encyclopedic database (via ansible?). This could situate it within the League or Ekumen, during one of the Terran cycles of isolation, however a central theme of the novel is the protagonists’ cultural indifference to places outside of their home-valley, so information giving off-world context for the novel are excluded from the book.

Various individuals from Terra play a part in other stories. For example, in The Telling, Terra’s incorporation into the Ekumen is briefly explained. Also, one of the two main characters in The Left Hand of Darkness, the Hainish-trained cultural observer Genly Ai, is from Terra.

Urras and Anarres

Urras and Anarres form a double planet system (the people of each regard the other as their moon) in orbit around the star Tau Ceti. The Cetians who inhabit both worlds are a very hairy humanoid race which is scientifically advanced.

Urras is divided into many countries with a variety of political systems; Anarres is peopled by the Odonians, an anarchist group in voluntary exile from Urras. The action of The Dispossessed takes place on Urras and Anarres. Urras is also the setting of the short story “The Day Before the Revolution” which appears in the short-story collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.


The larger body of a double planet system, Urras is covered by oceans and continents. [15] The oceans are simply named Tiuve Sea, Insel Sea, North Sea, and Great South Sea. Besides a couple of smaller islands, Urras’ landmass is split in two big continents.

Urras is the original world of the Cetians. An anarchist group called Odonians, separating from its propertarian society, have settled Anarres, but still have an influence on the various nations of Urras, as is told in The Dispossessed.

The nation-states of A-Io and Thu, both portrayed as developed industrial societies, are on one of the two continents. A-Io is evidently a capitalist and somewhat oligarchic parliamentary republic, whereas Thu is described as a totalitarian socialist state—allegories of the United States of America and the Soviet Union. On the second large continent, unstable Benbili is found, whose society is economically underdeveloped. In The Dispossessed, A-Io and Thu fight a proxy war in Benbili, both claiming to be restoring stability, an allegory of the Vietnam War. In Day before the Revolution both Benbili and Mand, a neighboring kingdom state, are described as being warlike and archaic.


The nation of A-Io is the only nation on Urras described in extensive detail. It is on a large peninsula in the Eastern hemisphere of the planet, between the North Sea and the Tiuve Sea. It shares the entirety of its land border with the rival nation of Thu; together, these two nations occupy nearly half of the Eastern continent.

A-Io is described in The Dispossessed as being extremely verdant, amply forested and agriculturally fertile (in contrast with Anarres) with a small mountain range in the north and several hilly regions. It is described by the Terran ambassador Keng as being the closest imaginable approximation to paradise. The native fauna of A-Io include otters (which are commonly kept as pets), horses and sheep.

The history of A-Io is not extensively described. It is indicated that the nation was once a monarchy, but by the lifetime of Odo (approximately 200 years before the events of The Dispossessed) Ioti culture is presented as being grossly hedonistic, obsessed with the conspicuous display of wealth and preserving distinct and dramatic class imbalances between the property-owners and the common people (called Nioti). On Shevek’s home planet of Anarres, children are typically informed about the excesses of Ioti culture to provide a distinction and justification for the austerity of Anarresti culture. Although Shevek and his classmates question the accuracy of such instructionals (as it is unclear whether the images of poverty and excess are modern or date back to before the settlement of Anarres), his own curiosity about the reality of life in cities like Nio Esseia exposes him to similar excesses and glimpses of economic inequality.

In Day before the Revolution it is mentioned that the heartland of A-Io was part of an empire centered on a town called Ae, 4400 years before Odo, and on several occasions in both books it is mentioned that A-Io culture is over 7000 years old. The A-Io calendar counts 10 millennia. Although Shevek has a curiosity about the heritage of A-Io, there is only passing mention.


Thu is the main rival of A-Io and although mentioned several times in several of the novella, very little is known of it. The nation is a centralized totalitarian socialist state being the place where the Odonist revolution began. [16] Very little of the geography of Thu is described except that a large river bisects Thu from north to south emptying into the Southern Ocean and that like A-Io it is divided into provinces including Bachifof Province on the coast near the A-Io border and known for the beaches of Tins, Soinehe province where the Odonist revolution began with a strike among hospitality workers and at least two Eastern Provinces. The natives speak a different language to their neighbours in A-Io and use a different alphabet.

Cities on the continent Urras

Three cities of Urras are described in detail, all are in A-Io:

  • Nio Esseia is described as being a city of 5 million people, and is the capital of A-Io. It is described as having many impressive skyscrapers, lavish structures, squares, and frenetic shopping avenues that run for miles. It has a metropolitan train and subway system, and its Central Station is described as having a dome of ivory and azure that is “the largest dome ever raised on any world by the hand of man”. Later in The Dispossessed, Shevek discovers the poorer and more decrepit regions of the city, in which there is a clandestine insurrection movement. It is built on an estuary marsh straddling the Sua River, and has many districts and neighbourhoods.
  • Ieu Eun is the location of the university within which Shevek is provided with a teaching position and an apartment to work on his General Temporal Theory. There are many research laboratories in the city, including a Light Research Laboratory. It is in on the edge of a valley, which is described as being thoroughly agrarian.
  • Rodarred is the former capital of the Avan province, and is the current seat of the Council of World Governments on Urras. It is therefore home to many foreign embassies, including that of Terra. The city itself is heavily wooded with pine trees, so much so that their presence has a misty, narrowing effect on the streets. Like Nio Esseia, Rodarred is described as having many ornate and elaborate towers (the text is ambiguous as to whether these are skyscrapers, as it is noted that they ring bells indicating the hour of the day). It is on a river, and the city has seven bridges leading into it. The remnants of older castles and towers lie in the shadow of newer roadways and buildings (as is the case with the Terran embassy, housed in an old castle).


Anarres is the smaller body of the double planet, recently colonised from Urras. It is largely covered by land with two large, isolated seas (whose fish species have evolved differently) as the biggest bodies of water. [15]

Its society is egalitarian. There still exists a center, namely Abbenay, the capital city, where a spaceport and several central facilities are located. Ever since Annares was settled by Odonian separatists, contact to Urras has been strictly limited by a treaty, the only point of contact being Urrasti freighters landing and exchanging cargo at the spaceport in Abbenay.

Odonianism was developed by anarchist philosopher Laia Odo, who lived in the propertarian nation-state of A-Io on the planet of Urras. Odonians speak the Pravic language, which fits their outlook and social structure and is described in considerable detail.

Cetians appear or are mentioned in various other tales, mostly without specifying which world they come from. But in “The Shobies’ Story”, the Cetian Gveter is from Anarres. ‘Churten theory’ was developed on his home-world, which evidently retains Odonian approval of cooperation, and rejection of ‘propertarian habits’.

Werel / Alterra

In the Hainish Cycle science fiction stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, Werel is the colloquial name [17] for Alterra, a fictional planet of the star Gamma Draconis. [18] It is one of two planets called Werel in that series. [19] The name is an informal (though standard) one and means just “the world”. [18]


It is the setting for Planet of Exile, and its later history is given in City of Illusions. The third planet of the star Gamma Draconis, it has an elliptical orbit lasting sixty Earth-years. Also a moon with an orbit 400 days long, leading to some wild weather. It was settled after the invention of the ansible and was planned as a defence against the enigmatic ‘enemy’. But there was no contact after the first ship, consisting entirely of people from Earth. These colonists settled in a town called Landin, and tried to co-exist with the native high-intelligence life forms (HILF).

As Alterra, Werel is also mentioned in The Left Hand of Darkness and Four Ways to Forgiveness. Le Guin has made clear that it should not be confused with the Werel of Four Ways to Forgiveness, which is a planet with very different characteristics. [18]

At first the Earth-human population dwindled. Then they formed a close alliance with one of the native tribes [20] and also found that they could interbreed, [21] which had previously been thought impossible. On this basis, they recover and unify the world.

After 1200 years, the Alterrans send a ship to Earth in City of Illusions, using a near-light-speed system. They are attacked and all but two perish. One of these outwits the alien Shing, oppressors of Earth, and returns to fetch help. [20] Presumably he succeeds: Genly Ai in The Left Hand of Darkness comes from Earth and remembers the ‘Age of the Enemy’ as something terrible, but also now over.


The long orbit is scientifically correct, since Gamma Draconis is a giant star and a habitable world would have to be much further away from its sun. The name Eltanin given in City of Illusions is one of the star’s traditional names. Its distance from Earth is given as 142 light-years, which is close to the current estimate.

On the other hand, giant stars last 100 million years or so, which is much less time than Earth needed to evolve complex life. It is probable that the native humanoids are of Hainish origin, as are many other indigenous populations in the Hainish Cycle, descendants of genetically modified Hanish colonists from the ancient Hanish colonial epoch, similar to other planets in the cycle. This would account for the successful inbreeding, which should not be possible if they had evolved from completely different biospheres.

In 1.5 million years, Eltanin will pass within 28 light years of Earth. At this point it will be as bright as Sirius. This would be long after the setting of Le Guin’s tales.

Yeowe and Werel

Werel is a fictional planet in the Ekumen science fiction novels of Ursula K. Le Guin. It is the fourth planet of a yellow-white star. Its dominant nation, Voe Deo, colonised Yeowe, the previously uninhabited third planet, after contact with the Ekumen. It is one of two planets named Werel in the Hainish cycle. [22]

Werel and Voe Deo

Werel was colonised by the ancient Hainish people, long ago, in the final phase of the expansion. [23] There seem to have been no native animals: all existing animals are of Hainish origin, as are some of the plants. Like most planets of the ancient Hainish expansion, it lost touch and forgot its origins. When the Ekumen (re)contacted Werel, it was divided into many nations, which for millennia had had social systems where the dominant black-skinned ethnic group (the “owners”) enslaved the lighter-skinned ethnic group (the “assets” or “dusties”).

The dominant nation on Werel at that time was Voe Deo, to the extent that in Four Ways to Forgiveness it is noted that to speak of Werel is to speak of Voe Deo as exemplary. [23] Voe Deo began as one of many states and was located to the south of the equator. Through conquest Voe Deo went on and occupied most of the only continent on the planet, particularly the north. At the time of contact with the Ekumen, a number of client state are located in the south and on various islands.

(This Werel should not be confused with the Werel of Planet of Exile and City of Illusions, which is the third planet of the orange giant star Gamma Draconis. In the introduction to the collection The Birthday of the World, Le Guin admits an error in reusing the name and indicates she had forgotten its prior use.)


Contact with the more technologically advanced Ekumen caused varying degrees of panic among Werel’s nations, and led to Voe Deo developing a space program and colonizing Yeowe, at that time uninhabited. The vast majority of the settlers were assets owned by Voe Deans, and in the initial years, the asset population was almost entirely male. This led to a social system among the assets where hypermasculinity was prized and formalized homosexual relationship patterns developed. When female assets arrived in larger numbers, they found themselves at the bottom of the existing social hierarchy.

The Voe Deans exploited the natural resources of Yeowe for a few hundred years and caused a great deal of damage to its environment. Most of the native life forms were destroyed and replaced with transplants from Werel. Concepts of freedom leaking in from the Ekumen led to a widespread revolt by Yeowe’s assets, which ultimately defeated the Voe Dean military force there. (The other nations of Werel saw the revolt as a Voe Dean problem and refused to assist in suppressing it.) Voe Deo had access to a weapon of mass destruction, the “biobomb”, but decided not to use it against the rebellion. Yeowe’s independence struggle occurred within the lifetimes of some of the characters in Four Ways to Forgiveness.

The example of Yeowe inspired the assets of Voe Deo to start their own revolt on Werel. The resulting civil war is part of the background of the short story “Old Music and the Slave Women”.

The geography of Yeowe is dominated by two continents, most of the life forms on the planet are introduced species from Werel, which in turn means of Hanish origin. Native life forms are almost exclusively plant, with only a select few microscopic species being classified as non-plant. [23]

Rakuli and other worlds

The star ‘RK-tamo-5544-34’ has 16 planets, including Werel and Yeowe. Life also developed on the fifth planet, Rakuli. But it is arid and cold, fit only for its native invertebrates and not yet used by the Werelians. [24]

Other worlds

Beldene, Centaurus, Chiffewar, Cime, Ensbo, Four-Taurus, Gao, Gde, Huthu, Kapetyn, Kheakh, Orint, Ollul, Prestno, S, Sheashel Haven, Ve and Uttermosts are planets mentioned, but not described in any detail in one or more tales of the Hainish cycle. They have not, so far, been the setting for a story.

The Left Hand of Darkness has Genly showing pictures of various worlds, some described in later stories but including Chiffewar, Cime, Ensbo, Four-Taurus, Gao, Gde, Kapteyn, Ollul, S, Sheashel Haven and ‘the Uttermosts’. [25] Little is said about most of them. We are told that Gde wrecked its natural balance tens of thousands of years ago and is mostly sand and rock deserts; that Ollul is the closest world to Gethen, 17 light-years away; and that Chiffewar is a “peaceful” planet.

We hear no more about most of these planets, though in the short story “The Matter of Seggri”, it is mentioned that 4-Taurus is also known as Iao. Argaven XVII visits Ollul in the short story “Winter’s King”, a trip of 24 light-years each way; this contradicts the description in The Left Hand of Darkness that Ollul is 17 light-years away from Gethen. As for S, it is possible that S is another name for Athshe.

Some additional worlds are mentioned in later short stories:

  • In “Dancing to Ganam”, a world called Orint is mentioned in passing. It is “the only world from which the Ekumen has yet withdrawn”, foreseeing a disaster in which “the Orintians destroyed sentient life on their world by the use of pathogens in war”. A few thousand children were saved, being taken off the world with the consent of their parent.
  • The “Solitude” which appears in The Birthday of the World mentions “the tree-cities of Huthu”, which is near Eleven-Soro.
  • In “Forgiveness Day” which appears in Four Ways to Forgiveness, a planet called Kheakh is mentioned as having destroyed itself some time ago, as Orint had earlier.
  • In “A Man of the People” which appears in Four Ways to Forgiveness (and also in “The Shobies’ Story”), Ve is described as the next planet out from Hain. It has mostly been a satellite or partner of Hainish civilisations and is at that time inhabited entirely by historians and Aliens. This is told from the viewpoint of a Hainish man, so non-Hainish peoples must be meant.
  • In The Word for World is Forest, Prestno is mentioned as a world close to Athshe. It is also called ‘World 88’.
  • In “Vaster than Empires and More Slow” which appears in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, one crew member comes from “Beldene, the Garden Planet”, which “never discovered chastity, or the wheel”.
  • In “Rocannon’s World”, Centaurus is mentioned, in that it was Centaurans who had travelled to Rokanan and given dwarf-like Gdemiar higher technologies.
  • In The Shobies Story, M-60-340-nolo is a brown desolate world inhabited only by bacteria, as well as the destination of their experimental flight and only 17 light years from Hain.


  1. Ursula K. Le Guin, The word for World is Forest (Berkley Publishing Group, 1976) page 3.
  2. Ursula K. Le Guin, The word for World is Forest (Berkley Publishing Group, 1976) page 22.
  3. Ursula K. Le Guin, The word for World is Forest (Berkley Publishing Group, 1976) page 35.
  4. Ursula K. Le Guin, The word for World is Forest (Berkley Publishing Group, 1976) page 46
  5. page 11
  6. “Solitude”, first printed in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (December 1994). Reprinted in The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology (2009). Gordon Van Gelder [Ed.]. San Francisco, CA: Tachyon Publications (ISBN 9781892391919).
  7. A Man of the People
  8. A Man of the People: Kathhad and Ve
  9. The Left Hand of Darkness
  10. “The Matter of Seggri” in the collection The Birthday of the World
  11. A Man of the People: first section
  12. Ursula K. Le Guin, Four Ways to Forgiveness: Four Ways to Forgiveness (Hachette UK, 26 May 2011)
  13. The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (Harper Collins, 2002) p31.
  14. Le Guin, Ursula K. (1994). A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. New York, NY: Harper. p. 117. ISBN 0-06-105491-7.
  15. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed, p. 2ff
  16. Notes on the Geography of Tau Ceti: Collected from the works “The Dispossessed” and “The Day Before the Revolution” by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  17. Erlich, Richard D. (2009). Coyote’s Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin. Milford series: Popular writers of today. 72. Wildside Press. p. 53. ISBN 9781434457752.
  18. Erlich, Richard D. (2009). Coyote’s Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin. Milford series: Popular writers of today. 72. Wildside Press. p. 432. ISBN 9781434457752.
  19. Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 174. ISBN 0-415-99527-2..
  20. Wood, Susan (1979). “Discovering Worlds: The Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin”. In Clareson, Thomas D. (ed.). Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers. 2. Popular Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780879721350.
  21. Erlich, Richard D. (2009). Coyote’s Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin. Milford series: Popular writers of today. 72. Wildside Press. p. 433. ISBN 9781434457752.
  22. Cadden, Mike. Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005) page 174.
  23. Ursula K. Le Guin, Five Ways to Forgiveness: A Library of America eBook Classic Library of America, 5 Sep 2017.
  24. Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-99527-2.
  25. The Left Hand of Darkness, chapter 3. Uttermosts is mentioned as meaning ‘the Uttermosts’, which might be a term for several different worlds

Works by Ursula K. Le Guin:

Earthsea Novels

  • A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
  • The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
  • The Farthest Shore (1972)
  • Tehanu (1990)
  • The Other Wind (2001)

Short stories

  • “The Word of Unbinding” (1964)
  • “The Rule of Names” (1964)
  • “Dragonfly” (1997)
  • “Darkrose and Diamond” (1999)
  • “The Daughter of Odren” (2014)
  • “Firelight” (2018)


  • Tales from Earthsea (2001) The Books of Earthsea (2018)
  • Adaptations
  • Earthsea (miniseries) (2004) Tales from Earthsea (film) (2006)

Hainish Cycle


  • Rocannon’s World (1966
  • Planet of Exile (1966
  • City of Illusions (1967
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (1969
  • The Dispossessed (1974
  • The Word for World Is Forest (1976
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995
  • The Telling (2000)

Short stories

  • “The Dowry of the Angyar” (1964
  • “Winter’s King” (1969
  • “Vaster than Empires and More Slow” (1971
  • “The Day Before the Revolution” (1974
  • The Shobies’ Story (1990
  • “The Matter of Seggri” (1994
  • “A Man of the People” “Coming of Age in Karhide” (1995
  • “Mountain Ways” (1996
  • “Old Music and the Slave Women” (1999)

Other fiction


  • The Lathe of Heaven (1971
  • The Eye of the Heron (1978
  • Malafrena (1979
  • The Beginning Place (1980
  • Always Coming Home (1985
  • Annals of the Western Shore (Gifts (2004
  • Voices (2006
  • Powers (2007)
  • Lavinia (2008)

Short stories

  • “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973
  • “The Wife’s Story” (1982
  • Paradises Lost (2002)


  • The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1975
  • Orsinian Tales (1976
  • The Compass Rose (1982
  • Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987
  • A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994
  • Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996
  • The Birthday of the World (2002
  • Changing Planes (2003)

Children’s books

  • Catwings (series) (1988–1999)


  • The Language of the Night (1979
  • Dancing at the Edge of the World (1982
  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (1997
  • Steering the Craft (1998)