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Old 06-16-2021, 02:21 PM   #15
Wight of the Old Forest
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Unattended on the railway station, in the litter at the dancehall
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Leaf I want to see mountains again, Gandalf - mountains!

Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
I think that's a bit untrue, but if you were to present a contradiction about his feelings in writing the The Lord of the Rings between a statement in the Letters and something in Leaf, I would instinctively side with Leaf as the truer of the two, ten times out of ten.
Agreed. It reads very much like a long, honest look in the mirror, and maybe also a bit of a plea to the Second Voice.

Like I said above, I first read Leaf as a young man near twenty, in the first rush of discovering Tolkien and wanting to read everything he'd ever written (or at least everything translated into German, which wasn't a lot back then - the Silmarillion had only come out a few years before, UT and HoME were still unheard of). I kind of got what it was about (like Form said, it's hard not to), but I didn't really feel it - I loved the tree, but I cared little for Parish and his potatoes. It reads differently now, at a time in my life when the journey to be undertaken is morphing from a distant possibility to a fact of life that has to be reckoned with sooner or later, and I find myself thinking more and more about what matters in life, what I want to get done in the time I've got left and how much of it I'm likely to accomplish. There's very much a feeling of Tua res agitur in the story, and the reminder that what writers and painters tend to experience as annoying interruptions constitute what other people call living their lives is well taken.

I concur with Findegil that Niggle's Parish, paradisiac though it seems, is not heaven but another, gentler stage of purgatory where both Niggle and Parish learn to appreciate each other fully as a necessary step in their development/improvement/purification before they are ready to move on towards the mountains (which both of them seem to have attained at the end).

Does anybody else see the passage of dialogue between Tompkins and Atkins on the penultimate pages as an intrusion that might as well have been left out? Maybe if either of them had been introduced earlier it wouldn't so much stick out like a sore thumb. The point that utilitaristic folk don't appreciate art has already been made when Niggle's painting was used to patch Parish's roof, there's no need to belabour it. I find Tompkins an overdone caricature, and ascribing an ulterior motive to him ('you had your eye on his house') feels too much like Tolkien may have taken the opportunity to grind a personal axe.
Und aus dem Erebos kamen viele seelen herauf der abgeschiedenen toten.- Homer, Odyssey, Canto XI
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