Week 15: “Leaf by Niggle”


Read Tolkien’s story, “Leaf by Niggle,” in Tales from the Perilous Realm. Then write on your assigned question below; you also may expand your thoughts beyond the answer to the question if you wish. It is best to know the answers to all the questions for class discussion on Monday, but you only have to write out the answer to one. Remember to pose 1-2 questions on the story that commenters may answer as well. Your questions may aim to relate “Leaf by Niggle” to Tolkien’s other works that we have studied this term.

1) Carolyn: What does the word (here, name) “Niggle” mean?

2) Eric: How does Niggle see his life and his artwork? What does he wish for? Do you think JRRT saw himself similarly and wished for the same things? What does the character of Niggle suggest about JRRT as artist and/or writer?

3) Jessica: Is the description of the tree an allegory? If so, of what? Is the tree a symbol? From your reading of The Lord of the Rings, to JRRT, what do trees seem to symbolize?

4) Diana: What is a “parish”? What may Mr. Parish, Niggle’s neighbor, stand for? (Think of the commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”)

5) Sonja: How does Mr. Parish’s lack of appreciation and affirmation of Niggle’s artistic endeavors affect Niggle? How does this compare to Niggle’s lack of attention to gardening?

6) Anna: What does the Inspector of Houses seem to represent, socially speaking?

7) Carmen: As the story goes on, what do we realize “the journey” really is? Who is the “Driver”? The “Porter”?

8) Jaime: Think of the traditional Catholic conception of hell, purgatory, and heaven. What might the “Work-house Infirmary” be?

9) Emily: What seems to be the role of the Medical Board / Court of Inquiry? What are readers to understand when the narrator says that Niggle “was becoming master of his time” vs. when the Voice that says his heart did not function properly, he wasted his time (“not even amusing himself!”), he never got ready for his journey, and he arrived almost destitute (as the Porter observed, “no luggage?”)?

10) Heather S: What does the Second Voice’s proposal for “Gentle Treatment” make Niggle feel?

11) Tarah: What is the “next stage” like? (Think of the world of Platonic forms!) Why does Niggle fall off his bicycle when he first arrives there? What does he say when he sees it?

12) Jason: What does it mean that each leaf was “dated”? and “produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish”? What about the birds? Think of the Parable of the Mustard Seed! Is this whole story an allegory … or a parable?

13) Heather G: How do Niggle’s and Parish’s role change here? Why is that significant?

14) Sierra: Notice the tonics drawn from the Fountain. What is their effect?

15) Lexi: When the tree is in full-blossom, a shepherd comes down from the Mountains. He asks, “Do you want a guide? Do you want to go on?” He reveals the name of the place. What is it?

16) Miranda: “He turned and looked back for a minute. The blossom on the Great Tree was shining like flame. All the birds were flying in the air and singing.” Then he climbs the mountains. What do you think of this moment?

17) Mysti: What is Councillor Tompkins’ opinion of Niggle? Remember the Inspector of Houses! Why is he sharing his opinion with Atkins, the schoolmaster, do you suppose? What did Tompkins want that belonged to Niggle? … But what is the Second Voice’s opinion of Niggle’s work?

18) Nuha: What happens to Niggle’s painting on earth? What happens to it in eternity?

19) Chris: What is the painting’s new name? What is the significance of this name?

20) Katelyn and Meredith: What does this story say about the importance of art and artists and their relationship to this world and the next?


43 thoughts on “Week 15: “Leaf by Niggle””

  1. Leaf by Niggle
    What does the word (here, name) “Niggle” mean?

    Niggle is the action of being caused slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety. This name seems very fitting in this instance, since Niggle is persistently annoyed by all the “interruptions” that come with life. The Parish needing assistance, his sickly wife, gardening, a pending trip, and even visitors from town all seemed like annoyances and distractions from what he wanted to be doing, painting. In his after life (I am supposing this story ends with death and Niggle’s life after death), Niggle’s life’s work comes to life and is known as Niggle’s Parish. This seems ironic sense Niggle’s Parish does not seem to contain any irritants (and if it does, a little tonic will fix that right up). It seems to me that the discomforts and annoyances in life often lead to something worth being a part of and facing whatever it is with a positive attitude makes life better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AGREED. It is the trials and difficult times that shape us. It’s how we learn or do not learn. My interpretation of it is that the Parish becomes the new Kings Cross for other travelers, and perhaps signals willingness on the part of the departed, which helps other arrivals to smoother transitions, if that makes any sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Niggle sees his life as subservient to his artwork. All he wants is to be wholly dedicated to his masterpiece, this increasingly massive canvas of a tree. However, his normal everyday life keeps conflicting with him, as well as hostility from the outside world, a world which does not value his art. This is evident most when the Inspector looks at Niggle’s artwork and describes it as “plenty of material here: canvas, wood, waterproof paint.” The Inspector sees only the practical objects, objects that he think can help with fixing houses, and he does not see it for what it is, art. It is possible that Tolkien is projecting himself onto Niggle here. The way the Inspector deglamorizes Niggle’s art could be related to how people delegitimized fantasy, an idea Tolkien brings up in “On Fairy Stories.” Niggle’s bitterness at the world for interfering with his work references how much of a tenacious perfectionist Tolkien was, wanting to focus on his Middle Earth. Like Niggle, Tolkien disregarded many projects that weren’t his magnum opus (Niggle’s tree and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) which resulted in much of his work being released posthumously.

    1. If Niggle represents Tolkien and his career, why still does Tolkien insist he disapproves of allegory?
    2. What does the ending say about Tolkien’s work and its relationship to his fan base?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think it’s that Tolkien disapproves of allegory, but more that he doesn’t think that allegory is the only aspect to literature. Tolkien can take his life and relate it to his characters, which can make it more meaningful to him and even the readers when they can also relate.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think Tolkien disapproves of analyzing stories to death, which is what allegories are for. I think he wrote this as an allegory, but didn’t want everyone picking their own meaning out if it because for him, this was autobiographical and cathartic. It would be an insult to insist on knowing what he “meant” to say about his own life’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Niggles’ work wasn’t appreciated until much later, when it eventually became a way of life. Tolkien must have been consumed by his life long works, only taking the time to appreciate their impact on others at the very end of his own life.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I think the ending of the story says that Tolkien’s work takes on a life of its own and touches anyone who takes the time to appreciate it. By Niggle allowing others to appreciate his art, he is allowing more and more people to be affected by it. I think this goes for all artists and writers, not just Tolkien. People who create tend to want to keep it to themselves, and fear the thought of allowing people’s own interpretations to get in the way of what they created. It takes a lot of personal growth to be able to let go a bit, and allow your works to touch others.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. I honestly feel like the story paints a very confused image of Tolkien’s fan base (accidental pun?). On the one hand Tolkien seems to have a negative view of the people that pulled him away from his more fulfilling work on the Silmerillian. His fans that pressured him into writing more about the ring and hobitses. On the other hand he acknowledges that these works turned him into the master that he is. Tolkien seems to be a little bit torn on how he feels about fame and what it has done to his integrity as an artist.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 17.) Councillor Tompkins, within his first sentence, says Niggle is “worthless” and “no use to Society at all.” His opinion is clear and he thinks nothing of Niggle. He didn’t do much except paint, he didn’t help the society, in Tompkins’ eyes, and when he did, it wasn’t enough. Apparently, Tompkins also wanted Niggle’s house so he could have one in town and one out of town, and that jealousy caused him to treat Niggle rudely because he wanted that house. And even though Niggle is gone, Councillor Tompkins still feels the need to degrade and insult him, wishing he had sent him away sooner – likely to get the house.
    Like Niggle, Atkins also received an insult from the councilor, who says, “…if you schoolmasters knew your business. But you don’t…” Atkins is probably beneath Tompkins in the social hierarchy, and so here is someone that he can vent to and likely won’t talk back to him. Councillor Tompkins also seems to like feeling superior, and so can assert that by his words, especially when talking about how he wished he got Niggle out sooner.
    The Second Voice said, “…still, a Leaf by Niggle has a charm of its own.” The opinion of the Second Voice doesn’t seem to matter as much as the fact. The voice admits that Niggle was an amateur painter, but the one thing he was known for, in terms of his paintings, was still considerable. The two voices seem to be debating Niggle’s life, and the Second Voice is determined to stand up for Niggle.
    1. Was there any connection between Niggle’s painting and his journey?
    2. Could Niggle have been a successful painter without breaking the laws of his society?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I thought about this, too. The time…the isolation…the need for uninterrupted concentration…maybe Niggle was thrown into the real-life physical environments of that which he craved. Could that have been a lesson too?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The connection that the painting and the journey have are that the constant interruptions he has with finishing his painting and delays to complete his journey, such as the weather, is his possible questioning of faith and the path he is on. Niggle is in a constant struggle to do what he wants and be comfortable but is also being interrupted by the events around him by his society and nature. Both the journey and painting are finally completed at the end together showing that there is a correlation between the two as Niggle finally finds his path and peace.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I think Niggle’s painting and his journey represents Tolkien’s journey to achieve great and appreciated creations. Also, in a way, I believe it can symbolize the time it may time for people to appreciate the art you put on display for the world to see.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. 1) Niggle’s painting can connect to his journey in the way that it never seems to be finished. Niggle keeps adding to the canvas and expanding it and yet he never find the time to finish the painting and always thinks it needs more. Artists usually struggle with deciding when their work is complete- it always needs more this or more that. New ideas come along in the middle off the piece sometimes too which can prolong the process.


  4. Dr. Beal Q: What does it mean that each leaf was “dated”? and “produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish”? What about the birds? Think of the Parable of the Mustard Seed! Is this whole story an allegory … or a parable?

    A: Each leaf was dated because Niggle spent his entire life painting single leaves, one at a time, and eventually combining them to create his “greatest work.” It was produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish because while Niggle painted the form his imagination took, Parish planted the actual physical trees, flowers, and plants in his garden, which may have served to inspire Niggle’s creations. As for the birds, I’m pretty stumped about this one. I believe this has to do with the fact that Niggle’s creation provided a place for OTHER creations to exist, showing the value of art and how it can inspire a whole community. The collective wisdom of the internet calls this “sub creation.”
    If “allegory” is defined as story with a hidden (often political or philosophical) meaning then this is a allegory about communism sucking all the joy out of life for the sake of austerity. If “parable” is defined as a story with a moral lesson to be learned, than this is also a parable about loving thy neighbor, and divine judgement upon one’s death.

    1) Is this an allegorical satire of communism? (Look at laws requiring Pinter to sacrifice his materials in order to provide for the “common good.”)

    2) If Niggle’s art came to be greatly valued in the end, why did he have to endure giving up painting for digging to “prove himself?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Niggle had to separate himself from his art because it was consuming him. He became obsessed with his work, and became isolated as a result. By giving up his art, he proves that he can move on and live his life. He can build relationships with people and see that he is actually talented in other areas other than art.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think elements of the story can be read as a commentary on communism, but I think there is more of a commentary on utilitarianism if anything. The commentary seems to be that art should be created for arts sake, not only to be put to good use or to have a proper utility in society. And the same goes for love. The act of Niggle having to make a sacrifices for his neighbors can be read as the sacrifice that Tolkien made for his country by going to war, which took him away from his passion and work, and momentarily stripped him of the ability to enjoy the beauty of the world. Niggle ultimately feels that he could have done more for the Parish and is reunited with him in his imagined world, which suggests that his love for others is redemptive rather than a weakness. The goodness of love and sacrifice is not a commodity and shouldn’t be measured by its utility, but rather because it is good to be good and to live a good life; whether you or your work is remembered or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How do Niggle’s and Parish’s role change here? Why is that significant?

    Once they were reunited, Niggle and Parish seem to have switched roles. While Niggle would have been the one distracted by the beauty he saw in the Tree, Parish took on that role. Niggle now takes on the task of building and gardening for the new house. This is significant because Niggle seemed to despise helping his neighbors when they needed any physical work done for their house. Now that Niggle realized that he could have lost Parish and all of his knowledge, he feels that he owes it to Parish to help build this new house.

    1) Niggle seems to be obsessed with the Tree that he created, and seems unable to leave it. What is the significance of his obsession and does it lessen by the end of the story? What changes?
    2) What is the significance of the neighbors coming together and apologizing for their misconceptions of one another? What is Tolkien trying to convey and do we see this in any of his other works?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think trees symbolize rebirth and new life. Niggle only being able to capture the detail of the leaves at first represents Tolkien’s creative process, but it is a process of slow building in which his world is not fully formed because he hasn’t adequately lived yet, or come to terms with himself, and therefore his creation lacks a universal life or meaning. He has to face death before his imaginary world can come to life.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 5. How does Mr. Parish’s lack of appreciation and affirmation of Niggle’s artistic endeavors affect Niggle? How does this compare to Niggle’s lack of attention to gardening?

    Niggle is irritated that Parish doesn’t seem to have the slightest appreciation for his art, and feels that his [Niggle] time is completely disregarded, as Parish is always needing something from him. In turn, Niggle has zero interest in gardening his own property. Parish notices this and has the same level of dismissal of Niggle that Niggle has of Parish. In addition, Parish considers gardening a more “normal” pursuit and feels it his duty to warn his neighbor against inviting consequences with his agricultural neglect. But in regards to painting, Parish shakes his head. What’s lacking here is an attempt on Parish’s part to offer help, rather than criticism. Attitudes such as these only result in resentment towards a lack of insight into each other and lack of help towards each other, despite Niggle’s willingness to assist his community. But in his heart, there is resentment that his own priority – his art – is being neglected. At the end, even Parish acknowledges that he fails to open his eyes to what might be important to Niggle, instead of insisting that Niggle only see what is important to Parish.

    1. What may have been the consequences if Parish and Niggle had not learned from their time in the “hospital,” upon their arrival in Paradise?

    2. Does the arrival of the two strangers signal the arrival of death? Why were there two of them?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What does this story say about the importance of art and artists and their relationship to this world and the next?

    Niggle is a man married to his art. If he could, he would dedicate his whole life to creating, but he must follow the community’s laws and help others (which explains his name). While art is an amazing way to express and share emotions with others, Niggle becomes obsessed with perfection. This relates to Tolkien himself and his desire to produce a perfect story. What artists have to learn is art is perfect in its imperfections, something Niggle couldn’t grasp. His journey makes him realize the fault of putting his art before others. When Niggle reaches the forest, he comes to realize the true beauty of the Natural world and how if he constantly focuses on perfection, he misses the true beauty. Tolkien does this as a reminder for himself. Niggle starts off annoyed with the natural world and focused only on the one he himself creates, but learns to enjoy the world around him and helps others to in turn.

    Did Niggle pause his art to help others because of true kindness or other reasons?

    The leaves on the real tree were “as he had imagined them rather than as he had made them”, does Tolkien believe true, artistic perfection is obtainable?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Niggle felt like it was his duty to help people out. He was always irritated when doing it, but he never said no. That speaks a lot about who he is; he puts others ahead of himself, and knows that his art is important to him, but likely not anyone else.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Niggle own stopped doing his art to help others because these laws had finally caught up with him and he had to complete them no matter what. This is why he refers to them as “interruptions” rather than helping.

      As for your other question, I do not think Tolkien was saying that artistic perfection is attainable, but rather more akin to beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The paintings are often viewed by others as nothing important nor said to be beautiful, but when Niggle’s vision comes to life it radiates with beauty, and only when Mr. Parish is allowed inside of Niggle’s world, he too can finally appreciate the beauty of this artistic work.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I think that Niggle pausing his art to help others is a representation of the unexpected way life works. Niggle has a plan and a vision for his art, but life does not always allow the plan to function. I think that Niggle helping other represents the things in like that are required of us outside of our plan. I think that the interruptions help highlight that reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 19) What is the painting’s new name? What is the significance of this name?

    By the end of the story, we come to learn the new name given to the painting by Niggle with Parish’s help: Niggle’s Parish. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of Parish is, “an ecclesiastical district having its own church and member of the clergy”. Throughout the story, at least how I have come to view it, is viewing it as a journey from life to Heaven, one’s own heaven. While Niggle lives in his community he has his life on the ground and does what he can to get by, though he does the bare minimum to abide by society’s laws. When he is taken to the infirmary, he is constantly asked about being ready to start his journey but is then forced to go with little to no belongings. This captivating and “limbo” state is resemblant to purgatory as it is here where he is being validated, judged, and measured to where he should go next. The next phase is right before Heaven as he now can see the mountains in the background but he still needs to get there. He is approached by shepherd looking man that in some ways could be symbolic of Jesus as he also asks them if they require any guidance to continue onto Heaven. The name, Niggle’s Parish, is significant as it shows that this world that Niggle has created and finished is now his own heaven and church that people may view for comfort or their own. He has met the requirements to come to terms with a peaceful ending and finish what he always wanted to do while alive in the community. In a way, Niggle experiences a state of nirvana that has allowed him to make it to the mountains and finally come to the end of his journey on his own terms.

    1) Niggle is constantly trying to finish his painting but is always “interrupted”, how does this ability to finally complete his painting play into the story and his life?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think he completed his painting. I was under the impression that after he left the institution that the tree from his painting had become real and that the real tree was complete. I took that literally as meaning that the painting was left before the institution still incomplete and that the new reality had a finished version. I think that this would relate to his life because I believe the tree symbolizes his life and the abrupt end of it…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Is the description of the tree an allegory? If so, of what? Is the tree a symbol? From your reading of The Lord of the Rings, to JRRT, what do trees seem to symbolize?

    The tree in conjunction with the institution that Niggle is sent to are an allegory. I think that the movement from the institution to a place where his painted tree is real, is an allegory of the movement through death into heaven. I also sent the transformation of the tree from painting to reality highlights the allegory of the tree being heaven. People aspire to something that is greater and more beautiful than earthly life, and for Niggle that is this beautifully massive tree. Additionally, the tree is a symbol for life and how no matter how hard you work or plan, life is never complete until you are dead. I think that the tree painting that Niggle was working on is a clear representation of that fact and how leaving something incomplete does not mean that it was not successful.

    JRRT is incredible fond of using trees as a symbol in his writings. I think that the symbols can mean a few different things depending on the story. I think that in “Leaf by Niggle” the tree represents life and heaven. And how fleeting life can be. But the Ents in LoTR symbolize history. How deep rooted and lasting our history as people can be if we just let life happen.

    Question one: Do you think that there is a commonality between the trees symbolizing life/heaven and trees symbolizing history? Which do you think there is more evidence for?

    Question two: Going with the idea that the place where Niggle’s tree became reality is heaven, do you think that the tree would be considered under JRRT’s philosophy of sub-creation OR does this make Niggle god-like?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In eternity, Niggle’s painting physically comes to life. His tree and whymsical leaf transform into an enchanting forest, and Niggle is finally appreciated for the art he is capable of making, which is put on display in “Niggle’s Country.” On earth, Niggle doesn’t receive appreciation as great as what he had in eternity. His painting had no use at all and did not prove to be worth anything to Atkins and Tompkins. On earth, Niggle’s painting was preserved in the corner of a museum, which later burnt to the ground.

    1) why do you think Niggle and his paintings were so unappreciated on earth?

    2) is there any significance in the relationship between Parish and Niggle? Why do you think Parish was so prominent in “Niggle’s Country?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1) They may have been so unappreciated because the people did not understand his vision or did not take the time to understand it. Many artists rise to fame after they have already died. Niggle’s artwork is a display of what is inside his mind and that is what makes it so difficult for artists to appeal to people.


  11. 15) When the tree is in full blossom and the shepherd comes down and asks if Parish wants a guide and if he wants to go on and reveals that it is “Niggle’s Country. It is Niggle’s Picture, or most of it: a little of it is now Parish’s Garden” (308). It is Niggle’s painting brought to life. Parish is very surprised by this and asks why he was never told about it. In response, the shepherd tells him that Niggle had tried to tell him but he would not look.
    1) Why do you think Parish would not look when Niggle told him about Niggle’s Country?
    2) why does Niggle keep expanding this canvas that he is painting his picture on instead of just finishing it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think he keeps expanding because he is not satisfied with it being completed and he feels that it is endless and he enjoys doing this so to end it would be to end his happiness. He likes the feeling he gets while working on it and he wants to continue feeling this way. He also feels he can do more to make it better and better.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Because the story “Leaf By Niggle” is a representation of Tolkien’s experiences with the creative process surrounding his creation of the “Silmarillion,” one can infer that the Medical Board and Court of Inquiry play the role of Tolkien’s adoring fanbase, and society as a whole. The Board takes Niggle away from what he wanted to work on, and makes him focus on a fraction of it. From this fraction he becomes majorly successful, or “master of his time.” They criticized his focus on his art, saying that he spared little time for amusement, even though his art was his own form of amusement. And at the start of the journey they chose for him, he was ill prepared. Readers may understand from this that society plays a larger role in creating a master or an artistic icon like Tolkien, and that it can detract from what the artist wanted to make of themselves.


    What part of Niggle’s journey might be representative of Tolkien’s time at war, if any?

    Who do you think was Tolkien’s target audience with this piece, who was supposed to learn from it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe society was to learn from this work; that one’s endeavours, whether artistic or not, work in conjunction with everyone else. That one person is part of a whole, and the whole corresponds to a design that is the culmination of all people together. So, there are no meaningless actions, but one must be aware of their connections to everything else. Although this work obviously draws upon Tolkien and his faith, one could argue that from a humanistic perspective, it is important to accept responsibility for your actions towards others and to remember to accord to others what you would have given to you—the Golden Rule.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think the part after he is very ill and goes off to his journey because it seems like a metaphor of a concentration camp in terms of where he gets placed and has to serve.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. As the story continues, it becomes apparent that the journey that Niggle is taking is a journey beyond death. The Driver, who looks like the Inspector’s double, represents death itself. He is tall and “dressed all in black,” and he tells Niggle that he is the driver of his carriage that “was ordered long ago,” which suggests that he is about to embark on a journey that is fated and unavoidable (294). Niggle has no choice but to leave immediately, unprepared, without finishing his painting, which is an allegory for the untimeliness of death. Niggle senses that his death is coming before the driver appears when he worries about never being able to transfer his moment of artistic inspiration onto his canvas, “he had a sinking feeling in his heart, a sort of fear that he would never now get a chance to try it out.” Niggle’s repressed feelings of regret about not completing his life’s work, the Driver’s appearance, and the nature of the carriage’s arrival all signify that Niggle is dying and embarking on a journey into the afterlife.

    Once Niggle reaches the train station on the other side of the dark tunnel, he meets the Porter who is calling his name. The Porter assesses where Niggle is to go next, and because he has no luggage, he sends him to the Workhouse Infirmary, which is both a place of manual labor and mental healing, for “the windows all looked inwards.” Because the Porter determines the direction of Niggle’s soul as he enters the afterlife, he can be seen as a figure of assessment who determines whether Niggle is to go to hell or purgatory, and who carries his soul to the appropriate destination. The fact that Niggle has no luggage, suggests that he is not burdened by earthly things, or unforgivable sins, and therefore can work and reflect in order to achieve admission into heaven. The Porter can also be read psychoanalytically as Niggle’s unconscious mind, which signals to him that he still has inward work to do before he can pass peacefully into the afterlife.

    1. Why does the inspector see Niggle’s painting as being able to repair his neighbors houses?
    2. Why does the painting only have value to others if it is useful in someway?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The painting was made of canvas which could have repaired the roof of the house. At the time, the painting had no real value to anyone but Niggle. For others, it provided materials that were necessary for survival.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. On the question of what the Inspector represents, I would say he is similar to an officer of the law, enforcing the rules by which society lives. In a spiritual sense, or ecclesiastical, I would say he is like a figure of the church ⛪ , reminding Niggle that it is God’s law to do unto others as they would have done to you. If looking from a purely theological perspective, this corresponds to the concept of the Holy Spirit acting as a person’s inner conscience that reminds them to follow the laws of the Almighty, which is higher than the laws of man.
    An interesting essay I found on “Leaf by Niggle” discusses this in detail, in addition to other aspects of the story and Tolkien himself.


    Creation and Sub-creation in Leaf by Niggle J. Samuel Hammond and Marie K. Hammond

    During his mortal life, however, Niggle wastes time. He has too many things to do but lacks the diligence to do any of them well. The attention he gives his artwork interferes with other duties. For example, the large painting he works on requires a shed that takes the place of his potato plot. He neglects to weed the remainder of his garden. He does not volunteer to supply materials or labor to repair Parish‟s house. At last, an Inspector shows up, declaring that house repair takes precedence over painting. “That‟s the law,” he says. (p. 87) Readers are reminded of a higher law, that one should love one‟s neighbors and do for them what we would want them to do for us.
    J.R.R. Tolkien, “Leaf by Niggle,” Tree and Leaf (London, Unwin Paperbacks, 1979), p. 87.

    1. How does ‘Leaf’ correspond to the concept of a creator and his/her creation?
    2. Why does Tolkien write from a spiritual perspective, his own faith even though he has stated he is opposed to allegory? Consider the following passage from the essay, “Creation and Sub-creation in Leaf by Niggle”, J. Samuel Hammond and Marie K. Hammond:
    Tolkien writes more about this subject: “Something really „higher‟ is occasionally glimpsed in mythology: Divinity, the right to power (as distinct from its possession), the due of worship: in fact „religion.‟” 20 He comments in a letter to a reader about perceived “sanctity” in The Lord of the Rings: “If sanctity inhabits [a man‟s] work or as a pervading light illumines it, then it does not come from him but through him.”21 Thus, at the very least, Tolkien admits the possibility of religious content in his writings. In the epilogue of On Fairy Stories, the author is even more explicit about these matters. He speaks of joy experienced by a reader as “a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth,” which he says may be a “far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.”22 With appropriate humility, even trepidation, Tolkien acknowledges that finite Man can only touch upon a small part of “a truth incalculably rich.” But nevertheless, he says God has redeemed men in their artistic capacity.

    20Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” p. 31.
    21Tolkien, Letters. Letter 328 (draft, Autumn 1971 to Carole Batten-Phelps), p. 413.
    22Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” p. 70.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The “next stage” seems to be like a heaven of some sort. Niggle is now in his painting, which he worked on whenever he had a chance. He is even getting along with his neighbor, who has also lost his limp. Everything in the “next stage” is rather perfect and pleasing to the both of them. He falls off of his bike when he first arrives because he sees the tree. He says, “it’s a gift” when he sees the tree. I think he says this because he can see every detail, every leaf that he put all of his effort into.

    1. Why does Parish lose his limp?
    2. Who is the second voice?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think the second voice make niggle feel belittled, ashamed and unworthy. Yet the voice still gives a little hope that maybe he just hasn’t reached his full capacity and that if maybe he tried he could reach greatness . However, in that moment the voice is making him feel flawed and that he is not good enough because he hasn’t aimed very high and reached the expectation. I think the voice is trying to make him see that he’s focused tomauch on pleasing those around him like parish and not enough on himself or his canvas or the leafs and forest. I think I’m a sense it makes him feel small in comparison to what he is capable of accomplishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. 1. Which seems more negative the first voice or second voice?
    2. Should niggle be more selfish or is he just a kind man that is not appreciated?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s