Sometimes a person dies, and yet they still live. While at some level this novel is another wonderful yarn about wondering the Earthsea and discovering its wonders, on another, it explores what it means to let the person everyone knows us as die, to allow another one to be born. The cyclical ebb and flow of selfhood is continuous, and we see one cycle of it here, not writ large, but writ small, in the lives of two people. The sea and the self, so deeply intertwined for the people of Earthsea, has lessons for the reader as well.
This quote is a stunner, and one of my favorites from any of LeGuin's books.
"You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose... That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?"