Le Guin was influenced by fantasy writers including J. R. R. Tolkien, by science fiction writers including Philip K. Dick (who was in her high school class, though they didn't know each other), by central figures of Western literature such as Leo Tolstoy, Virgil and the Brontë sisters, by feminist writers such as Virginia Woolf, by children's literature such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, by Norse mythology, and by books from the Eastern tradition such as the Tao Te Ching.
When asked about her influences, she replied;
"Once I learned to read, I read everything. I read all the famous fantasies – Alice in Wonderland, and Wind in the Willows, and Kipling. I adored Kipling's Jungle Book. And then when I got older I found Lord Dunsany. He opened up a whole new world – the world of pure fantasy. And ... Worm Ouroboros. Again, pure fantasy. Very, very fattening. And then my brother and I blundered into science fiction when I was 11 or 12. Early Asimov, things like that. But that didn't have too much effect on me. It wasn't until I came back to science fiction and discovered Sturgeon – but particularly Cordwainer Smith. ... I read the story "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard", and it just made me go, "Wow! This stuff is so beautiful, and so strange, and I want to do something like that."
In the mid 50s, she read J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which had an enormous impact on her. But rather than follow in Tolkien's footsteps, it simply showed her what was possible to do with the fantasy genre.