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Old 06-01-2021, 03:06 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Leaf Minor Works -- 2 - Leaf by Niggle

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Niggle was a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he had many other things to do.
Thus Tolkien introduces the title character of this tale. The fact that he speaks very similarly of himself in the Foreword to the second edition of the LotR alerts us to the fact that the basic idea is autobiographical:
Quote:
...the years 1936 to 1949, a period in which I had many duties that I did not neglect, and many other interests as a learner and teacher that often absorbed me.
In J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Scull and Hammond, the history of this story is shown. It was written just before WW II, while he was struggling with the writing of LotR, and published during his lifetime.

With this brief introduction I would like to open the discussion for all - what do you think of this story? What does it show us about the author? How does it make you feel?
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Old 06-01-2021, 04:57 PM   #2
William Cloud Hicklin
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As he wrote to Hugh Brogan, ďThis university business of earning oneís living by teaching, delivering philological lectures, and daily attendance at Ďboardsí and other talk meetings, interferes sadly with serious workĒ (Letters, p.131).
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Old 06-02-2021, 03:33 AM   #3
Huinesoron
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As a writer I love Leaf by Niggle. It perfectly captures the twin feelings that nobody properly appreciates your work (^_~) and that your work isn't any good anyway, as well as the niggling (sorry) worry that in a cosmic sense, you're just wasting your time with it all.

It also contains probably my favourite vision of Heaven - the idea that you get to see all your imaginings brought to life and perfected! I strongly suspect this is Tolkien writing his own belief in what Paradise would (or should) be; I know it's mine.

The whole story also casts something of a reflection of the Music of the Ainur. In both stories, there's an artistic creation which is interrupted and reworked during its making, which ends by being made real. And there's a definite echo between these:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaf by Niggle
Some of the most beautiful - and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the Niggle style - were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr Parish: there was no other way of putting it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ainulindale
"Seest thou not how here in this little realm in the Deeps of Time Melkor hath made war upon thy province? He hath bethought him of bitter cold immoderate, and yet hath not destroyed the beauty of thy fountains, nor of my clear pools. Behold the snow, and the cunning work of frost! Melkor hath devised heats and fire without restraint, and hath not dried up thy desire nor utterly quelled the music of the sea. Behold rather the height and glory of the clouds, and the everchanging mists; and listen to the fall of rain upon the Earth!"
I'm... not sure what it says about Tolkien that he wrote about other people (Mr Parish, as in "the men of this parish" - ie, everyone) in the same way that he did the actual devil...

hS
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Old 06-05-2021, 04:02 AM   #4
Estelyn Telcontar
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Let's talk about the character of Niggle:

In the very first sentence he is called a "little" man - I assume that does not refer to his body height, but to his lack of importance in the scheme of the world. Tolkien goes on to give him slightly negative characteristics: "not very successful", "idle", and though "kind-hearted", not positively so. Continuing: "ineffectual", taking on a project that was "too large and ambitious for his skill". Later on, "very ordinary and rather silly". And of course the meaning of his name sounds a bit derogative - a person who spends too much time on insignificant details and loses sight of the whole. Do you think he thought of himself in these terms, since the character is definitely autobiographical?

Niggle's work needed "concentration", "hard, uninterrupted work", in order to get finished. He would have loved to get paid for doing just that. We know that Tolkien was kept busy with matters that he wasn't really interested in, such as correcting papers, and that illnesses in the family sometimes occupied his time.

How do you see the person Tolkien describes?
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Old 06-05-2021, 12:39 PM   #5
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I think it's definitely autobiographical, and T here is harping on his admitted faults: procrastination, "niggling" over details, unplanned Big Picture, being annoyed at mundane but useful work getting in the way of the huge project only he thought had any value.
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Old 06-06-2021, 06:14 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
In the very first sentence he is called a "little" man
C.S. Lewis is known to have described Tolkien as a little man soon after their introduction. It is not lost on me that my own nickname in this group bears a marked resemblance to it.

Quote:
what do you think of this story?
I place it in a very small class of mythopoeic stories that speak deeply to me personally. They are Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootton Major by Tolkien, The Great Divorce by Lewis, The Golden Key, and The Gift of the Child Christ by Macdonald. There may be others. One common element to each of these, in one form or another, is "Gift." Perhaps one could go so far as to say "Grace."
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Old 06-09-2021, 07:17 AM   #7
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Niggle is I think unique in Tolkien's career in that it is the only work I can think of which is explicitly religious.
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