Ursula K. Le Guin Quotes

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From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.

Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea - Chapter 5, 1968)

He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the bombers to kill the babies to make the world safe for children to grow up in.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Lathe of Heaven - Chapter 6, 1971)

Death and life are the same thing - like the two sides of my hand, the palm and the back. And still the palm and the back are not the same...They can be neither separated, nor mixed.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Farthest Shore - Chapter 5, 1972)

If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969)

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.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969)

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Quoted in The Language of the Night, 1980)

To claim power over what you do not understand is not wise, nor is the end of it likely to be good.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Farthest Shore - Chapter 5, 1972)

You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act.

Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea - Chapter 3, 1968)

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969)

True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction, 1976)

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.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Gifts, 2004)

Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Quoted in The Language of the Night, 1980)

It is only when science asks why, instead of simply describing how, that it becomes more than technology. When it asks why, it discovers Relativity. When it only shows how, it invents the atom bomb, and then puts its hands over its eye and says, 'My God what have I done?

Ursula K. Le Guin (Quoted in The Language of the Night - Stalin in the Soul, 1980)

This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Farthest Shore, 1972)

It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed - Chapter 3, 1974)

It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Very Far Away from Anything Else, 1976)

If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed, 1974)

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel...is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Quoted in The Language of the Night, 1980)

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.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Tombs of Atuan - Chapter 12, 1971)

No truth can make another truth untrue.
All knowledge is part of the whole knowledge.
Once you have seen the larger pattern,
You cannot get back to seeing the part as the whole.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Four Ways to Forgiveness, 1996)

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants 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.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, 1973)

The creative adult is the child who survived after the world tried killing them, making them "grown up". The creative adult is the child who survived the blandness of schooling, the unhelpful words of bad teachers, and the nay-saying ways of the world.
The creative adult is in essence simply that, a child.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Only in silence the word, 
Only in dark the light, 
Only in dying life: 
Bright the hawk's flight 
On the empty sky.

Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea - The Creation of Éa, 1968)

Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing—instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Dancing on the Edge of the World, 1989)

Light is the left hand of darkness 
and darkness the right hand of light. 
Two are one, life and death, lying 
together like lovers in kemmer, 
like hands joined together, 
like the end and the way.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969)

“I think," Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, "that 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.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Other Wind, 2001)

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

Ursula K. Le Guin

For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed, 1974)

It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed - Chapter 9, 1974)

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Ursula K. Le Guin Biography

Born: October 21, 1929

Ursula K. Le Guin is an American author. She is best known for her fantasy and science fiction novels but her poetry, essays and short stories are also esteemed.

Notable Works

Rocannon's World (1966)
Planet of Exile (1966)
City of Illusions (1968)
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
The Farthest Shore (1972)
The Dispossessed (1974)