Early concepts for the Earthsea setting were developed in two short stories, "The Rule of Names" (1964) and "The Word of Unbinding" (1964), both published in Fantastic. These stories introduced important concepts, such as Le Guin's treatment of magic, but do not include any characters that would appear in A Wizard of Earthsea. In 1967, Herman Schein (the publisher of Parnassus Press and the husband of Ruth Robbins, the illustrator of the book) asked Le Guin to try writing a book "for older kids," giving her complete freedom for the subject and the approach. Drawing from her short stories, Le Guin began work on A Wizard of Earthsea. Le Guin has said that the book was in part a response to the image of wizards as ancient and wise, and to her wondering where they come from.
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