Not a Tolkien quote: It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons

Another installment in my never-ending series of Things J.R.R. Tolkien has never said, done, written or had anything to do with and this time I will be able to link the Professor with Oprah Winfrey (see here for for the other articles.). Yup, one of the most successful and powerful women on the planet – who would have thought? Another quote supposedly by Tolkien and again, because it kind of sounds like him (yes, there are dragons involved!) and it has to do with an adventure … I assume you already know where I’m off to.

This quote does come in usually two to three versions which are very close indeed:

It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons
It’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.
Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons. [the correct quote of the quote.]

This is a line from a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called Simple Abundance which was at #1 with the New York Times bestseller list. I will quote the relevant paragraphs from the book, it is on pages 26-27 (found via Google Books – also searchable with Amazon, with the 1995 edition it is on page 51):

February 16

At the End of Our Exploring

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot.

When we live our lives authentically, we discover our true place in the world for the first time. But this self-knowledge is not easily acquired. It takes tenacity and daring to travel to the darkest interior of one’s self. Who knows what we might find there? “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him,” the writer J.R.R. Tolkien advises.

Our dragons are our fears: our day stalkers, our night sweats. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of starting something new and not finishing. Again. Or the real fear, the one that sends shivers up our spines: the fear of succeeding, of becoming our authentic selves and facing the changes that will inevitably bring. We might not be happy with the way we are living now, but at least it’s safely familiar.

We don’t know where we are headed and it’s very scary. Old dreams are resurrecting, new desires are wooing. Instead of clarity, we feel confused. At moments like this, it is comforting to consider. T. S. Eliot’s belief that there is really nothing to fear from self-awareness because at the end of all our personal exploration, we will arrive back where we started and know in our hearts that we finally belong there.

Women have always known how to deal with dragons hiding under beds or lurking in closets. We turn on the lights and reassure worried souls with love. We need to slay the dragons in our minds the same way.

Today, if you feel frightened or unsure about the future, pick up the double-edged sword of Light and Love. Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons (my emphasis). But as in the best old tales, at the end of our exploring, you will live happily ever after.

The Tolkien quote is (correctly) from chapter XII of The Hobbit called ‘Inside Information.’ The book from Breathnach was first published in 1995 but reissued in 2009 and it is about her experiences of loss and success and has been repeatedly promoted via Oprah Winfrey – last on her network in July 2013 (see link including videos of the interview.)

Now try and combine such a personal “adventure” with another adventure making the headlines and winning gazillions at the box office … Boom. And yes, Tolkien desired “dragons with a profound desire” (again, from On Fairy-Stories). So it is very viable as a quote mixing stories of personal affirmation (adventure) and the dangers in our path (dragons) and multimedia attention (success of this book, Oprah Winfrey and the Hobbit film trilogy).

And no, it is not a Tolkien quote.

TheTolkienist

A Tolkien fan for twenty-five years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert

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  • Celia Anderson

    I’m so confused. First you say the correct Tolkien quote is in the Hobbit and then at the end you say it’s not a Tolkien quote. You mean the incorrect version is not a Tolkien quote? or none of them are? O.o

    • Hi Celia,

      in the longer quote above from Sarah Ban Breathnach there is a direct quote from the “Hobbit” – this is the one I mentioned in the paragraph below.

      :: ““It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him,” the writer J.R.R. Tolkien advises.” ::

      So “It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons” is NOT a Tolkien quote 🙂

      • Celia Anderson

        Okay, thanks. I get it. 🙂