Common Knowledge / Literature

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  • Frankenstein:
    • The public has unilaterally made "Frankenstein" the name of the monster, not its creator, and the monster usually is named Frankenstein in adaptations not striving for accuracy. This example falls squarely under I Am Not Shazam, but it's such a potent example that it merits mention here as well.
      • It may not be made explicit in the book, but the nameless Creature does refer to Dr. Frankenstein as his father several times, and it is very common for a son to take his father's last name.
    • People typically believe that Victor Frankenstein is a doctor. In the original novel he does not have a doctorate of any sort, and is merely a medical student.
    • Almost everyone "knows" that the monster is a bumbling idiot who means no harm, even though he was actually very intelligent and self-aware in the novel.
    • Everyone "knows" the monster was brought to life with lightning, or at least electricity. Except the novel specifically avoids saying how it was donenote . There is a mention of Victor Frankenstein being fascinated by the effects of a lightning strike earlier, but that's it.
    • Everyone "knows" that the monster is pure evil from the beginning. Even many of the more faithful adaptations involves Victor narrowly escaping as it immediately assaults him. In the original, the monster tried very hard to be accepted and spent an entire winter caring secretly for a poor family. The rejection he faced everywhere he went led to his killing people.
    • It is also Common Knowledge that the monster had No Name Given. While it is true the narrator(s) refuses to use it, the monster refers to himself as Adam which, according to Word of God, is his official name.
  • Robin Hood is commonly known as a rich boy/commoner who became an outlaw after he killed the King's deer/inspired revolt, that he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and that he romanced Maid Marian and lived in Sherwood Forrest with his Merry Men, fighting against the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham. Already we have some conflicting information, but really, most of what we "know" about Robin Hood was added much, much later, including the idea that the earliest legends didn't include Maid Marian, Little John or even the most quintessential element, his robbing from the rich and giving to the poor! In fact, the latter was mostly popularized by the 1973 Disney Animated Film, which explicitly used the phrase, but the earliest legends had Robin either attempting to use the money to pay for the ransom of King Richard from Leopold of Austria, or simply taking back the money and lands the Robber Barons of England (who weren't always the Sheriff of Nottingham, either!) had illegally taken from the serfs and giving it back to the people it rightfully belonged to.
  • The tale of the Trojan Horse is usually attributed to Homer's The Iliad (or at least assumed to be related therein). In fact, the Trojan Horse incident appears in neither The Iliad nor its sequel The Odyssey — it merits only a brief mention in the latter, occurring between the events of the two poems. The lesson the story teaches us, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," which is also usually attributed to Homer, is actually a paraphrase of a quote (original quote was more like "I distrust Greeks, even when they do bring gifts") from Virgil's The Aeneid, making this the mythological equivalent of Fanon. Of course, Oral Tradition doesn't really have any "true" authority, but The Aeneid was written quite a while later and by a Roman.
    • The legend of the Achilles' Heel is also not in The Iliad, which implies that Achilles has ordinary vulnerabilities.
    • There used to be more poems in the series, several ancient sources include plot summaries of the others that include the wooden horse and heel.
    • Some people tend to assume that Achilles and Patroclus were depicted as Lover and Beloved and that this was bowdlerized out by later translations and adaptations. While there is certainly a long history of reading their relationship as erotic (starting as early as some ancient Greek writers, such as Plato), the Iliad only ever depicts them as close friends.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:
    • The title refers to the distance the sub travels while underwater, not the depth to which it goes. A "league" is a non-standardized measure of how far someone can walk in an hour, and it's used to measure distance, not depth (depth is measured in fathoms). This SNL sketch parodies this misconception.
    • The battle with the giant squid, the most famous scene in the story, also falls victim to this. Though it's the one plot point that practically everyone is aware of (even if they've never read the book), most people remember it as a climactic showdown with one king-sized squid when it was actually a prolonged skirmish with several of them. The 1954 Disney film has a lot to do with this misconception, since it simplified the squid-battle sequence by leaving it at one (presumably because there was only enough money in the budget for one animatronic squid).
    • While we're on the subject of the giant squid: in the original French, Verne actually referred to the creatures as "poulpes" ("octopuses"), rather than "calmars" ("squids"); many early English translations faithfully preserve the distinction, referring to them as "poulps" (an archaic English term for octopi). This appears to be, in part, a case of Science Marches On: 20th century zoological studies have long since made it clear that there are no real species of octopus that grow to the gigantic proportions seen in the book, but gigantic squid are very real.
    • Though he's certainly the most famous character in the novel, Captain Nemo is actually not the protagonist of the story, but the antagonist. The protagonist (and narrator) is a scientist named Pierre Arronax who spends most of the story as Nemo's captive. Nemo himself is a Nominal Hero at best, and a full-on villain at worst.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Everyone knows that he always wore a deerstalker hat and an Inverness cape, and smoked a curved meerschaum pipe. Actually, the hat and cape were never explicitly described as an Inverness and a deerstalker in the text, and only sporadically appeared as such in a few of Sidney Paget's illustrations. The pipe is a type that did not arrive in Britain until after the Boer War, well past the time when Holmes had retired. Andrew Gillette, who portrayed Holmes on stage more than 1000 times, found that particular pipe easier to use, which is why it became a symbol of Holmes himself.
    • Relatedly: while a few of the original illustrations did have Holmes wearing the deerstalker, it wasn't his only headgear. He only really wore it in stories set in the English countryside, with stories set in London proper often depicting him wearing a black top hat instead.
    • Sherlock also never said "Elementary, my dear Watson". He used the word "elementary", and the phrase "dear Watson", on a few occasions, but never together. Of course in screen adaptations he says it all the time.
    • Speaking of Watson, most people generally picture him as an older, plumper man than Holmes, unattractive, boorish, clumsy and doltish. This is partly due to how many films portrayed him (the BBC versions from the 80's and 90's were the first to break this mold, and even they depicted Watson as significantly older than Holmes) and partly because Holmes usually had to explain how he deduced things to Watson. In reality, Watson was an Army surgeon of above-average intelligence who simply, like most other characters, was not Sherlock Holmes. He also was of an age with Holmes, and was probably the more attractive of the two. Oddly enough, Guy Ritchie's films with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law probably come closest to accurately portraying the pair as written by Doyle. Some will argue for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, of course.
    • Though Holmes' drug use tends to get a lot more focus today than it ever did in Doyle's day, the fact that his drug of choice is cocaine is actually Common Knowledge. Watson specifically says that Holmes frequently uses both cocaine and morphine note , but his 7% cocaine solution is the only drug that we actually see him using in-story.
    • Though Holmes greatly admired Irene Adler's intellect, he was never in love with her, and they never had any kind of romantic relationship. "A Scandal in Bohemia", the only story that she appears in, actually ended with her running off to marry another man. However, because Adler is one of the most pervasive cases of Promoted to Love Interest in literature, people tend to forget this.
    • The dramatic scene of Holmes plummeting to his supposed death at Reichenbach Falls, while one of the series' most iconic images, never really happened in canon. In the original story, "The Final Problem", Watson arrived on the scene after Holmes supposedly fell, and put two and two together from a note that Holmes left. It was later revealed in "The Empty House" that Holmes survived his encounter with Moriarty by throwing him down the falls, then chose not to tell Watson that he'd survived so that he could spend some time dealing with his enemies incognito.
    • Most people "know" that Holmes's greatest nemesis is Professor Moriarty. If you've never read the original stories, it's natural to assume that Moriarty turns up often, either being faced directly or chessmastering the scenarios Holmes finds himself in. In fact, he is featured in exactly two stories, and the first story in which he appeared was also the one in which he died. A full-length novel, The Valley of Fear, was set prior to The Final Problem and is Moriarty's only other appearance. While Holmes does describe him as "the Napoleon of crime" and it's implied that he's at least as brilliant as Holmes is, at no point do any of the characters describe him as Holmes's greatest nemesis. In fairness, though, "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" does heavily imply that he was behind many more crimes that Holmes never found out about, fueling much speculation.
    • Also, nearly all adaptations (even the otherwise very faithful Granada series) portray Holmes and Watson as middle-aged or older. When in fact, all four novels, all 24 stories written before The Final Problem (and a few that were published later but chronologically take place before that case) take place during a ten-year period during which both characters were in their late-20s to late-30s. Most of the remaining stories take place when they were in their early 40s, and Holmes retires by his late 40s.
    • Mrs Hudson is sometimes seen as Holmes's housekeeper. She wasn't any kind of servant, she owned 221 Baker Street, and rented 221B to Holmes and Watson. (She was however, often portrayed as cooking for them, since obviously two Victorian bachelors couldn't fend for themselves in such matters.)
  • Harry Potter: The novels perception is greatly shaped and influenced by the movies which paradoxically mislead new readers precisely because they are highly faithful, with just enough small but crucial changes and alterations to give the wrong impression:
    • A lot of portrayals of new Hogwarts students other than Harry entering the school have the new character getting their acceptance letter on their eleventh birthday exactly, forgetting that Harry was sent hundreds before his birthday; he just wasn't able to read any of them until Hagrid gave him one after several days of the Dursleys trying to escape them. On top of that, the final application date was the 31st of July, which would seriously screw over the children who turned eleven in August. Not to mention all the kids that turned eleven in September still going to school with other Muggle kids and teachers which would endanger the secrecy.
    • Many non-fans like to mock the apparent stupidity of Hogwarts' curriculum, since it teaches young children advanced magic without bothering to teach them English, mathematics, science or history. This, of course, ignores that fact that Wizard children aren't accepted to Hogwarts until they're at least ten years old—around the time that most children would already have a basic grasp of reading, writing and math—as Hogwarts is meant to be the Wizarding equivalent of a secondary school. They don't need higher-level mathematical or scientific skills because they live in a world that runs on magic, but they frequently write lengthy essays on magical subjects for homework assignments, which they couldn't do if they didn't already know how to write. And they do teach history at Hogwarts; there's an entire "History of Magic" class that's about the history of the Wizarding World, but we never find out what's taught in it...because it's so boring that Hermione is the only one who can actually pay attention.
    • A lot of people seem to be under the impression that series is a Cliché Storm of boarding school tropes... which is rather odd, as the series is the first or only exposure to the boarding school genre that most of the audience has ever had. Common jokes abound that Harry "saves the school" Once per Episode and that "the new teacher is always evil", both of which sound like they should be true of a school-themed children's book series, but in fact are not.
    • Whenever a non-fan hears about Harry having romance in his life, it's assumed he'll be getting together with Hermione - because she's the only female character non-fans have actually heard of. This is compounded by the emphasis on Hermione in the movies where Emma Watson's performance made her a Breakout Character which also excised moments in the novels where Harry was quite mean to Hermione, such as taking Ron's side in the Scabbers/Crookshanks debate in Book 3, and getting cross about her reporting the Firebolt to McGonagall as a result of which he and Ron didn't speak to her for months, while in Book 5 he would get irritated and shout at both Ron and Hermione, get irritated by her nagging at him for Occlumency lessons (which he admitted she was right about but never really apologized to her in person) while even in Book 7, Harry thinks of her as narrow-minded for not latching on to the Deathly Hallows. With those elements of real rifts between them removed from the movies, and her general dynamic with Ron kept in, it made the movie version of Harry and Hermione far more compatible-looking than their book counterparts.
    • It's common for many fans to claim that "Harry would have died in Book 1 without Hermione" and exaggerate Hermione into a Memetic Badass based again on the movies. As such it can be surprising to find Book!Hermione to be far more vulnerable and insecure than her Pop-Cultural Osmosis version. She's still a woman of conviction and strong will (albeit the movies leave out her commitment to House Elf rights) but it's also true that both Harry and Ron save her as often as she saves them. In terms of the books, Hermione plays a major part in the climax of Book 3, but in Book 5, she gets knocked out by Antonin Dolohov's curse and only Harry and Neville are still standing when they duel the Death Eaters. Likewise, while Hermione was key to destroying the Horcruxes, Harry identified, located and traced most of the Horcruxes himself (including the one in Gringotts and the Room of Hidden Things) while Ron destroyed one, and found a way to destroy the other.
    • Severus Snape's true loyalties are now widely known, as such it can be a surprise for people to read the books and find how truly unpleasant the book character really was in earlier novels. In the movies, Snape is a dour, cold, and somewhat aloof Deadpan Snarker who comes off as a Cold Ham and Perpetual Frowner. Book!Snape, especially Books 1-3, and especially Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, prove him to be a true Sadist Teacher who vindictively and sadistically taunts his students, especially Neville, he's also a huge Glory Seeker and egomaniac (covetous of the Order of the Merlin for capturing Sirius Black), incredibly unprofessional to Remus Lupin (who he outs as a werewolf out of pure spite), and the repeated invocations and complaints by Harry to his elders about his conduct, would remind people rather more of how authorities protect abusive teachers against the interests of their students than the intended aesop about everyone having Hidden Depths.
    • Likewise, it becomes increasingly common for readers on multiple joke websites and other places to state that Hogwarts has Swiss Cheese Security and that Dumbledore is an incompetent headmaster who makes questionable appointees and that under his watch, Hogwarts has gone to the dogs. Readers tend to forget that we only see Hogwarts during Harry's time at Hogwarts. This is a total of six years, a smaller period compared to the decades Dumbledore has served as Headmaster, and that before Harry's time, the only major incident of fuss at Hogwarts was the death of Moaning Myrtle which happened on the watch of Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. Most of Hogwarts under Dumbledore's time was free of incident. The questionable appointees Dumbledore made, derives from the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts post made by Voldemort, who was magically as powerful as Dumbledore was and likewise neglects the fact that most of the Hogwarts staff (McGonagall, Professor Sprout, Filius Flitwick, Aurora Sinistra, Severus Snape) are actually competent and capable at their vocation. Likewise, while the novels never quite explicitly state what exactly the Headmaster's post is, or what it does, it's made clear that Dumbledore doesn't fully have the freedom to run Hogwarts as he sees fit. As he points out to Harry, he dislikes Divination and wanted to axe the subject off the syllabus but there was a great demand of it among parents and Hogwarts' Board of Governors and finally let it happen explicitly for Professor Trelawney's well-being and safety after she made the first prophecy announcing Voldemort's downfall. About the only appointment one can question Dumbledore is Hagrid, who he made into a Professor of Care of Magical Creatures despite the fact that he didn't complete his magical education and had no experience in teaching, and even then Hagrid did start with promise and occasionally shows that he can be a good teacher (as in the class with the unicorns and Nifflers in Book 4).
    • Everybody knows that Harry Potter is the classic example of a kids' series that accidentally attracted a massive Periphery Demographic of adult fans, just because it was so good. Though the books are generally marketed to young adult readers, J. K. Rowling has pretty consistently said that she wrote them for a general audience, and didn't specifically have kids in mind. More glaringly: some people forget that the books were written over the course of an entire decade (1997-2007). If they had really only been written for kids, then none of the kids who first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone back in 1997 would have been able to finish the series, since most of them were already hitting their 20s by the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out. Also in England, good children's literature have always had Multiple Demographic Appeal, right from Lewis Carroll himself.
  • Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:
    • Hyde was Jekyll's evil, unrestrained side, yes, but Jekyll was not his own good side. It is specifically pointed out in the book that Jekyll is both good and evil, a fact nearly every single story, parody, or adaptation based on it forgets. Moreover, Hyde was not a hulking giant. He was actually smaller and younger-looking than Jekyll, though he was growing taller and stronger, representing Jekyll's slow descent to evil. Alan Moore correctly recognizes the fact in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, along with the possibility of the hulking monster as a further stage.
    • Oddly enough, in the almost universally panned Jekyll-and-Hyde film Mary Reilly, John Malkovich performs the two characters the way they're portrayed in Stevenson's novella. Ironically, some critics of the film blasted Malkovich for that performance.
    • Most people think Jekyll is the protagonist of the story. While adaptations always focus on Jekyll himself, the protagonist of the original story was Jekyll's friend Gabriel John Utterson, who is investigating the connection between his friend Jekyll and the mysterious Mr. Hyde.
    • The novella is not called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or even The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is actually called Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with the "The" left out. This is common enough that even some newer editions put "the" in front of the title.
  • In-universe in Salamander. The rules for magic are very different from what most people think they are.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth:
    • It's commonly believed that almost every fantasy stereotype originated with Tolkien. He was extremely influential on the fantasy genre as a whole, but his descriptions of most fantasy races differ significantly from the stereotypical aspects of the genre. In addition, very little of Tolkien's racial stereotyping originated with Tolkien. His sources were somewhat older. Trope Codifier, perhaps, but not Ur-Example.
    • The Lord of the Rings isn't Frodo Baggins, nor his uncle Bilbo. It refers exclusively to Sauron. There is only one Lord of the Rings, and he doesn't share his title.
      • This is actually mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring, during the Council of Elrond. Pippin jokingly says, "Behold! The Lord of the Ring!" in response to Frodo taking the Ring, and Gandalf quickly reprimands him.
    • "Pipe-weed" is definitely not marijuana; it's the Middle-Earth counterpart of tobacco. It's even explicitly called tobacco in The Hobbit, which was written before the decision to tie it all in to his Middle-Earth mythology. Tolkien changed the name to pipe-weed because tobacco is a non-English loanword, so he felt it would be inappropriate to use with characters not speaking English.
    • It's often said that Saruman has a Compelling Voice. While this is somewhat true, the actual extent of this is often exaggerated, with many fans claiming that Saruman's voice was literally hypnotic. Tolkien explicitly stated in one of his letters that Saruman's voice was merely persuasive, not hypnotic. Some variants of hypnosis do occur in Tolkien's works, such as the dragon enchantments and, possibly, Luthien's song in front of Morgoth, but not in Lord of The Rings. Rejecting Saruman's voice was possible with free will and reason (emphasis Tolkien's), as Gimli does in the book. This is poked fun at in the second movie, when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli encounter who they think is Saruman, Aragon warns "Do not let him speak. He will put a spell on us."
    • Also, it's common knowledge that Gimli was a comic relief-type character, but this is only true in the movies. In the book, he was an honourable, wise and stalwart warrior, though he did have a short temper which led to a few difficult situations.
    • The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy. It's one single book, which was initially published in three parts because the publishers couldn't afford to publish it all at once originally. (Ironically, it was initially intended to be a shorter sequel to The Hobbit, but as Tolkien famously said, "the tale grew in the telling").
    • Common knowledge says that Middle-Earth is a fantasy world. It's not. The books are set on Earth in the distant past (about 6,000 years ago, by Tolkien's reckoning) and purport to detail heroic deeds from Germanic mythology, ala the Edda or Beowulf.
    • Another bit of common knowledge: Frodo's sidekick is named Samwise and they come from the Shire. Wrong. His actual name is Banazir and they come from the Suza. In his guise as translator of the Red Book, Tolkien — who always pictured the Hobbit lands as Merrie England — gave them all appropriately-folksy translations. Many of the actual names can be found by trawling through the appendix, such as Kalidoc being Merry's "true" name.
  • It's often said that The Magician's Nephew is the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia. Though it is the first chronologically, it's actually officially the sixth book, and a prequel to the actual first book, which is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Later compilations which published the books in chronological order (putting The Magician's Nephew first) are to be blamed for this. Fans even back up this belief by claiming that C. S. Lewis actually preferred it that way, though many suggest he was actually just being kind to a young fan who said she preferred that order when he said that, not actually officially endorsing it as Word of God.
  • The wonderlands of Lewis Carroll:
    • Many people are still under the impression that Carroll was either on drugs or a child molester.
    • Also, many people who have never read the book or watched adaptations of it assume that the story is about Alice is having a drug trip instead of simply dreaming. Others assume that the book was written in an attempt to advertise psychedelic drugs and/or alcohol to children, but it's just a nonsensical fantasy story.
      • The former comes from the time and space displacement that Alice undergoes during Alice in Wonderland (as well as the general nuttiness). In fact, the growing and shrinking, like the frequent presence of magical food and drink, are just because children like that kind of thing. (And possibly as a math joke.) The general nuttiness comes from the fact that Alice in Wonderland was actually parodying just about everything Carroll could think of.
      • The latter idea actually comes from Values Dissonance causing a severe backfire in his family's attempt to preserve his reputation: He had several very close relationships with grown women, some of whom were married, as well as his now-famous "child friends"— to the Victorians, someone who spent more time around children than adults was seen as innocent and saintly, so his family covered up his relationships with adults by emphasizing his younger friends, and even claiming he was afraid of adult women. This doesn't look so good to a modern eye.
    • He didn't have Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, either; it was just named for his books. He did suffer from migraines, but not until later in life, long after both Alice books were written.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Carroll never actually referred to the Hatter as the Mad Hatter, only the Hatter. And the Queen of Hearts and Red Queen are not the same person (though film adaptations frequently merge them). Referring to the Hatter as the Mad Hatter would be redundant, as the Cheshire Cat points out that everyone in Wonderland, including Alice herself, is mad.
    • She fell down a rabbit hole, talked to a doorknob and some sentient flowers in the garden, met Tweedledum and Tweedledee...wait, you mean she didn't? Well yes, of course she fell down the rabbit hole, but the talking doorknob was from the Disney animated film, while the talking flowers and Tweedledum and Tweedledee were both from Through the Looking-Glass.
    • Common knowledge even gets the title wrong - it was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Not to mention that common knowledge also screws up the sequel's title, as it is correctly Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.
      • However, "Alice in Wonderland" can be used as the series title, referring to the two books together.
  • The title character of Carrie is telekinetic, not pyrokinetic. She never created fire using only her mind, she just managed to start a fire at her school by telekinetically turning on the sprinklers in the gym and ripping apart the wiring in some nearby machinery. The confusion likely stems from people confusing Carrie with the little girl from Firestarter, whose pyrokinesis is her main psychic power. Both books were by Stephen King, and both were about young psychic girls blamelessly victimized by others.
  • Eragon isn't the name of the dragon on the cover. It's the name of the farmboy who finds the dragon egg. The dragon is Saphira.
    • The series was not "written by a teenager". Christopher Paolini started writing the books when he was a teenager, but he finished the first book when he was nineteen (technically still "teenage", but legally an adult in the US), and the rest of the series in his twenties.
  • H.P. Lovecraft
    • His stories are all about people meeting an ancient Eldritch Abomination (often the centerpiece Cthulhu) and in the end getting killed or insane. Except... Not. To start with, few stories of Lovecraft features an abomination itself (and especially Cthulhu, who appears only in "The Call of Cthulhu" and is mentioned fairly little beyond that), instead often showing smaller races who worship these Old Ones (the most prevalent being Yog-Sothoth and Lovecraft fittingly called his mythos "Yog-Sothothery") and rarely dealing with the direct end of the world, but instead focusing on humanity's lack of importance on a grander scale. And last but not least, very few protagonists of his die and few of them go insane. Most of them just live... But of course have to live with the knowledge of what they know.
    • And, in a possibly even more ubiquitous case, he never called the Fungi from Yuggoth "Mi-Go" as a proper name for the species. In his story that truly introduced them, "The Whisperer in Darkness", they are compared to, or suggested to be the origin of stories of the Mi-Go — and the protagonists later conclude that the "mi-go" is, in truth, definitely the same as what they're dealing with — but the term is simply a pre-existing name (another name for the yeti) that they decide is truly, if unwittingly, referring to these creatures, rather than the more common conception of what one is. It would be just as valid to call them fauns, dryads, satyrs, or "kallikanzarai" [sic], all other pre-existing creatures of myth and folklore that they're similarly compared to.
  • Dracula: much like Frankenstein, the pop culture perception of the book and its titular character is very skewed thanks to a century of movie versions.
    • The count is not a clean-shaven, devilishly handsome seducer the way Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee portrayed him; he's a hairy, ugly old man who gets younger, but not handsomer, when he drinks blood.
    • Sunlight does not destroy him; instead, he simply loses much of his power during the daytime hours, even if he stays indoors. This was probably assumed because he originally died at dawn when a knife was plunged through his heart.
    • His English is described as being excellent and nearly un-accented, in contrast to Lugosi's heavy accent, which has been further exaggerated by pop culture.
    • He has an aversion to garlic flowers, not garlic bulbs as nearly every adaptation depicts.
    • Dracula is killed by a knife to the heart, not a stake (though stakes are used to take care of his vampire brides).
    • Dracula also does not sleep in a coffin. He simply transports large crates of soil from the land around his castle wherever he goes and sleeps in those. This is a confusion similar to the stake thing; Lucy sleeps in her coffin during the day.
    • Ever since the publication of In Search of Dracula in 1970, everybody "knows" that Dracula and the historical figure Vlad "The Impaler" Dracula were implied to be one in the same, but the truth is less clear. While Stoker clearly borrowed the name and general history of Vlad for his vampire, he goes to great pains to never explicitly equate the two, and a number of contradictory details hint that the count is meant to be an elaborate Captain Ersatz who is like Vlad, but not actually Vlad.
    • Likewise, Castle Dracula is not a real place; Bran Castle is often advertised as the real deal because Castle Dracula was apparently modeled after it, but Stoker fully intended the count's home to be a distinct location elsewhere in Romania.
    • The three vampire women that accompany Dracula are often referred to as the "Brides of Dracula", even though they are not actually explicitly called like that in the novel, but instead are named "Weird Sisters". They are heavily implied to be Dracula's daughters or sisters (due to their physical semblance to him) rather than being his actual wives, though these aren't mutually exclusive since they do mention loving him. They are also not a blonde, a brunette and a redhead like most adaptations, but two brunettes and a blonde, with the latter identified as the youngest and the leader.
  • A lot of people think that in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is "the meaning of life". Actually, it's specifically referred to as the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The reason nobody can understand why 42 is the answer is because they don't actually know what the question is.
  • Fahrenheit 451:
    • Books are not banned. They're very rare, since nearly all books have been banned a la the Qin dynasty, and most "useful" books have been put on foresight's best approximation of digital media, but there exist books that are legal to own; there's even a scene where Montag tries to dramatically reveal that he's preserved a banned book, and everyone present thinks it's a "fireman"'s manual.
    • Furthermore, Fahrenheit 451 is not about government censorship but rather self-censorship - Ray Bradbury believed that a decline in interest in literature in favour of other mediums such as TV was a very bad thing, and in fact got very annoyed at people's constant insisting that it was about state censorship.
      • It should be mentioned here that Ray Bradbury changed his explanation of what the book was about many times, with the self censorship reasoning only coming to the forefront later in life when he became strongly in favor of increased government power in the aftermath of 9/11.
    • And of course, everyone knows the title is a reference to the temperature at which paper catches fire - 451 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, sort of - paper can catch fire at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is only an estimation, and the actual temperature varies depending on the paper considered.
  • The Giver is a novel about a futuristic society where everyone looks and acts the same... except it's not. People in the Community have distinct personalities, and government-mandated personality tests are actually a huge plot point. Technically, there are a handful of people in the Community with distinct looks (the protagonist and his love interest stand out for having blue eyes and red hair, respectively) though selective breeding by the government tries to prevent this. The Community's distinguishing features are its strict regulation of people's career paths and everyday lives, and its ban on strong emotions. It's a bit more complex than "Everyone is the same!"
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is that fantasy series that's basically The Lord of the Rings but with a death every other page and a sex scene every other opposite page. Pretty much all the main characters are dead at this point. Except:
    • Literally the only thing it has in common with The Lord of the Rings is that they take place in a medieval-esque fantasy setting. note  The series does not feature elves, dwarves, orcs, a Dark Lord or anything akin to them (just ice zombies). It also does not feature an epic quest, it uses minimal magic, its few magic-users are regarded with extreme suspicion, and its Dragons are unintelligent animals. The series' primary inspiration is real European history, not pre-existing fantasy: the War of the Five Kings is based on the War of the Roses (with the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens standing in for the Yorks, Lancasters and Plantagenets), several major characters are based on Real Life figures who featured prominently in the Warnote , the Wall is based on Hadrian's Wall, the Doom of Valria is based on the Fall of Rome, and the First Men, Andals and Valyrians are based on the Angles, Saxons and Normans.
    • The amount of death has been greatly exaggerated. Yes, there's a lot of death, but not really any more death than any other war-themed novel would have. There are also many characters who manage to escape what seems like certain death, some reported deaths that turn out to be tricks, several they never found the body scenarios, etc. What sets this series apart is that characters die that would be plot armored in any other series, and they don't necessarily get to die for a good reason. But even there, it's hardly every character. Many have survived since the very beginning.
    • The amount of sex in the series has also been greatly exaggerated. It's present, but far from the level of "fantasy porn" the series is sometimes described as. It doesn't help that the TV adaptation really played up the sex scenes, including adding several that weren't present in the novels.
  • Doctor Dolittle: Dr. John Dolittle, M.D. did not, contrary to popular belief, have any kind of special ability that allowed him to talk to animals. He simply learned how to talk to animals (the same way that one would learn any other foreign language) by taking lessons from his pet parrot Polynesia, who could naturally speak to both humans and animals.
  • Everyone knows that Winnie-the-Pooh and friends live in the Hundred Acre Wood — except that they don't. "The Hundred Acre Woods" is actually just a small section of a much larger, nameless forest (based on and clearly meant to be Ashdown Forest in Sussex, but in the books just called "the Forest"). The only character who actually lived in the Hundred Acre Wood is Owl; the rest of them live in other parts of the Forest. Though this misconception is probably another result of Adaptation Displacement: in the Disney version, "The Hundred Acre Wood" is the name for the entire Forest.
  • Eugene Onegin: It is Common Knowledge that at the end Tatiana marries an elderly man. Actually, her husband's age is never mentioned. The narration hints that he's just several years older than Onegin.
  • The War of the Worlds: Everyone knows that the Martian invasion was stopped when the Martians contracted the common cold and died. Except they didn't; it's made very clear that they died from bacterial infections. Viruses, such as that which cause the common cold, were unknown to science at the time.
  • If you know a lover of fantasy fiction who hasn't read The Wheel of Time, they will likely tell you two reasons; One, that the series will "never end" and Two, that the plot never advances despite the length of the books. The first is explicitly untrue; the series has reached its conclusion. The second isn't strictly true either; a great deal of advancement occurs in the first six books. It is only around the seventh that author Robert Jordan seemed to prefer to move the plot forward very slowly, but even then he included at least one major event per novel, the only real exception being Crossroads of Twilight. The last four novels in the series are quite kinetic and move the plot forward significantly.
    • Also, a common complaint is just how long each book is. And long they are, but not really any longer than most epic fantasy novels from its time, and in fact, significantly shorter than novels in other series such as The Sword of Truth, The Malazan Book of the Fallen or even the more popular A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • In Land of Oz books not all Munchkinlanders are short. While it is common for them to be below average height more than a few are of typical height.
  • Vatsayana's Kama Sutra is a Hindu philosophical text about the spiritual components of pleasure, the challenges of balancing pleasurable living with virtuous behavior, and the elements of healthy sexual relationships. Despite what you may have heard, it's not a "sex manual" or a guide to having better sex. Also, while it may be heavily associated with tantric sex in the popular imagination, it has nothing to do with it.
  • Discworld is a lighthearted parody of fantasy tropes. Sure, if you're talking about the first three books, and your definition of "lighthearted" includes a scary apocalyptic cult that The Grim Reaper calls Death of the mind, and a young girl almost losing her mind to the instincts of an eagle. Mort is an original story based on established Discworld concepts rather than a direct parody of anything, and subsequent books are generally more the former than the latter, and where they're parody, are more likely to parody things other than classic fantasy.
  • We all know the part in The Odyssey where the witch Circe turns Odysseus' crew into pigs. In fact, Circe is never referred as a witch in the poem but as a goddess (albeit a minor one). It's only later that Circe has been associated with witchcraft.
  • Les Misérables:
    • The book is not about The French Revolution, although the climax involves a French revolution - a less successful one, more than 40 years after the capital-R French Revolution.
    • Some people don't realise that Valjean wasn't falsely accused of being a thief - he really did steal that loaf of bread. In fact, the whole point of his story is that his 19-year jail term was perfectly in line with the law, thus proving that the system was broken.
    • Popular imagination has Javert relentlessly pursue Valjean across France for twenty years. In the novel, while Javert certainly wants to find and arrest Valjean, their meetings tend to be Contrived Coincidences, not the result of active pursuing or searching, and they happen over the course of seventeen years, not twenty.
    • It's commonly assumed that Fantine was abandoned by her lover Tholomyés while (or even because) she was pregnant with Cosette, or else before Fantine even knew she was pregnant. But the "truth" is worse - Tholomyés left when Cosette was already a toddler. The confusion comes from the fact that Cosette's existence is only revealed in a Wham Line after he leaves, and the line in question is "...and [Fantine] had his child," which in French can only mean that she literally had the child with her, but which English-speakers often misinterpret to mean "she gave birth to his child soon afterward."
    • Thanks to the popularity of the musical with its Alternative Character Interpretation, the character of Éponine is often thought of as a purely heroic, romantic figure - the quintessential Unrequited Tragic Maiden whose love for Marius is selfless and all-sacrificing. The novel's Éponine is The Ophelia and a Clingy Jealous Girl whose love for Marius veers between I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and If I Can't Have You... and whose main dramatic purpose is to be a harrowing portrait of a child in poverty, not a romantic heroine.
  • The Catcher in the Rye is the definitive Coming-of-Age Story... except it isn't really. Holden remains the same angsty adolescent at the end as he was at the beginning.
  • The Metamorphosis is "the one where the guy turns into a giant cockroach" to most people, but that may or may not be accurate. In German, Gregor is described as an "Ungeziefer," a term similar in connotation to "vermin" but specific to insects. At least one English translation does specifically identify him as a cockroach, but most try to maintain the original ambiguity by calling him a vermin, an insect, or a verminous insect.
  • Ulysses is the one where every chapter is named after a corresponding chapter in Homer's The Odyssey, right? No, actually. The book is a loose retelling of The Odyssey, but it doesn't have chapters; it's a loose series of "episodes", which don't have numbers or titles. While most reading guides to the novel name the episodes after chapters in The Odyssey (based on James Joyce's personal notes), the novel itself does not. It's just divided into a "Part I", "Part II" and "Part III", which are the only parts of the book explicitly labeled as such. note 
  • Lolita is considered the iconic example of a young girl with seductive traits. The actual book, despite its Unreliable Narrator, makes it fairly clear that Humbert, Dolores's pedophilic abuser, is trying to justify his actions and projecting the idea onto her, with her actual described actions showing her doing everything in her power to escape him. Dolores is physically characterized (outside of Humbert's rose-tinted view of her as a nymphet) as a rather scruffy, smelly borderline-tomboy who Humbert has to coerce into wearing the frilly things he buys for her during their road trip — in short, much more of a typical kid than the beguiling beauty frequently depicted on the book's covers.
  • People often believe that Paradise Lost uses the name "Lucifer" to refer to Satan. In fact, he is never called "Lucifer" once in the poem, though he is depicted as the kind of handsome, heroic-looking figure we tend to associate with that name. The avoidance of the name Lucifer may be a kind of Fridge Brilliance: all the fallen angels once had "good" names, which are now blotted out in Heaven and never mentioned in the poem; "Bringer of Light" would presumably be one of them.
  • The nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosie" is all about the Black Plague, right? Nope. In fact, the rhyme is first mentioned in print in 1846, and first recorded in 1855, as follows:
    A ring — a ring of roses,
    Laps full of posies;
    Awake — awake!
    Now come and make
    A ring — a ring of roses.
    • The first versions beginning to resemble the modern "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" verses appear c. 1900, and the various folk interpretations involving the Black Plague date to—at the very earliest—the 1930s. For these reasons, folklorists reject the popular association of the rhyme with the plague, a position agreed upon by Snopes.
  • Warrior Cats: Bluestar is a Russian Blue... Except she's not. Despite this, her being a Russian Blue is commonly cited amongst fans. Bluestar is a feral cat whose family has been feral for generations. She can't be a Russian Blue, which is a pure breed. She also has the incorrect eye color. Russian Blue's have green eyes and only green eyes. Bluestar has blue eyes. Word of God is that Bluestar has Russian Blue ancestry, however she is just a blue-furred mixed breed.
  • Everybody knows that Dan Brown's Robert Langdon thrillers are all about a Badass Bookworm tangling with sinister Ancient Conspiracies that secretly rule the world. Except they're not. Questionable fact-checking aside, the novels practically always end with Langdon discovering that the supposed Ancient Conspiracy is a lot more modest in scope than it initially seems, and the bad guy practically always turns out to be a lone nut-job with an agenda. note  Case in point: Angels & Demons portrays the Illuminati as having long since gone extinct, the Priory of Sion in The Da Vinci Code are just a close-knit group of scholars with an interest in the occult, and The Lost Symbol (more-or-less accurately) portrays the Freemasons as a highly exclusive social club for people with humanist beliefs.


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