1. Sparksofember says:

    It’s been sooo long since I read Leaf By Niggle, I’d pretty much forgotten it’s existence and don’t remember the story at all. I’m going to have to dig it out and read it again.

  2. I’ve never read Leaf by Niggle, but your post makes me want to. The part you posted reminded me of Lewis’s The Great Divorce or Til We Have Faces–the end.


    • It is somewhat like The Great Divorce, but more symbolic and more of a story. Warmer, perhaps. The Great Divorce has some passages that are outright didactic, as Lewis explains in the dialogue what is wrong with the ghosts. I enjoyed it … but I enjoyed Leaf By Niggle more.

  3. Paul Lee says:

    I wouldn’t guess that this is what Tolkien himself had in mind, and I don’t expect other readers to make the same associations that I did.

    I share your hesitancy to label interpretations of Tolkien imagery, but I do see that association quite strongly. One could go much further and make a case for the whole thing as Purgatory based on Tolkien’s Catholicism, but that’s unnecessary. I don’t think that’s the real point of the story or the allegorical imagery.

    I don’t think I’ve ever related more strongly to any single fictional character than I do to Niggle. I wept the first time I read the story — I was so burned in college and felt so completely useless. And even today, I resonate with not having my head screwed on right, not even able to get enough of a grip to amuse myself as my small amount of free time slips away in a blur.

    • I can see the Purgatory interpretation, but I don’t like to interpret the story so strictly. Tolkien almost certainly believed in Purgatory, but his story is obviously concerned with more than that.

      I know what you mean about letting time slip away! I have calculated, while at work, all the things I have to do before I can write. Then, when I can write, I seem to always begin by wasting time. One of the things I love about Leaf By Niggle is the reminder that our work isn’t just earthly and we need to be about it … and also the hope that in heaven, we will finally be and do everything we were meant to. That there’s an ultimate fulfillment, and we don’t even have to deserve it.

What do you think?