J.R.R. Tolkien is most famous for “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Silmarillion.” But did you know he also wrote short stories?
Perhaps his most famous shorter work is “Leaf by Niggle.” If you haven’t read this gem, I recommend that you do so! You can finish it in well under an hour.
Here’s why “Leaf by Niggle” is worth your time.
An Allegory of Artistic Creation and the Spiritual Life
Tolkien wasn’t a big fan of allegory, yet symbolism abounds in Niggle’s world.
Niggle has been spending his entire life working on one painting. But most people ignore the emerging masterpiece and quickly forget Niggle after his death.
Niggle goes to a place akin to Purgatory. On his way out — before he reaches Heaven — he enters an earthly paradise. It’s his painting, transformed and brought to life by God.
What’s the symbolism? Niggle represents Tolkien. The painting is “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion,” which consumed much of his life.
Tolkien is suggesting that — maybe — he and others would enter the world of “The Lord of the Rings” before going to Heaven.
This might sound insane, so let’s turn to Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” to try to understand it. There he posits that God, in His infinite bounty, may take our feeble works of imagination and make them real. After all, according to Tolkien, legend and history have fused in the Gospels.
Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is true. But we do know that with God, all things are possible.
So why not get a copy of “Leaf by Niggle,” grab a glass of your favorite beverage, and lose yourself in a heartwarming tale of God’s infinite goodness!