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Tree and Leaf: Including "Mythopoeia" Paperback – February 5, 2001

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


'A haunting and successful demonstration of the qualities of faerie' New York Times 'The book must be read... it goes far to explain the nature of his art and justify his success' The Cambridge Review 'While springing from deep-rooted convictions, his art has imaginative magic of a very rare quality' Birmingham Post

About the Author

J R R Tolkien (1892-1973) was a distinguished academic, though he is best known for writing The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, plus other stories and essays. His books have been translated into over 40 languages and have sold many millions of copies world wide.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (February 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007105045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007105045
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892.1973), beloved throughout the world as the creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. His chief interest was the linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, but even as he studied these classics he was creating a set of his own.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Theoden Humphrey VINE VOICE on September 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've always wanted to read Tolkien's other works; I've read the Silmarillion a couple of times, and never really enjoyed it as much as the Hobbit or LOTR. But nonetheless, I've had an old copy of a Tolkien book called Tree and Leaf for years -- it was my parents' originally -- and I finally dove into it.

It's short, only two pieces, but it was excellent -- and excellent in a way that makes me ten times more eager to look for other Tolkien ephemera than The Silmarillion ever did. The first part of this is an essay, expanded from a lecture Tolkien gave, called On Fairy-Stories. And not only was it interesting and well-written, it had some absolutely brilliant insights; I don't know if they were Tolkien's or simply common knowledge among Oxford literature dons, but I loved reading about the power of adjectives, and the concept of the sub-creator, and the idea that a fantasy world does not require a suspension of disbelief, but rather an acceptance of an internal continuity that allows a sub-creation of a new world within the pages, a world that, if well done by the author and well-read by the audience, requires no suspension of disbelief but merely a shift in sensory input, from direct input to that which is imagined from the words. Great idea that I'm not doing justice to, but intend to revisit and clarify further in my own mind, and use to my advantage. It certainly reaffirmed my belief that Tolkien was the leading light of the fantasy genre, both because of his immense gifts as a writer, and because he understood fantasy, its advantages and disadvantages, its requirements and its place in literature and our lives.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sherry Thompson on February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
I regret that this isn't currently in print, and it baffles me that this is so when Christopher and the estate seem to be printing everything else they can lay their hands on. (Not to say that's a bad thing!)

Tolkien's essay reveals the value or role of fairy stories for those who may be fantasy-challenged. Children already know that there are dragons. Fairy tales don't scare children by telling them this terrible secret. The role of the fairy tale is to reveal that dragons can be killed. The dragon is the catastrophe. The slaying of the dragon is the eucatastrophe.

Tolkien also notes that we are all subcreators, that it is a natural role for us. (I think he was writing about other authors but anyone who daydreams a story is creating as well.)

The best part of this book is "Leaf by Niggle." Tolkien wrote several short stories and I love them all, but this is a very special short story. In my opinion, Tolkien was writing about himself during a particularly clear moment of spiritual discernment.

I don't want to give away the plot but suffice it to say that the main character, Niggle, is working on a huge painting of an immense tree, filled with detail that grows in detail the more he paints. He would love to finish the painting but he has a neighbor who interrupts him repeatedly with some very real if down-to-earth needs.

And that's just the premise. The story just gets better and better, and I hope that it is all true. "True", not "real".

Please buy a used copy while you can, and treasure it.

Sherry Thompson (no matter who Amazon thinks I am)
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book. Reading through it, the intentions of Tolkien are revealed. It makes all of the stories of middle earth more real, tangable, comforting. It can be read and reread; each time more layers, more connections are made. Tolkien confronts reality of fantasy in this essay and poem. He justifies our human need for subcreation, and comfort in art.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William B. Jones on August 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
J. R. R. Tolkien's "Tree and Leaf" originally included two items - one an extended essay, "On Fairy Tales," the other an intriguing short story, "Leaf by Niggle." The essay yields insight into Tolkien's theory of the "subcreation" which underlies the fictional world of fantasy (both his and that of others), and has a good bit of Christian theology incorporated into it as well. The short story tells of an artist who wants most of all to be left alone in his creating, and a neighbor whose need impinges upon the artist's time, energy, and, ultimately, art itself. Poignant, telling and essential for understanding Tolkien's experience of art-making and life.

Unique to the HarperCollins (British) "Tree by Leaf" edition noted here is the inclusion of the 148-line poem "Mythopoeia" which, according to Christopher Tolkien's preface, Tolkien composed in response to C. S. Lewis' having "described myth and fairy-story as 'lies'." Also included is "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth," an ending Tolkien supplied to an Old English tale, "The Battle of Maldon." Those drawn to these works may find Paul Kocher's chapter, "Seven Leaves," from his "Master of Middle Earth," of particular interest. Furthermore, Tom Shippey's introduction to "Tales from the Perilous Realm" links themes from "On Fairy Tales" and "Leaf by Niggle" to such Tolkien translations as "Sir Orfeo," not included in the collections cited above.
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