Tenar’s Psychic Growth

“For most people the years of youth are characterized by a state of gradual awakening in which the individual slowly becomes aware of the world and of him or herself,” states Carl Jung in Man and his Symbols (pg. 168). This is usually accomplished through dreams or real events that foresees the future in a symbolic form. Tenar, later named Arha, was a little girl when she was taken to Atuan to become the new High Priestess. There she was taught the ways of the High Priestess, as she was to become one when she grows older. In Atuan, young Arha journeys through her mind and progresses through her psychic growth in order to leave her childhood. Along this road she encounters many characters that guide and mislead her as she grows. As one reads Tombs of Atuan, one may recognize that the story of Arha and her passage from darkness of her childhood world to the light of her mature world is structured around Carl Jung’s dream theories.
When Tenar became the “Chosen One” for the High Priestess in Atuan, she was compelled to adjust to this new life and new surrounding. She was brought up in the Kargish lands with her family of many siblings and a mother and a father, but Atuan was a whole new place with mostly women training to be priestesses. As Jung puts it, “When a child reaches school age, the phase of building up the ego and of adapting to the outer world begin.” (pg. 168). As Tenar was to become the next High Priestess she was led to live in loneliness as she was different from the rest of the priestesses in Atuan. She was made to live in her own dwelling, the Small House where no one else was to sleep in. Jung describes this phase of the building up of the ego, as the time when children feel different from their contemporaries, and this feeling of uniqueness brings sadness, that is part of the loneliness of children.
During Tenar’s first years in Atuan she wanted to discover herself by contradicting the rules of becoming a High Priestess. Tenar and her counterpart, Penthe, decided to evade their chores of weaving in the Big House and slipped out to the outer walls of Atuan, but their attempts to have fun were foiled by the High Priestess of the Twin Brothers, Kossil. Arha desired to figure out why she was there, and what her purpose was in Atuan. This process of self realization or coming to terms with one’s inner self is known as individuation, which begins with a wounding of the personality and suffering (pg 189). This wounding of the personality is caused by something external, and thus the ego, being obstructed from its growing, denounces God or someone of authoritative figure, and in Tenar’s case it would be Kossil. Tenar suffered a personality shock when Thar says, “It is not fitting that you are seen climbing and running with other girls. You are Arha.” Implying that Tenar is not to associate with the other girls of Atuan. She is supposed to stay in solitude. Jung describes this as a time when everything is all right, but underneath the surface [Tenar] is suffering from boredom that makes everything seem meaningless and useless.
What was all this teaching for? Why did Arha, or Tenar, undergo something that seemed so endless and meaningless. It wasn’t until Arha was introduced to the “Ring of Keys” that things changed. Arha was acquainted with something new from her personality that she didn’t know was part of the High Priestess’s duty. Le Guin correlates this part to Jung’s idea that: “Through dreams one becomes acquainted with aspects of one’s own personality that one has preferred not to look at too closely.” This was his idea of the “realization of the shadow”. Arha never looked into the idea that she would actually be able to have the keys to the Undertomb which would later lead to the Labyrinth. These keys unlocked the entrance to the shadow, the Labyrinth, surrounding her young, small ego. The Labyrinth exemplified her shadow, the unconscious and unknown personal attributes of oneself. As soon as she entered it she began exploring a whole new world, knowledge