Ursula K Le Guin


The Darkness Box

in ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’


Clever, evocative mood piece. What’s particularly clever is as well as having the idea of being in a place where time doesn’t change, is she managed to evoke it capably. Time does just merge and flow. You could play this for allegory – are we all caught in our own groundhog days – are we even, indeed, our ancestors and our future children just living through the same events? What is the ‘darkness box’? What gives us meaning, consequence, individuality, substance? Is it shadow/darkness – only something bitterly permanent? But I don’t know that that’s the best way to come at this – like a lot of stories that relate to time in a non-linear way, maybe it’s best to just leave it with mystery and sensation and impression, without wanting a simple a =  b symbolic key.


Lovely little anecdote in my edition of Le Guin saying how her child gave her the idea:

When my daughter Caroline was three she came to me with a small wooden box in her small hands and said, “Guess fwat is in this bockus!” I guessed caterpillars, mice, elephants, etc. She shook her head, smiled an unspeakably eldritch smile, opened the box slightly so that I could just see in, and said: “Darkness.”


August 2014