4 Sep 2022


"Leaf by Niggle" by J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Leaf by Niggle is an allegorical short story by J. R. Tolkien. The story has two main characters. The first is Niggle, a rather mediocre painter who loves painting, but cannot ever seem to finish anything. Nothing is ever quite right; not his painting, not his home and certainly not his relationship with his neighbors. The other is Parish, a bothersome neighbor who always seems to show up at the most inopportune times, especially for Niggle ( Tolkien, 1975 ). Parrish does not have time to appreciate art or painting. Parish believes that Niggle’s effort at such an undertaking seem to be an enormous waste of time. 

One of the many plots within the story is the transformation of Niggle and Parish. Niggle faces transformation after setting up for an inevitable journey. Having made insufficient preparations for the journey, he gets imprisoned in a certain type of institution where he has to do lots of menial work on a daily basis. After some time, he gets liberation and goes to a place where he receives gentle treatment and discovers that it was the land of the “tree and forest” as he had depicted in his painting, but now forsaken and everything destroyed all except for the original leaf ( Tolkien, 1975 ). It comes to him as the actual realization of his vision in his painting that was unlike his imperfect painting. It is after getting reunited with parish that parish achieves his transformation. Parish gets transformed where he demonstrates that he was a worthy gardener. He forsakes his former character of despising the works of niggle and joins forces with him. Together, Niggle and Parish make the land of the tree more beautiful to the extent of making it a forest. As the story progresses, Niggle ventures deep into the forest and lands into the great mountains that he had barely envisioned in his painting ( Tolkien, 1975 ). Generally the transformation of Niggle and Parish took place after they embarked on their inevitable journeys where they ended up achieving perfection together as depicted by the awesome land that they created. 

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From a religious perspective of the transformation of Niggle and Parish, two religions can be used to depict the transformation. From Group A, Christianity, views this transformation as the stages that man goes through after life. According to Christianity but views, the journey both are unprepared to take is death that comes without warning. The institution where Niggle is imprisoned refers to the purgatory where sinners go to temporarily suffer for their sins. The land that both finally end up is characterized by beauty and splendor and thus can be termed to be heaven or paradise from a Christianity point of view. The leaving of Niggle at the end of the story signifies the entry into eternity where an individual becomes a saint and is in direct contact with God as outlined in Christianity. 

On the other hand, from group B, a religious point of view in light of Hinduism depicts the situation differently. According to Hinduism, the transformations that Niggle and Parish go through are representative of reincarnation. Notably, the various sufferings that niggle went through after death is in accordance with the principle of reincarnation which depends on how the previous life was lived. The journey that niggle takes is the karma that is engrained in Hinduism as a result of one’s actions. The final place that both Niggle and Parish achieves is the state of complete transformation from a series of incarnations as depicted in Hinduism. The leaving of Niggle at the end of the story signifies the change of state where an individual can no longer take bodily form in Hinduism. 

In conclusion, the Leaf by Niggle outlines the need for one to live a good life on earth in concern for others instead of self-centeredness. This fact is emphasized by the ramifications that Niggle faces after death for failing to live a complete life. However, all is not lost since Niggle was able to correct his mistakes and reach perfection. 


Tolkien, J. R. R. (1975). Leaf by Niggle . Trinity Forum. Print. 

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