Previous Next J. Birzer , Fiction , Imagination , J. One very late night or early morning in , J. Tolkien awoke, a full story ready to burst from his already imaginatively feverish brain.
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Plot summary[ edit ] In this story, an artist, named Niggle, lives in a society that does not value art. Working only to please himself, he paints a canvas of a great Tree with a forest in the distance. He invests each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single vast embodiment of his vision. However, there are many mundane chores and duties that prevent Niggle from giving his work the attention it deserves, so it remains incomplete and is not fully realised.
At the back of his head, Niggle knows that he has a great trip looming, and he must pack and prepare his bags. Parish is lame and has a sick wife and genuinely needs help. Niggle, having a good heart, takes time out to help—but he is also reluctant because he would rather work on his painting. Niggle has other pressing work duties as well that require his attention.
Then Niggle himself catches a chill doing errands for Parish in the rain. Eventually, Niggle is forced to take his trip, and cannot get out of it. He has not prepared, and as a result ends up in a kind of institution, in which he must perform menial labour each day.
In time, Niggle is paroled from the institution, and he is sent to a place "for a little gentle treatment". He discovers that this new place is the country of the Tree and Forest of his great painting. This place is the true realisation of his vision, not the flawed and incomplete version in his painting. Niggle is reunited with his old neighbour, Parish, who now proves his worth as a gardener, and together they make the Tree and Forest even more beautiful.
Finally, Niggle journeys farther and deeper into the Forest, and beyond into the great Mountains that he only faintly glimpsed in his painting. Analysis[ edit ] One religious reading of Leaf by Niggle could lead to the conclusion that the allegory of "Leaf by Niggle" is life, death, purgatory and paradise. His time in the institution and subsequent discovery of his Tree represent purgatory and heaven.
The sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God is one way that mortals honour God. Thus, the Middle-earth legendarium , despite its lack of overt religious elements, can be interpreted as a profoundly religious work.
Tolkien was compulsive in his writing, his revision, his desire for perfection in form and in the "reality" of his invented world, its languages, its chronologies, its existence. Like Niggle, Tolkien came to abandon other projects or graft them onto his "Tree", Middle-earth.
Like Niggle, Tolkien faced many chores and duties that kept him from the work he loved;  and like Niggle, Tolkien was a horrible procrastinator. He wrote, in Letter of The Letters of J. Tolkien , "I dislike Allegory". Samuel Hammond and Marie K. Drout , ed. Tolkien encyclopedia: scholarship and critical assessment" Routledge, New York , p.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle”
Main content Leaf by Niggle: The Hidden Nucleus This story allows diverse interpretations, political, religious, autobiographical. As often mentioned in his correspondence, Tolkien endlessly rewrote the pages he drafted; even when his work was to be republished, he rewrote it in great part. This is not true of Leaf by Niggle : the story appeared like a dream, and the author wrote it very swiftly, barely correcting it before it was published. As if it had always been there, in his mind, and had only to come out. This immediacy shows how very intimate the story is, beyond its strictly autobiographical nature.
Leaf by Niggle
Plot summary[ edit ] In this story, an artist, named Niggle, lives in a society that does not value art. Working only to please himself, he paints a canvas of a great Tree with a forest in the distance. He invests each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single vast embodiment of his vision.
Life Echoes in Eternity: On J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle”
Usually I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting. I woke up one day more the 2 years ago with that odd thing virtually complete in my head. It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out. Although Tolkien activily defended against being allegorical. The war had arisen to darken all horizons. But no such analyses are a complete explanation even of a short story Tolkien in and first published in the Dublin Review in January
E-Text: Tolkien. He did not want to go, indeed the whole idea was distasteful to him; but he could not get out of it. He knew he would have to start some time, but he did not hurry with his preparations. Niggle was a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he had many other things to do. Most of these things he thought were a nuisance; but he did them fairly well, when he could not get out of them: which in his opinion was far too often. The laws in his country were rather strict.