Tolkien Gateway

Leaf by Niggle

Leaf by Niggle
Leaf by Niggle 2016.jpeg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
Released28 July 2016
FormatPaperback; audio-book

Leaf by Niggle is a short story written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1938-39, first published in The Dublin Review in 1945.

It is included in the book Tree and Leaf (1964), and in other compilations, such as The Tolkien Reader (1966), Poems and Stories (1980), and Tales from the Perilous Realm (1997).

The first separate print seemed to appear in 2003, in a private edition by the Trinity Forum. This edition contains a foreword and a "group discussion guide" at the end.[1]

The book was formally released in its own volume in 2016, by HarperCollins.


[edit] Overview

Leaf by Niggle is very much an allegory of Tolkien's own creative process, and, to an extent, of his own life. Although Tolkien actively defended against being allegorical. He admitted having been just that in Leaf by Niggle in a letter to Caroline Everett (24 June 1957):[2]

"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 even of a short story..."

[edit] Plot

Niggle is an artists who paints to please himself, living in a society that holds art in little regard. His main occupation is a huge painting of great tree. He started with one single leaf and the painting grows around it. Niggle hopes to draw every leaf in detail. Soon Niggle finds birds in the trees, hills that are visible true the branches. And so the painting grows and takes up all time from the painter. Niggle takes time off from his work, because of politeness, to aid his neighbor, a gardener named Parish who is lame and has a sick wife. In the process of helping Niggle catches a sickness.

Then he is forced to take a trip, but was ill prepared for it (partly due to his illness) and ends up in an institution of sorts where he must labour each day. He is paroled and sent to work as a gardener in the country. He realizes that he is in fact working in the forest of his painting, but the Tree is the true realization of his vision, not the flawed version in his art.

Niggle is reunited with Parish, his neighbour, and together they make the forest even more beautiful. Finally Niggle travels to the far reaches of the forest, to places on the fringe of his canvas.

[edit] Characters

[edit] Publication history and gallery

1945 Dublin Review vol. 216, no. 432  
2016 HarperCollins  

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. Interesting eBay Auctions (accessed 12 June 2022)
  2. Leaf by Niggle - a symbolic story about a small painter (accessed 12 June 2022)
Tales from the Perilous Realm
Farmer Giles of Ham · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · Leaf by Niggle · Smith of Wootton Major
Roverandom (since 2008) · On Fairy-Stories (since 2008)