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Leaf by Niggle

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  5,528 ratings  ·  512 reviews
Leaf by Niggle is a short story about a painter who is working on a picture leaf by leaf. Niggle, the painter, is a kind hearted soul and goes out of his way to help his friends and neighbours but eventually finds that this prevents him from completing his masterpiece. He has a hard decision to make; when engrossed in his work, his neighbour asks him to fix his roof using ...more
ebook, 22 pages
Published 2003 by Trinity Forum (first published January 1945)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  5,528 ratings  ·  512 reviews

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Another enchanting, captivating and instructive story by Tolkien.
Short, very simple and yet filled with wonders and a hidden complexity. It was like a very beautiful fairy-tale written for children who haven't lost the ability to see the world with all its miracles yet. The story of Niggle was like a painting itself.
I loved it from the first word and until the last one.

Niggle is an artist who paints just for himself. He spends a lot of time on his huge canvas of a tree with a fores
Cindy Rollins
While purchasing Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas, I thought I would add Leaf by Niggle to the cart. I know I have read the physical book before but it might have been 30 years ago. This little allegory is more powerful than any of the current crop of self-help/business books. It examines the meaning of life in the midst of the toils, struggles and disappointments of everyday life and it examines the life we think we are making with the life we really are making AND it even examines the r ...more
Dannii Elle
Leaf by Niggle is both a charming short tale and a cunning little parable. Protagonist Niggle is an artist struggling to create. The problem isn't his short-sighted vision of his grand and overwhelming project or the impending journey he must make and has yet to prepare for, it is the incessant interruptions from his only neighbour and the menial tasks he must enact for him.

This story has a twist I won't divulge here, but just know that little Niggle had me feeling so called out by the end of it
Amy Edwards
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Niggle was a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he had many other things to do. Most of these things he thought were a nuisance; but he did them fairly well, when he could not get out of them: which (in his opinion) was far too often..."

Tolkien's story, which was something of an allegory of his own life as he labored to write The Lord of the Rings, turns out to be an allegory for all of us, particularly those who follow Christ and desire to live a life for His Kingdom.

Central to
My heart.

So I'm a competitive person by nature, and I've had it in my head to get ALL the Audible badges if it kills me. ALL THE BADGES. And then maybe the levels...but we'll see. It's ambitious, Cotton. We'll see if it pays off. So in an effort to get the "7 Day Stretch" Badge, I was calculating. I was cunning. I finished To Kill a Kingdom (review to come) and thought, hmmmm... it's a Monday. I can finish another one this week! I looked through my Wishlist for something moderately short, and I
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fairy-tales
This was both hopeful and humbling.

I sought this out because I’m struggling with my creative life...or lack thereof.

I understand, at the deepest level, needing to create but being pulled away from that endeavor by many more important interruptions and feeling the isolation that comes with feeling alone in that struggle. Or feeling rather ashamed of that struggle when there are more real struggles in the world.

I constantly forget, or maybe stubbornly ignore, that the interruptions of life actu
Jeremiah Lorrig
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
So simple and deep. Both at the same time. Makes you think.
Johanna C.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
A wonderful little tale by Tolkien that everyone should read. Although those who really do need to read it will not read it. A great way to learn about selflessness, responsibility, art, friendship, meaning, power, and so much more. And so skillfully done. The world has a lot to learn from Tolkien if they'd read between the lines. ...more
Robin Hobb
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Must reading for all writers. And something to re-read throughout the course of a career.
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, fantasy
A strange but beautiful short-story. To me it seems to convey the importance of art, and especially of artists. No matter how small their skill, it should be allowed to grow, develop and not be repressed or dismissed. An artist's work cannot flourish on it own, it also needs support and appreciation and sometimes it becomes a collective venture.

My favourite passage is the first description of what would eventually become the Leaf painting:

It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it
Afreen Khalid
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This short story is an allegory for Tolkien's own battles with perfectionism, procrastination and the distractions that kept him from publishing any of the Middle-Earth novels for years.

"At any rate, poor Niggle got no pleasure out of life, not what he had been used to call pleasure. He was certainly not amused. But it could not be denied that he began to have a feeling of-well, satisfaction: bread rather than jam. He could take up a task the moment one bell rang, and lay it aside promptly the
Part autobiographical, part allegory, Leaf by Niggle has a lot to unravel for a short story. Whether or not you consider yourself a resident of Middle-earth, it's worth checking out some of Tolkien's lesser known works as well. ...more
Haven Alexander
Oct 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing

Niggle - basically "to spend too much effort on minor details" (as the character Niggle does in this story...literal name, eh?). Yep, its official. I am a niggler.

So Niggle has this painting. Or at least he wants to have it, but he keeps getting interrupted in his detailed, slow work, by his neighbor Parish ('nother literal name) and other interruptions till he is finally for the last time interrupted by the thing he has been dreading since the start (literally mentions this in the very first se

Ella M. (あいみです)
3.5 stars.

"Niggle was a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he had many other things to do. Most of these things he thought were a nuisance; but he did them fairly well, when he could not get out of them: which (in his opinion) was far too often…"

Suddenly I feel like this guy and I are kindred spirits. Boy, can I relate to him!

I'm just going to say first that I hate the Parishes. I liked Niggle's character, though. That being said, this story was a pleasant, short read. I didn
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the most wonderful, thought provoking tale. It is beautiful, human, inspirational, warm, melancholic, sad, soul-searching, philosophical, dreamy, truth seeking..., but told in such successful simplicity. Though all ages would enjoy this, I think it has an enormous amount to say to adults. So far this is the best of Tolkien's 'other' stories (ie not LOR) that I have read.

I thoroughly recommend the superb Harper Collins recording, read by Derek Jacobi (on the CD with “Smith of Wooton Major
Tubi(Sera McFly)
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The only bad thing about this story is that it is too short.
Laurel Hicks
This story makes me happy. Niggle is, I'm guessing, Tolkien. ...more
Lancelot Schaubert
Jan 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is hands down my favorite bedtime story of all time. It inspires children with wonder and it makes adults cry. I can think of nothing else more perfect.

It's also one of those books like The Man in the High Castle or Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art that basically sums up my life's work.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it liked it
this was an intriguing read!
Roxana Truţa
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first encounter with Tolkien. Somehow, I haven't yet plucked up the courage to start reading his mammoth series - this is partly George R.R. Martin's fault, for being just TOO juicy by comparison.
Anyway, this short story isn't fantasy, but a beautiful metaphor or allegory, if you will. It's about the condition of the artist and it will appeal to anyone who's ever tried doing something creative at least once in their lives. Loved all the hidden meanings, the half-spoken truths, the ov
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inklings, favorites
I think because I had prefaced reading this book with Tolkien's essays on Beowulf as well as C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, this short story hit me with peculiar force. I came close to sobbing. A sparkling (perhaps autobiographical) metaphor for the Christian Artist, it is perhaps my new very favorite short story ever. I found myself wanting to adapt it into a play, but I'm not sure it would be possible... I imbibed the audiobook edition with Derek Jacobi who seems born to read Tolkien aloud. Pe ...more
Kenny Williams
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great Catholic allegory that describes the challenges of the restless artist having to fulfill his earthy roles. The stories we want to tell may not be fulfilled in purgatory, but there are ways for Protestants to still enjoy and apply this story. An insightful story into the mind of the man who created the entire world of Middle-Earth.
Mary Catelli
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A short work by the master -- written in a troubled time in his life -- on art and duty and their meaning in life and afterlife.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I wasn't as big a lover of this story as everyone else. The story seemed overly didactic. The characters, which were two dimensional, kind of reminded me of those in a Samuel Beckett play where each had some sort of allegorical significance but where you couldn't exactly pin down what the significance was. It seemed as if the story drifted from one event to another, and I couldn't tell if Niggle dreamed his journey or it really happened.

Certainly the themes are important: attempts at artistry,
Apr 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful story. Read it to my high school senior daughter.
So much wisdom and insight packed into this sweet, short story.
Niggle is a painter, mostly of leaves, but other things, too. Only life is so full of interruptions he can't get down to work at his real task of painting. Before he can complete his life's work, he is called away on the long journey he has always known is coming, but he is unprepared. However unprepared, the carriage has been called for and he must go on his journey, leaving his work unfinished.

But what are the interruptions and wh
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book about Tolkien himself in such a poetic way. Tolkien had it right when said:

"...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 day (more the 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 should say that, in addition to my tree-love (it was originally called The Tree), it arose from m
Sean Barrs
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a short tale about a painter who is working on a picture leaf by leaf, his speciality. He becomes annoyed at the constant distractions of his neighbours and friends appealing to his good nature.

A wonderful little story which sees Niggle achieve his ultimate goal and is a pleasure to read.
Annie Monson
This is a short story about a lot of things, but it has me thinking about the mustard seed: “[The Kingdom of God] is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
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Studi Tolkieniani: Foglia di Niggle, nuova edizione 1 9 Jan 27, 2022 11:34PM  
J.R.R. Tolkien: Theatrical Adaptation of "Leaf by Niggle" 1 18 Jul 10, 2016 08:03AM  

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien: writer, artist, scholar, linguist. Known to millions around the world as the author of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien spent most of his life teaching at the University of Oxford where he was a distinguished academic in the fields of Old and Middle English and Old Norse. His creativity, confined to his spare time, found its outlet in fantasy works, stories for children, p ...more

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