The Tombs of Atuan is the title of Ursula K. Le Guin's second Earthsea novel. It was first published by Atheneum in 1971. This book is based around a girl named Tenar, renamed Arha, who is placed in the tombs of Atuan as the high priestess for the "Nameless Ones". When she is fifteen years of age, Ged (Sparrowhawk) arrives at the tombs of Atuan in search for half of Erreth-Akbe's ring. Arha traps Ged, but later spares his life after he tells her of the outer world. Although, she keeps him as a prisoner. A priestess named Kossil learns of the presence of Ged within the tombs of Atuan, and so informs Arha that she must sacrifice his life to the Nameless Ones. Unable to do so, she asks her only friend Mahan to dig a fake grave, and hide Ged in the treasury of the tombs, where only she can go. Her and Kossil have a relationship that is beyond an enemy, beyond just a nemesis. Kossil informs Arha during an argument that the Nameless Ones do not exist, and that the real power lies with her. Arha refuses to believe it, and curses her in the name of the Nameless Ones. She realises that Kossil will now wish to kill her for her actions. In finding a place to think, she sees Kossil unearthing the fake grave, and so she runs to the treasury to confess everything to he prisoner, Ged. While kept prisoner, Ged has located the half-ring of Erreth-Akbe, and so he asks Arha to escape the tombs with him. Eventually, she sucumbs to his kindness, and revokes her role as priestess. The tombs collapsed when they escaped, and returned to Havnor, knowing that the reunited ring of Erreth-Akbe is safely back together, bringing piece to Earthsea.

Inside The Tombs: The tombs of Atuan are an underground set of tunnels and labyrinths, all occupied by the High Priestesses, who are there to serve the Nameless Ones.


The Labyrinth of the Tombs of Atuan

Above the tombs is the island of Atuan, located in the Kargish lands. It is said that people are taken to the tombs, usually prisoners, are sent to be sacrificed to the Nameless Ones for a slow death. It is said that each priestess is a reincarnation of the first, and are therefore taken into the tombs for a lifetime of servitude at a young age. Tenar, or Arha, is the only priestess who is allowed to roam the labyrinth above. Because the tombs are below Kargish lands, there are no wizards present because of the Kargish belief that wizardry is impermissible.

The Place of the Tombs of Atuan


  • Arha; the High Priestess of the Nameless Ones
    • Manan; Arha's guardian
  • Kossil; the High Priestess of the Godking
    • Duby and Uahto; wardens who serve the Godking's temple[1][2]
  • Thar; the High Priestess of the Twin Gods
  • Mebbeth; serves in the Godking's temple; fishing woman[3]
  • Gobar; captain of the guards[4]
  • Nathabba; cook[5]
  • Penthe; novice in service of the Godking[6]
  • Poppe[7]
  • Munith[8]
  • Punti[9]


  1. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 3: The Prisoners"
  2. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 5: Light Under the Hill"
  3. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 2: The Wall Around the Place"
  4. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 3: The Prisoners"
  5. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 4: Dreams and Tales"
  6. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 4: Dreams and Tales"
  7. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 4: Dreams and Tales"
  8. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 4: Dreams and Tales"
  9. The Tombs of Atuan, "Chapter 4: Dreams and Tales"
Earthsea books
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
The Farthest Shore
Tales from Earthsea
The Other Wind