Tolkien is very well known for his writings on hobbits and elves and dwarves etc in various pieces of work including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and so on. While these stories share a common author with Leaf by Niggle, it doesn’t share any of these remarkable creatures. Leaf by Niggle is a separate short story about a man named, well, Niggle, as the title suggests.
Niggle is a painter. He is currently working on this one painting of a tree and day by day this painting is growing, expanding and Niggle is adding other, smaller pictures he’s created onto the edges. It’s not just a tree anymore, it’s a magnificent never-ending landscape, but with a neighbour in need and a journey he has to make quickly approaching, will Niggle ever finish his painting?
Leaf by Niggle was an absolute pleasure of a short story to read. As always, no matter the context, Tolkien’s writing is enjoyable to read with his beautiful use of language which flows so well and his stunning descriptions within this world he’s created.
I really liked the character of Niggle. Despite this only being a short story of approximately forty pages (also accompanied by an essay about the story by Tom Shippey) I feel like we get to know the character pretty well and I did worry about him during certain moments throughout the story.
In case it isn’t obvious through Tolkien’s previous works of fantasy writing, Leaf by Niggle highlights that he had an incredible imagination and creativity. I would love to go into more detail, but since the story is so short it makes preventing spoilers from leaking through no easy task and I’d hate to ruin such a lovely, well-written story for you.
As I mentioned, there is an essay at the end by Tom Shippey. Usually, this is something I would probably avoid, but since it was a short story and it was written by Tolkien, I was curious to do some more reading. I am glad I read this because I found it interesting how Shippey compares the character of Niggle to the author of the story himself. While Niggle had his one big painting with smaller ones attached to the sides, Tolkien had his big piece of writing which was his main focus, but he also had a lot of short stories and tales happening on the edges, some of which he also brought into his main story.
I definitely feel that this is a worth a read for any fan of Tolkien and also recommend it to any other lovers of short stories. Besides, with less than fifty pages of a small book, what do you have to lose? I rate this story 5/5.
Have you read Leaf by Niggle?
What were your thoughts?