View Full Version : Leaf by Niggle

11-04-2000, 02:51 PM
Posts: 169

Of course, I know that the main stream of discussion in the Books turns around ME, still Tolkien has some so called minor works wich are nonethless worth discussing no less than any hobbit related story.

Now I suggest to talk about Leaf by Niggle, one of my favorites (not the least since I have found many similarities of Niggle with my very self). The story is one to give hope and warning at the same time, and, though I deem I understood it correctly, I don't want to be overly self confident and will listen to what you, all the rest of the world ;) , have to say about Niggle, Parish, and company.

things might have been different, but they could not have been better

The Barrow-Wight
11-04-2000, 03:34 PM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Wraith of Angmar
Posts: 1574</TD><TD></TD></TR></TABLE>
Re: Leaf by Niggle

I've never read it.

The Barrow-Wight (RKittle)
<font size="2">I usually haunt http://www.barrowdowns.comThe Barrow-Downs</a> and The Barrow-Downs http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgiMiddle-Earth Discussion Board</a>.</p>

11-04-2000, 04:20 PM
Posts: 173
Re: Strongly recommended by HI

Whoops! :rolleyes:

More seriosly, For those who are interested and have not read it yet, in the USA the story can be found in a compilation The Tolkien Reader published by Ballantine Books, and including also such a wonderful pieces as are On Fairy Stories, Farmer Giles of Ham, Adventures of Tom Bombadil and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beornthelm's Son.

11-04-2000, 04:34 PM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Haunting Spirit
Posts: 68</TD><TD></TD></TR></TABLE>
Re: Strongly recommended by HI

What is &quot;The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beornthelm's Son&quot;? I have never heard of it, although I do have Leaf by Niggle, Farmer Giles and Tom Bombadil. Unfortunately I don't live in the USA, so I can't buy &quot;The Tolkien Reader&quot; (at least not easily).

"voyaging the Dark behind the world, a glimmering and fugitive star."</p>

11-04-2000, 05:01 PM
Posts: 175
Re: Strongly recommended by HI

I bought it in Poland

The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beornthelm's Son is a play by JRRT based on The Battle of Maldon, Old English poem describing the battle between Vikings and Englishmen

11-05-2000, 01:54 AM
<font face="Verdana"><table><TR><TD><FONT SIZE="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Animated Skeleton
Posts: 36</TD><TD></TD></TR></TABLE>
Re: Strongly recommended by HI

There's also a book, Tree and Leaf that contains &quot;On Fairy Stories&quot; and &quot;Leaf by Niggle&quot;. I don't know how easily available it is, the one I have is my dad's, from years and years ago.


05-11-2003, 11:01 AM
I wanted to bring this back to the top (after 3 years!) and actually talk about Leaf by Niggle. I think there are more people here now that have read the so called "minor works". So...

The story was mysterious. To be honest, when I first read it I hadn't a clue as to what was going on, or rather what the point was. I did, however, become completely absorbed in Niggle's painting. I love the way it was described in such detail.

I'm curious as to what others think about the relationship between Niggle and Parish in the end.

Anyway, this is a start, and I hope others will carry this on.

The Squatter of Amon Rdh
05-11-2003, 12:40 PM
What I mainly noticed about Niggle and Parish's meeting in the garden is that each has learned to appreciate the other. Their differences have been laid aside and now they can live and work together successfully, begging the question: how might things have been had they been a little more patient and understanding before they came there? Digging a little deeper we can see a suggestion that our personal dislikes and disagreements invariably stem from our own failings, and that heaven and hell are consequently things that we carry with us.

[ May 22, 2003: Message edited by: The Squatter of Amon Rdh ]

05-11-2003, 11:34 PM
I have to say, I love Leaf by Niggle.To me the part that is the best is the very end, with the actual leaf, by Niggle. The whole story is pretty out of it, Niggle's journey, and so on, but its just a great read to make you think.

05-12-2003, 03:10 AM
I like the story, but could never really 'connect' with it. Its probably the closest thing to an allegory that Tolkien wrote, & that distances me from it. Smith, on the other hand, haunts me.

05-12-2003, 07:15 AM
Shortly after having read LotR for the first time I discovered "Tree and Leaf".

"On Fairy-stories" was a real eye-opener - there is so much truth in it and so much which relates to the LotR.

"Leaf by Niggle" I find very touching, though the end is a bit mysterious.
The description of the tree "sending out innumerable branches and thrusting out the most fantastic roots" struck me at once as a kind of allegory of Tolkiens book (in spite of Tolkiens professed dislike of allegories)
After all he did write it in the middle of composing LotR, and it seems to express his fear that he would never be able to finish it (in this world)
And the description of Niggle seems to reflect at least a part of Tolkiens personality (perhaps Parish is another part...)

[ May 12, 2003: Message edited by: Guinevere ]

Amarie of the Vanyar
05-12-2003, 12:42 PM
'Leaf by Niggle' is one of my favourite Tolkien stories; of course it is an allegory, the tree beeing his work on the Middle Earth, each tale and character growing like the branches of Noggle's tree, and each of them being explained by Tolkien in such a detail as each of the leaves that Niggle paints ... smilies/redface.gif

And that's why it is for me a hopeful story: when I die, I expect to arrive to Niggle-Parish ..., oops! I mean to Tolkien Middle Earth, and talk to Elves, and Valar, and hobbits, ... smilies/smile.gif and ask Gandalf whether the Balrog had wings ! smilies/tongue.gif

Sophia the Thunder Mistress
05-16-2003, 12:10 AM
What good timing Alak, for digging up this thread, I was plotting to start one on Leaf by Niggle myself. smilies/wink.gif

What I was going to say revolves somewhat around what Amarie of the Vanyar said: 'Leaf by Niggle' is one of my favourite Tolkien stories; of course it is an allegory, the tree beeing his work on the Middle Earth, each tale and character growing like the branches of Noggle's tree, and each of them being explained by Tolkien in such a detail as each of the leaves that Niggle paints ...

Leaf by Niggle is obviously an allegory- Niggle's journey representing death and so forth, but how much of himself is represented in Niggle's work?

The comparison between his histories and Niggle's tree seems blaring to me, but I've never seen it discussed anywhere. I wonder if he thought of it as he portrayed Niggle's great painting; as pieced together scraps of things, looking overall slightly warped and off kilter, though in details meticulously lovely.

I wonder what the final bit signifies then? The destruction of the entire tree and the preservation of just one leaf- LoTR? Has most of Tolkien's 'tree' been underappreciated? Or did he mean to say that the work was truly better in snapshots than as a whole (honestly I find it much better as a whole...)?

As a sidenote, why, davem, do you say that about the allegorical content of Leaf by Niggle? Personal distaste for allegory? I wonder, because I see a lot of fellow Tolkien fans (whom I know in real life) throw out Leaf by Niggle because it is allegorical, placing it as a secondary work because of Tolkien's avowed dislike of allegory. I don't think it's "allegorical-ness" lessens its value at all, and there are other instances of Tolkien using allegory (Monsters and Critics). smilies/smile.gif Just wondering, I haven't gotten my hands on Smith of Wooton Major yet, but very few things touch me as deeply as Leaf by Niggle...

A few thoughts for the general consumption.


Amarie of the Vanyar
05-16-2003, 12:45 PM
Sophia the Thunder Mistress, you wrote:

I wonder what the final bit signifies then? The destruction of the entire tree and the preservation of just one leaf- LoTR? Has most of Tolkien's 'tree' been underappreciated? Or did he mean to say that the work was truly better in snapshots than as a whole (honestly I find it much better as a whole...)?

Tolkien begun writing 'The Lord of the Rings' in 1937, and he worked on it for 12 years !!!! smilies/eek.gif , until 1949. When Tolkien wrote 'Leaf by Niggle', in 1943, he had stopped writing LotR and he thought that he would never be able to finish it.

So, I think that it is more likely that the 'leaf' that remains of Niggle work is 'The Hobbit' (which was already finished and published), than LotR. And that, at that moment, he thought that he would never been able of finishing any other work on Middle Earth, neither LotR, nor the Silmarillion (which would be the rest of the tree).

Luckily for all of us, LotR was published smilies/wink.gif If not, possibly all the work on Middle Earth would have never been published..., it would have ended like Niggle's tree smilies/frown.gif

Sophia the Thunder Mistress
05-16-2003, 01:44 PM
*blushes*, Thanks Amarie, that's a very good reason for me to do more research after thinking about something. But the point of what I said is the same... was Tolkien talking about himself with the appreciated one leaf, or was he just using it in the story?

05-16-2003, 02:15 PM
It always seemed to me that Leaf by Niggle was an alegory of pergatory. Niggle neglected the inportance of packing for the neccesary surprise journey (death), but gets to make up for it in Niggle-Parish.

05-16-2003, 04:38 PM
Tolkien begun writing 'The Lord of the Rings' in 1937, and he worked on it for 12 years !!!! , until 1949.

You're right that it did take him many years to write LotR, but he started the Silm 20 years before LotR. He worked on the 'unpublished' Silm until a couple of years before he died in 1973. The Silm was his life work, not LotR. Relating this information to Leaf by Niggle, I think it's entirely possible for LotR, or maybe any of his 'stories', to be Tolkien's leaf.

05-17-2003, 07:41 AM
Here is a link to another thread on this topic with many fascinating ideas!http://forum.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=1&t=002024

05-17-2003, 04:45 PM
Very nice of you to bring this up. I'm flattered with the attention, as well as pleased with the improvement of my English over the years, since I can't help noticing how poor is my vocabulary and how bad is my spelling in those older threads

excuses for being off topic, my opinion is expressed in the thread linked in the previous post

*H-I bows

06-03-2003, 06:58 PM
When I read 'Leaf' for the first time years ago, I got the feeling that it was all so unfair (now I can't even tell what or why, just some resentment) I can't say I disliked the story, on the contrary. As H-I wrote in his initial post i have found many similarities of Niggle with myself

I found time at last to re-read 'Leaf' today - or was it yesterday? and then searched for the threads here. The threads on Tolkien's life are most enlightening.
There are a couple of thoughts not related to him directly that I'd like to have your opinion about.

1. It appeared to me that while alive Niggle was a *creator* despite all procrastination and distractions. After being trained/cured in the purgatory he learns to *work* but then he evidently doesn't bring anything new into his picture. He is able to finish his picture, but would he have been able to design it first place working regular hours? Or could the design become so grand if the beginning and the end of the project were scheduled?
2. Who's that only person that appreciates Melkin's work in real world? A *worthless* teacher. But... Should we praise him for sympathy and deep understanding, or did she prove no better than the others by letting the 'leaf' gather dust in the dark corner and finaly perish in the fire?
Opinions welcome (mine is currently sunken in beer smilies/confused.gif ) Perhaps some other time, if nobody comes with another bottle... or asks to type a report.....

06-03-2003, 10:02 PM
Hi everyone,

To answer a few questions: I believe that Leaf by Niggle is, indeed, meant to be about his work on THE SILMARILLION. *This* was his passion - the other stuff was just set in the Silm universe. And the purgatory bit is right, too. For those who live in Australia or the UK, the story is available in TREE BY LEAF, which was in print the last time I looked (with the film out, they're hauling out every Tolkien work they can get and re-printing), and some of the other stories, including THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL and his other poems, are in a volume called PERILOUS REALMS. I think that, between them, the two volumes cover most of his short stuff, including SMITH and FARMER GILES. Not sure what the book titles are elsewhere. Hope this helps!

As a writer, I found myself chuckling sympathetically and nodding while reading the story.

BTW, has anyone read his children's book ROVERANDOM? It's set more or less in our world, but also in Middle-Earth as it would be in the 20th century, i.e. the dog hero finds himself within sight of what I think is Tol Eressea and the Man in the Moon is the one out of Tolkien's poem.

The Squatter of Amon Rdh
06-05-2003, 01:40 PM
As luck would have it I've found a very telling comment about Leaf by Niggle from the man himself: Leaf by Niggle arose suddenly and almost complete. It was written down almost at a sitting, and very nearly in the form in which it appears. Looking at it myself now from a distance I should say that, in addition to my tree-love (it was originally called The Tree), it arose from my own pre-occupation with The Lord of the Rings, the knowledge that it would be finished in great detail or not at all, and the fear (near certainty) that it would be 'not at all'. The war had arisen to darken all horizons. But no such analyses are a complete explanation of a short story. (from Letter #199 to Caroline Everett, 24 June 1957)

Of course the big eye-opener is the association of Niggle's picture with The Lord of the Rings rather than the Silmarillion, although it's equally applicable to the older work. It's easy to forget how long it took Tolkien to write his novel, and equally easy to imagine him despairing of ever finishing it.

06-06-2003, 10:37 AM
I read Leaf By Niggle for the first time this year. I fell in love with it. I find the end intriguing as well. For me it seemed to imply that one little leaf sprung from Tolkien's imagination: hobbits. Tolkien said of himself that he was very much like a hobbit in his character and preferences. While he tinkered with the stories surrounding them, borrowing from other myths, perhaps it is in the hobbits' strengths and weaknesses, in the hobbits' characteristics and heart that he best expressed himself. Perhaps he was niggling with the idea that when his own soul was sifted down to truth the best in himself would turn out to be what is the best part of a hobbit's nature.

I found the story in "The Tolkien Reader" first published in 1966 and still in print which contains The Homecoming of Beorhthnoth, Tree and Leaf, Farmer Giles of Ham, and The Adventures of Tom Bombadilalong with Peter Beagle's essay . Tolkien's Magic Ring.