The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
From The Wind’s Twelve Quarters: Short Stories
by Ursula Le Guin
With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the
city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In
the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens
and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved. Some were
decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry
women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a
shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance.
Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights, over the
music and the singing. All the processions wound towards the north side of the city, where on the
great water-meadow called the Green’ Fields boys and girls, naked in the bright air, with mudstained
feet and ankles and long, lithe arms, exercised their restive horses before the race. The
horses wore no gear at all but a halter without bit. Their manes were braided with streamers of
silver, gold, and green. They flared their nostrils and pranced and boasted to one another; they
were vastly excited, the horse being the only animal who has adopted our ceremonies as his own.
Far off to the north and west the mountains stood up half encircling Omelas on her bay. The air
of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold
fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky. There was just enough wind to
make the banners that marked the racecourse snap and flutter now and then. In the silence of the
broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and
nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled
and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.