Summary of “The Wife’s Story” by Ursula K Le Guin

The Wife's Story Ursula K Le Guin Summary
“The Wife’s Story” Summary

“The Wife’s Story” is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s one of her more popular stories and is sometimes read by students. It’s an interesting story from the beginning, heightened by its surprise ending, which probably helps account for its popularity. It’s about a wife who relates the terrible thing that happened with her husband, who had always been good and valued by the community. Here’s a summary of “The Wife’s Story”.

“The Wife’s Story” Summary

The narrator’s husband was good and he was a good father and gentle. She can’t believe what happened even though she saw it. He lived near by with his mother. They got to talking one time when he was coming home from a hunt. He was positive and easy going. He started visiting every day and staying into the night. The narrator’s sister, who shared the place with her, moved to her own place near by. She was supportive when everything went bad.

He moved in and it was the happiest year of her life. He was hard-working, good to her, and admired in the community. He led the singing on Lodge Meeting night and it sounded beautiful.

But he had the curse in his blood; they say it was also related to the moon. Some said his father had it too, but the narrator didn’t know him. It can stay dormant, but when it comes out, it’s the change in the moon that does it. They’ll get up and go into the glaring sun, like her husband did, in search of others like them. She didn’t pry when he said he was going out; he was responsible and she didn’t want to wake the kids.

He went out like that a few times, always coming back worn-out, annoyed, and with a strange smell that he couldn’t wash off. It stayed in the bed for days. It almost makes her cry to think of the time their youngest suddenly turned on him. On seeing him, she got scared and cried, wanting him to go away. The mother was scared too. She wants to forget the look in his eyes.

The moon was starting to change and he stays away that day. Later, the wife wakes up and he’s not there. She goes into the passage and sees him out in the sunlight. He sits in the grass and looks at his feet.

She sees the change happen. His feet get long and fleshy. The hair disappears from his body and he’s all white. His face gets flat, his teeth dull, and he stands up on two feet.

She howls in grief and terror, waking the others. The babies wake up and the mother gets defensive. The man thing picks up a branch and jabs it into the passage. She snaps it in her teeth. Her sister runs at him from the other side. The man threatens her with the branch and she stops. The others gather around.

The man takes off running down the mountainside. The pack chases him and takes him down. Her sister has his throat. When the narrator catches up, he’s dead. She hopes that death will break the curse, and her husband will return to his true form. But nothing happens. The dead man lies there white and bloody.

The packs draws away and runs back into the hills, the forest, and the shadows into the comfort of the dark.

I hope this summary of “The Wife’s Story” by Ursula Le Guin was helpful.