Life, Love, Freedom, and Dragons: Quotes by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin

Best known for her literary works in genres of science fiction and fantasy, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018) was described as “fiery” and with having “immense energy” by those who knew her. A passion for life, love, freedom, and mythology shines through in this collection of quotes by Ursula Le Guin.

Her mastery of the genres of the fantastic is said to have been influenced by her lifelong love of mythology, which in turn inspired her master’s degree in romance literature of the middle ages and Renaissance.

She instilled cultural exploration as a vital part of her work, with her characters vibrantly bursting from the page as scientists, anthropologists, diplomats and travelers. 

 

Life’s journey

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” —The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.” ― The Dispossessed, 1974

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“If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home.”  The Dispossessed, 1974

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“And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”  The Dispossessed, 1974

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“… When I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed.”  The Other Wind, 2001

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“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.” ― Gifts, 2004

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“When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.” ― The Farthest Shore, 1972

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Ursula Le Guin

Photo by William Anthony

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“Life rises out of death, death rises out of life; in being opposite they yearn to each other, they give birth to each other and are forever reborn. And with them, all is reborn, the flower of the apple tree, the light of the stars. In life is death. In death is rebirth. What then is life without death? Life unchanging, everlasting, eternal?-What is it but death-death without rebirth?” ― The Farthest Shore, 1972

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“I never knew anybody . . . who found life simple. I think a life or a time looks simple when you leave out the details.” ― The Birthday of the World and Other Stories, 2002

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“Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.” ― The Lathe of Heaven, 1971

 

Freedom and truth

“The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?” ― No Time to Spare: Thinking about what Matters, 2017

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“Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.” ―The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“Change is freedom, change is life. It’s always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don’t make changes, don’t risk disapproval, don’t upset your syndics. It’s always easiest to let yourself be governed.” ― The Dispossessed, 1974

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“But need alone is not enough to set power free: there must be knowledge.” ― A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968

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“Truth is a matter of the imagination.” ― The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.” ―  The Tombs of Atuan, 1970

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“Belief is the wound that knowledge heals.” — The Telling, 2000

 

Thoughts about love

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” ― The Lathe of Heaven, 1971

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“What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession.” — The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.” — The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

 

The metaphor of dragons

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” — The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination, 2004 

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“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.”  A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968

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“And though I came to forget or regret all I have ever done, yet I would remember that once I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content.” ― The Farthest Shore, 1972

 

Pondering the nature of evil

“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.” ― A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968

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“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.” ― The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, 1973

 

On change and uncertainty

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” ― The Dispossessed, 1974

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“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” — The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

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“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?” ― The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, 1975

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Ursula Le Guin

Quotes by Ursula Le Guin on Writing, Reading, and Storytelling

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