Kesh

From Anarchy In Action

The Kesh are a tribal society in Ursula K. Le Guin's post-apocalyptic novel Always Coming Home. Unlike their neighbors the Condor, the Kesh are peaceful and anarchistic. The Kesh have nine towns and are a sedentary people.[1] The novel's protagonist Stone Telling, born to a Kesh mother and a father from the Condor, becomes torn between the two sides of her family.

Culture

The Kesh have a strong culture of gender equality, and Stone Telling is surprised when the Condor do not share this commitment.[2] Homosexuality seems to be a normal practice among the Kesh, and homosexuals are sometimes called ginkgos after the sexually dimorphous gingko tree.[3]

Much like Pravic, the language on Anarres in Le Guin's The Dispossessed, the Kesh language does not have possessive words for relations between living beings. Someone might refer to "the wife" but not to "my wife."[4]

Kesh culture values mindfulness. This contrasts with the Condor practice of putting something out of one's mind and saying "I'll think about that later."[5]

Children are taught in schools called heyimas.[6]

Decisions

Kesh society is divided into Houses each self-governed by a council. Stone Telling speculates on how Houses agreed not to accept her father from the Condor society: "I do not know why none of the Houses took my father, but I guess that their councils saw that it would not do."[7]

Economy

There is no private property, and in fact there is no transitive verb "to have" in the Kesh language. One cannot be said "to have" such and such. The word for "to be rich" is the same word as "to give," reflecting Kesh expectations of sharing and redistributing one's possessions.[8]

The Kesh pay money as a sign of honor to people who act, dance, recite, or craft things. Money is not used as a medium of exchange.[9]

From all appearances, the Kesh economy is entirely self-reliant or almost entirely so. Various products include wine, baskets, and meat.

Environment

There are indications that the Kesh take ecological harmony very seriously. When a Condor army builds a bridge through Kesh territory, Kesh individuals complains that the river had not been consulted.[10] The Kesh never hunt an animal without giving a prayer of respect and using every part of the animal.[11]

Neighboring Societies

The Kesh have a Warrior society that defends the people from outside attackers. The Warriors are all men.[12]


  1. Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home (New York: Harper & Row, 1985), 35.
  2. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 35-36, 192.
  3. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 36, 42.
  4. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 42.
  5. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 190.
  6. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 9.
  7. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 30.
  8. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 42.
  9. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 31.
  10. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 33.
  11. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 190.
  12. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, 36-37.