The story “The Rule of Names” by Ursula K. Le Guin belongs to the fantasy genre. The author also uses multiple fairytale elements to structure the story: typological characters (the antagonist, the protagonist, the novice, the maiden, and the wise man), and magical elements.


The title of the short story, “The Rule of Names”, is intriguing, as we do not know to what kind of rule the story refers to (grammatical or otherwise). The title refers to a rule of names which is valid in the fictional universe of the story: “ ‘It ain't polite to ask anybody what his name is,’ shouted a fat, quick boy, interrupted by a little girl shrieking, ‘You can't never tell your own name to nobody my ma says!’ ” (p. 69, ll. 3-6)



The short story begins by presenting Mr. Underhill, the main character, and the setting:

Mr. Underhill came out from under his hill, smiling and breathing hard. Each breath shot out of his nostrils as a double puff of steam, snow-white in the morning sunshine. Mr. Underhill looked up at the bright December sky and smiled wider than ever, showing snow-white teeth. Then he went down to the village. (p. 67, ll. 5-13)

The first lines constitute a foreshadowing element because the steam that the man blows hints that he is a dragon in disguise. The reference to his “snow-white teeth” also anticipates the revelation that he is a hungry dragon that eats people.

he exposition continues with a background on the people of the Sattins Island and on Mr. Underhill. We find out that the villagers are superstitious, that Mr. Underhill is the local wizard but his spells are not very good.



The middle of the short story starts with the inciting action, the arrival of a stranger to Sattins Island: “ ‘A foreign boat, a foreign boat!’  Very seldom was the lonely isle visited by a boat from some equally lonely isle of the East Reach, or an adventurous trader from the Archipelago.” (p. 69, ll. 68-40)

The rising action follows the stranger, whom the villagers name Blackbeard.  The man’s walking stick and the fact that he travels alone also function as foreshadowing elements that hint that he is a wizard: “But when they told Seacaptain Fogeno that he carried an oaken walking-stick around with him, the old man nodded. ‘Two wizards in one town,’ he said. ‘Bad!’ ” (p. 70, ll. 15-18)

Blackbeard soon begins to ask questions about the village wizard to old Goody Guld, her nephew Birt, and Palani, as well as to fishermen.



The falling action follows Birt as he runs to Palani’s house and then flees with her on his boat, for fear that Yevaud might eat her (as she is a maiden): “The last that Sattins Island saw of him and Palani was the Queenie's sail vanishing in the direction of the nearest island westward.” (p. 75, ll. 27-28)


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