It Can Be Hard To Be Sure If I’m Quoting Or Misquoting

Yesterday, I used a quote from Tolkien about escape and fairy tales. I came across it when double-checking another quote that is commonly accredited to Tolkien:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?… If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

It’s a great quote, but is it a Tolkien quote or not? Goodreads says that it is, and thetolkienist says that it most certainly is not – it’s a quote from Ursula Le Guin referencing the Tolkien quote I used yesterday. Since thetolkienist cites a specific origin for each quote, I’m more inclined to believe thetolkienist (Especially given how often some of Tolkien’s works are commonly misquoted around the internet…).

What I don’t understand is how people misquote like that the very first time. Do they do it on purpose? It seems unlikely that they would have a quote like that memorized, which means they’d be looking at a printed source with the correct author. Right?

On purpose or not, it’s hard to trust quotes that you find online. I always try to verify them with multiple sites (preferably ones that give the original context), but even that’s no guarantee. I feel most comfortable posting quotes from published books of quotations (ones that have to go through editors and be verified [theoretically]) or that I’ve checked myself.

But there are so many wonderful quotes online that haven’t made it into a book yet. It’s really hard to resist finding them online. I guess the best I can do is to check them before crediting them to one person or another.

I can only wish that more people would do the same.

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