HarperCollins has today published Tolkien’s short story Leaf by Niggle in its own volume for the first time.
Written in 1938–39, “Leaf by Niggle” was first published in the January 1945 edition of the Dublin Review. It has since been published alongside other material in Tree and Leaf (1964), The Tolkien Reader (1966), Poems and Stories (1980), Tales from the Perilous Realm (1997), and A Tolkien Miscellany (2002).
HarperCollins has published the standalone edition to coincide with the touring stage adaption, which has so far been performed across Scotland. There will be an exclusive performance in Oxford on Saturday 10th September during Oxonmoot at St Anthony’s College.
Published for the very first time in its own volume, Tolkien’s remarkable tale about a painter whose obsession with detail prevents him from finishing his great work.
Niggle is a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he has so many other things to do. For some time he has been obsessed with one particular canvas – a curious picture of a tree with a vast landscape stretching out behind it. The painting keeps getting bigger and bigger, but Niggle has a journey to make.
In 1939 Tolkien was despairing of ever bringing his great work The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion. One morning he woke up with the story Leaf by Niggle complete in his mind and wrote it down. This poignant story, about an artist on a curious journey, is often seen as an allegory of the writer’s own creative process and life.
Published to coincide with a new touring stage production of the story, this is the first time the story has been published in its own volume, enabling readers to savour one of Tolkien’s most elegant, haunting and least-known short stories.
Daniel is an Officer without Portfolio and Trustee of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2014, he is mainly responsible for the Society’s digital operations, including this website.