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Leaf by Niggle

A short story by J.R.R. Tolkien, written somewhen between 1938 and 1943 and published for the first time 1945 *) in The Dublin Review and as a book Tree and Leaf (together with his essay "On Fairy-Stories?") in 1964 . The story is widely considered to be autobiographic.

*) according to Christopher Tolkien's preface in Tree and Leaf 1938-9, "when the Lord of the Rings was beginning to unroll itself", according to Humphrey Carpenter between 1943 and 44 when he was stuck with his work on the LotR, in Letters #98 from march 1945 Tolkiens says it has been written "more than 2 years ago". For the publishing date given here see the Bibliography [1]; however Christopher Tolkien in his preface to Tree and Leaf claims it was published 1947.


Tolkien, in a letter to Stanley Unwin (in March 1945) writes:

Since you have seen 'Leaf by Niggle' I was going to advert to it myself, as pan apologia, pan confession I need say no more. Except that that story was the only thing I have ever done which cost me absolutely no pains at all. Usually I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting. I woke up one morning (more than 2 years ago) with that odd thing virtually complete in my head. It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out. I am not aware of ever 'thinking' of the story or composing it in the ordinary sense. All the same I do not feel so detached as not to be cheered, indeed rather bowled over, by your son's comment. The only notice of, or observation on, the 'Leaf' that I have had at all, outside my own circle.
Letters #98

and Carpenter, in his biography:

In the story which he called Leaf by Niggle, Tolkien expressed his worst fears for his mythological Tree. Like Niggle he sensed, that he would be snatched away from his work, long before it was finished - if indeed it could ever be finished in this world. For it is in another and brighter place that Niggle finds his tree finished, and learns that it is indeed a real tree, a true part of creation.
Humphrey Carpenter: JRR Tolkien-A Biography

tbc...


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