I thought that I had exhausted all of the Tolkien available, but while perusing audiobooks a short time ago I ran across this story and it hit straight to my heart.
It struck me so much that although I have a list of books and stories I want to read/listen to that I will probably never finish, as soon as I had recovered enough recently to be able to put earbuds back in, I listened to it again.
and extremely This is not a long story, but a deep one, very gently, (and extremely well), written. Maybe the attraction is my own mortality creeping up on me,
maybe it is more.
Do you know this one?
The story begins with Niggle in his home outside of a village. He knows that he has a long journey ahead of him and that he should prepare himself, but Niggle is an artist and wants to finish a painting he started.
The painting he started was of a leaf, which he did very well. He then made a tree with birds, a village in the back and a forest, none of which were quite as good as the leaf. He did some other paintings and added them to the original painting.
He tolerated his neighbors, in fact, he often helped the closest, a neighbor who seldom seemed to appreciate his help, but the man and his wife were not a bad sort, and did do some kindnesses to him, and their relationship was rather cool.
Niggle had a good heart, even if it was not as opened as it should have been at times.
There was a bad storm and the neighbor came to ask Niggle if he could had any canvas and wood to spare to help him temporarily fix his house, which had been damaged in th storm, but Niggle said he did not. The man told Niggle that his wife was ill, and since the man had a bad leg, Niggle offered to help get her settled on the ground floor. She was already there, the man told him,but Niggle was needed to fetch the doctor and call in the builders to help with the house. The village was some ways off, and Niggle went out in the storm quite begrudgingly on his bicycle, left a message with the builders and told the doctor to come.
The doctor didn’t set right out and by the time he arrived, the neighbor woman was quite a bit better, however, Niggle was very ill from the trip in the storm. It took a long time for him to recover.
Just as Niggle was well enough to get back to his painting, which he sorely wanted to finish, the authorities came in. The laws in his land were very strict about the upkeep of homes and people’s requirements to help their neighbors. Niggle had neglected his own yard, and since the builders never came to repair his neighbor’s home, Niggle had been obligated to help the man. The wood and canvas art supplies he had could have made some repairs on the house next door. The authorities took all of it, including his now-huge painting.
As it happened, the driver arrived just after the others to take Niggle on his journey, for which he was completely unprepared.
Niggle was taken on a long ride, then a train journey. Niggle arrived at a hospital, put into various levels of darkness, given sour medicine and care, with little idea of what was exactly happening to him. Once in a while he heard two voices, one stricter, but concerned for him getting better, and another, who also wanted him to get better, which was more compassionate.
Finally Niggle, after received sweeter sustenance and more light, was taken to a beautiful place which he realized was his own painting. As he thought of his neighbor with new understanding and appreciation for his kindnesses to Niggle, the man showed up. They worked together to plant in the place, and then Niggle was approached and sent ‘on’. The neighbor said that he would stay there and do more while he waited for his wife to arrive.
And so Niggle went on; where and to what?
We then hear how Niggle was remembered in his village and what was found, (and appreciated for a while), of his art.
If I gave away too much, it is still worth the read, or the listen.
It is beautifully written.
This story is an allegory for this life and the next. Niggle didn’t take care of his own yard, didn’t interact willingly with his neighbors and when he did, he did so reluctantly. He knew that he needed to get his painting done, but dragged his feet. He knew that he needed to prepare for his (final) journey, which he put off until it was too late to do so.
Granted, Tolkein was raised as a Catholic, and one could argue that the ‘hospital’ and his painting were what we would call Purgatory. However, you don’t have to label it, nor refuse to believe because of that. In just about every religion ever believed in this world, there is an accounting after this life, and none of us are without some stains on our soul. Most doctrines believe that we don’t see God without being spotless, so why would there be a Heaven if all are lost?
Most religions around the world and throughout history have prayed for the dead.
Some Christian denominations don’t believe that our prayers can help those who have died, but I have yet to be at a funeral where there were no prayers for the deceased.
Haven’t you? I will bet that you have.
Even so, Jesus said there is Heaven, and spoke about others going, so we who are Christians know it is there and not empty. Therefore, if there is no seeing God with stains on our souls and no hope of Heaven, it makes sense that there is a waystation, as it were; someplace to atone, some place to get ‘cleaned-up’, even if we have to do it all by ourselves.
If every little transgression deserves Hell, (and no one on Earthj is perfect),why should we even try to do right?
Whether you believe that any time or any place cleans your soul for Paradise, (or whatever you hope), or not, if you would still like a peace-filled, well-written story that reaffirms the thought that we are here for a reason and the hope for all of us in what comes after this world, you should read or hear “Leaf by Niggle”.
Sounds like a beautiful story… though quite sad at several points.
[I hate the part where the authorities penalize him because his own property languished while he helped his neighbor.]
Actually, they punished him for neglecting his neighbor’s, Jeff. I am sorry that it wasn’t made clearer. He didn’t help his neighbor enough, and did so grudgingly.
It truly is a beautiful story.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Leaf by Niggle is one of my favorite Tolkien pieces. He didn’t often write “shorts”… in fact, I can’t think of another, can you?
Oh, a fellow Leaf lover!
Yes, Diane, there are more Tolkein shorts: The Smith of Wooten Major,(which I really like), and Farmer Giles and Ham, (which I did not like at all !!! It’s cruel.) There are also stories of Tom Bombadil, who had small parts in the The Hobbit movies and Lord of the Rings, books.
So glad that you stopped in!
Oh, excellent — I’ll have to look up The Smith of Wooten Major!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have been corrected. Tom Bombadil did not show up in the Hobbit movies. Sorry.
I’m probably one of the few who have never read anything by Tolkien, nor have I seen any movies based on his books. I’ve never been drawn to stories set in other worlds, or stories that contain a lot of sorrow and suffering, so I probably won’t pick this one up either. But I’m glad you got a lot from it!
LikeLiked by 2 people
Granted, LoTR definitely has suffering. I never wanted to get into it at all, not until the son who was living here brought in first the movie and ran it…and ran it. I got hooked; the messages in it all, the ‘all happens for a reason’ and many words of wisdom honestly got me through those bad times in my life.
This is short and for me, it is uplifting, especially the end. It is gentle for the most part, even throughout, there is hope. But, where I find comfort in it, others may not. Joe-the-Husband finds certain stories uplifting,(like the story of the TenBoom sisters), and I get nearly nearly suicidal.
LikeLiked by 1 person