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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

on 13 May 2013
`Tree and Leaf' (2001 edition) also contains Mythopoeia, the Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, on fairy stories and Leaf by Niggle. *Note: some of which you can find in the book titled "Tales from the Perilous Realm" *In Tolkien's world fairy stories are not just for children and the magic of the fantasy genre is exquisitely captured, in such a way as to delight and dazzle many a reader (who may have cause to call it juvenile). This beautifully illustrated, elegant volume gives fantasy `the inner consistence of reality'. This edition also contains a preface by Christopher Tolkien (regarding the poem Mythopoeia) and additional information on other books by JRR Tolkien, including the extensive history of Middle Earth.

Leaf by Niggle ~ recounts the story of the artist, Niggle, who has `a long journey to make' and is seen interestingly as an allegory of Tolkien's life. Written concurrently as `the Lord of the Rings' was taking shape, it shows Tolkien's mastery and understanding of the art of sub-creation.

Mythopoeia ~ the author Philomythus (lover of myth), confounds the opinion of misomythus (hater of myth).

The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth ~ Professor Tolkien's dramatic poem which takes up the story following the disastrous battle of Maldon in 991, where the English Commander Beorhtnoth was killed.

This indisputably exceptional book is a must-read for all devoted Tolkien fans and ardent admirers of this intriguing Professor's life, for it goes as far as to explain the nature of his art and to justify his success. Tolkien's love for the common fairytale is expressed through his fantasy works, and it is fascinating to read in this book how they have inspired his work to such an extent. Full of significant meaning, thought-provoking connotation and interesting facts `Tree and Leaf' is an unmissable read which delves a little deeper into the mind of a literary genius and extraordinary myth-maker, whose life work and creation remains today simply astonishing.
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on 26 October 2009
Although the other texts included in "Tree and leaf" (Mythopoeia, Leaf by Niggle and the Homecoming of...) are interesting and valuable, the reason to purchase this slim volume lies in the essay "On fairy-stories": in this terse piece of writing, originally meant for a lecture, Tolkien defends the right of writers to create beautiful stories with little or no apparent connection to "The real world", and the right of readers to find consolation in the healing power of beauty. This way he doesn't only justify the work of his entire life, the creation of Middle Earth and the stories of men, hobbits and magical rings, but he claims its connection to ancient mythology and especially to the world of heroes such as Beowulf.
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on 18 December 1998
I bought this in my "Must read everything by Tolkien" phase having just read Lord of the Rings. It is essentially an essay on Fairy Tales, but it has some wonderful theories and concepts. When I re-read the book years later, it hit me so hard I'll never be the same, as it dawned on me just what amazing things Tolkien was saying. The ideas from this have doubled my enjoyment of every book I have read since.
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on 30 December 2001
The book was originally a publishing concoction consisting of only two items, short story 'Leaf by Niggle' and essay 'On Fairy-Stories'; both have since become readily available in other editions. But even if you already have the texts in your collection, know that 'Tree and Leaf' has sprouted new branches since its first publication in 1964, as is only fitting. First, in 1988, Tolkien's poetic dialogue 'Mythopoeia' was added; this new 2001 edition also includes 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth' - the only sequel to another author's work by JRRT that I know of (albeit one nameless, and dead for a milennium). The four works now form a strong whole: the essay lays out the groundwork for virtually all of Tolkien's fiction and sheds much light on the value system underlining his creative choices. This is literary theory of a sort that is almost extinct in university courses nowadays - and feels like a breath of fresh inspiration after so many postmodern dead ends, frankly. 'Mythopoeia' brings this argument with modernity out in a style reminiscent of classical dialectics (in verse and quite amusing to boot); but then 'Leaf by Niggle' explodes in a flash of what the book has previously only talked about: it is the real thing, one of Tolkien's most poignant works, and the sheer concentration of emotion in it rivals his best mythological stories. 'Beorhtnoth' now gives the end of the book a sombre tone, an elegy of times and heroes gone and on the way to be forgotten - written in a prime example of Old English verse.
Maybe not meant to be experienced in this order, the four items certainly form a strong whole, one essential to the understanding of the author - more so than anything you might see in cinema these days...
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on 8 October 2012
Smith of Wootton Major, written between 1964 and 1966* and published in 1967, is a meditation on the gift of fantasy. It originally was to be a very short story to be included to a preface of George MacDonald's famous faerie story The Golden Key. The story soon began a life of its own, and though altogether brief gives an insightful view into Tolkien's life.

The story is about Smith, who is a normal boy of all accounts. In his village are great feasts, and the Feast of Twenty Four is held. A star, little more than thought a Trinket by the Master Cook, is placed within tie cake, and he eats it unknowing. Then beauty comes upon him, and after he grows up begins to wonder in Faery. This is much the life of Tolkien. Born in South Africa in 1892, he was a little British boy that came to live in England. He became immersed in two things: mythology and language. Soon, so in love with language, he began inventing his own. In the end, he wished to have people speak his languages, to have a history behind it: thus arose Middle-earth. Then, as time went on, just as Smith, Tolkien explored the fantastic worlds, and was accustomed to strange lands.

In the story it is stated he spoke little of it to anyone OUTSIDE of his family. This is also true of Tolkien. Although his (deeply loved) wife was not real involved in his writing, he shared his stories with his family, and it is not to far to say that had it not been for his four children The Lord of the Rings would never have been written. (To understand this statement, one must first realise who The Hobbit was written for. It was written for his children. This, along with Farmer Giles, Roverandom (newly published), the Father Christmas Letters, and Mr. Bliss, his children's picture book personally illustarted by him. Unwin, his publisher wanted a sequel to The Hobbit, so he began The Lord of the Rings, a much less serious work in the beginning than at last evolved too. So without these we would not have gotten his adult masterpiece).

Then old age approached. Although his mind was not dimmed, time had worked its decay on his body, and much of his strength was sapped. He realised that he was a mortal, and even though he had had a passport to Faery, it did not grant him eternal physical life. Tolkien was sad about this, and wished to finish The Silmarillion. But life is life, and Tolkien knew his life was drawing to an end. Just like his beautiful little people who also knew morality, the hobbits, he died in 1973, 2 September, just shy of dying ten years after his friend C. S. Lewis (who died the same day as Auldous Huxley and JFK). Tolkien, just as Frodo and Bilbo, went on the great ships into Paradise, Heaven. He took sick with a gastric ulcer, and developed a chest infection, dying.

Tolkien was of melancholy temperament, and they are notorious for being prone to depression. Tolkien was of the great artistic class, and he knew depression well. It was depression that this story was borne of. In the very last letter in LETTERS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, he tells his daughter as something of a P. S. "It is stuffy, sticky, and rainy at present - but forecasts are more. favourable". As far as my knowledge goes, that is the last thing he wrote, being four days before his death. There is much hope in that statement, even though Tolkien had no way of knowing how much relevance that to that moment in his life.

This is the closest thing of autobiography he has written. This, along with his marvelous short story Leaf by Niggle, are essential of you want to read and understand this Godly man's life. Tree and Leaf, a small book containing the short story aforementioned and his classic essay On Faerie Stories, along with this, will enlighten you greatly on his views of Faerie. These three are essential to understand this man. Leaf By Niggle is him venting his frustration, and then him expressing great hope for his work. It also reflects his Catholicism, as Niggle goes thru purgatory.

*This is deduced from LETTERS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN. In letter 262, Tolkien accepts the invitation to write a preface to The Golden Key, the short story by MacDonald. It was here, in that abandoned preface, that he began Smith, of what was to be a very short story. It had a life of its own, and grew to present length. In letter 270, dated 20 May 1965, Tolkien is talking to Rayner Unwin, his publisher (and as a child reviewed THE HOBBIT for publication, who received, if my memory serves me correctly, ten shillings for reading and writing a little report over it for his father Stanley.) The typescript of this story had been submitted for publication
[This Review of "Leaf By Niggle" was written in early 2000, and has never been published before now]

Leaf By Niggle

J. R. R. Tolkien, in his short story "Leaf By Niggle", expressed his frustrations of writing his mythology. J. R. R. Tolkien showed how his dreams were being frustrated. The story concerns a painter named Niggle. Like most short stories, this name is of importance. Niggle is defined as "". This is Niggle to the bone. He is a painter, and begins to paint a leaf that soon grows to a large tree, and then a grand landscape. But he wants the entire landscape to have the detail of the original leaf. Soon, it grows so big that all of his painting is concerned with this, and what is not is tacted on and made to be a part of the painting. Tolkien described himself well in this story. Just like Niggle, he brooded excessively over the smallest details. Yet his dream is to have a world as complex as Niggle's painting. Tolkien found all sorts of distractions to keep him from continuing on with his main work, which was his mythology. This was how he worshiped God. He called it "sub-creation". The journey that the story speaks of is death and purgatory. Tolkien/Niggle wants to have his work completed before he has to leave the world, but feels that distractions will keep him from it. In the story, Niggle cannot say no to people, particulary his neighbor Parish. Niggle feels it is his duty and obligation to the law. In the end, however, death comes upon Niggle, and he is taken to Purgatory. Tolkien was a Catholic, and this represents his religous side.

Tolkien was, first and foremost, a religious writer. This needs to be understood before one can fully realize the meaning of this last story. His basic concept was that, in the act of "sub-creation", which he was doing with his mythology, and which people in artistic endeavors do in general, he was praising God. He was imitating his father, taking on the role of God in his own private universe. After completing purgatory, he is taken to his country. When Niggle realizes he is in the place that had only previously been imagined by him, he rejoices. He is later reconciled to Parish, and who was once a hindrance is now a help. Tolkien, with his dear friend C. S. Lewis, make a very balanced pair of Christian writers. In one, a person has access to fiery intellect and reasoning, the other grand imagination and a fully detailed universe. In this, Tolkien and Lewis make a very good balance of each other. In a way, Lewis could be represented by Parish, although in a very limited way.

Ultimately, this story is an expression of hope and faith by Tolkien. This is the closest thing to an autobiography to ever come fro his pen. Even if he does not finish his great painting, he will be rewarded for his toils. This story could not have come from an unreligous man. It reflects Tolkien's strong personal belief in God, and his grand purpose in such works and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This story, basically, is a summation of his life work.
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on 21 November 2008
I'd totally recommend getting this if only for the short story "leaf by Niggle". Which in spite of Tolkien's professed "cordial dislike of allegory" is profoundly allegorical. I keep reading this every few months as a reminder of the narrative and purpose of life. Tolkien has allowed some of us to glimpse a little of the meta narrative of his work, and how he saw himself in the world. Really worth reading.
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on 17 February 2008
I get frustrated when reviewers of Tolkien's works (fiction or other) tend to wrap his legendarium complete with his theory in a box-like container, only applicable to Tolkien. The collection of pieces in 'Tree and Leaf' are a testament to its non exclusiveness. The idea of a 'sub-creation' can be applied to many artists, indeed, Tolkien was subscribing to the view BECAUSE he was an artist, and not as a sort of extended appendix to his own works. Of course his essays do help us to understand the scope of Middle Earth, but only in so much as it tells us it's a sub-creation- a fragmented vision of the true creation (God's).
That aside, this will continue to be a treasured book of mine, and I will bear it in mind whenever I come to any piece of art.
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on 28 July 2013
This book shows Tolkien in all his glory, it shows his reason and creativity through the essay and poems/story. My only reservation is that he is very clearly responding to a view of his time which does not seem to persist in the 21st Century.
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on 12 April 2016
Leaf by Niggle in particular is hauntingly beautiful. It's hard to put my finger on what it is about this story that I love so much but I keep coming back to it. Tolkien's non-Middle-earth stuff really deserves more recognition than it gets.
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on 25 February 2012
Firstly. the quality of the second hand book. It was in very good condition and was a good format. I don't think Unwin maintained this size for long or it may have been lost in the multiple mergers. This is (I think) the only source of the "Homecoming of Beorhtnorth" which I wanted to read. It is worth the effort of reading and sdds to my respect of Tolkien. The other stories in the book, I had read before, but reread. "Smith of Wootton Major" is a fascinating faerie tale, but "Leaf by Niggle" is a bit twee and annoying. It was almost an allegory, a type of story Tolkien despised. The essay "On Fairy Stories" is well worth reading as a clear account of Tolkien as a writer of great faerie tales.
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