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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2008
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.

And as a final piece of proof, the second piece in the book is a fairy-story that Tolkien wrote, called "Leaf by Niggle," which was simply lovely from start to finish. Twenty pages, and it encapsulated the sense of being a frustrated artist in the real world, and the advantages of living, therefore, in an invented world -- advantages that are not just for the artists, but also for their neighbors -- in addition to having a nice moral on the power of art to lead us home. Once again, Tolkien takes his place in the big chair.
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on February 8, 2008
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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on October 27, 2002
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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on August 2, 2009
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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on May 13, 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 March 10, 2013
I have never so heavily notated a book I read for school, I have never felt less like reading was assigned, and I have never been happier to go back and read it again and still have my annotations and the wonderful text. Tree and Leaf is fantastic all for learning about Tolkien, for hearing what he had to say, and just for a good read. It is all of these things. Really, really great. If you're not sure, buy this--and buy the hard copy--you'll want to make notes.
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on March 20, 2014
To me the best overall writing to help understand what is merely consequential and passing and what is eternal and therefore real is the Bible. For a technical understanding of what we can see of ultimate reality from our current perspective here on earth and within the stream of time, C. Michael Langan's CTMU is the best thing i have ever read. For a head&heart understanding of who we are and what we can do to participate in this Creation which "counts" both here among us and toward the next new Creation, this book (along with the extended example of JRRT's personal parabolic efforts in Lord-obedient sub-creation in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and LOTR, etc.) is the best thing of which i have partaken. If you have hiraeth for Heaven, here you go. Filled with moments of wonder and quotations which impart thoughtfulness and kindness along the way, the overall messages come clear. Inspired.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
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on May 16, 2008
This collection should be on the shelf of any admirer of JRTT. The pieces, which vary in medium (poetry, short story, essay) are actually strikingly similar in content -- you cannot read them without coming to better understand what Tolkien himself was after in his writing of LOTR. 'Leaf by Niggle' is simply a beautiful and fun short story to which no artist -- or lover of life -- could be deaf. It's Tolkien's story about himself, really. The poem 'Mythopoeia' deserves several read throughs -- it took me a while, but once it starts to become clear, it won't let go. And of course, this collection includes the famous lecture "On Fairy Stories" -- which will help you to better understand not only JRRT, but also CS Lewis (see: 'Tree of Tales', ed Hart)
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on June 17, 2015
This is an odd collection of short pieces by Tolkien, none of them long enough to stand alone. They have little in common except their authorship. The first half of the book, from which it gets its title, is a long essay on the history and the nature of fairy tales. Tolkien broadens the category to include much of mythology. The essay is followed by a poem written in Anglo-Saxon meter, then a fantasy about a man named Niggle, and finally an account of an English battle during the reign of Aethelred.
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on December 21, 2010
Tree and Leaf brings together a few shorter works that help illuminate Tolkien's thoughts on the uses and purposes of myth and story. The essay "On Fairy-stories" outlines Tolkien's thoughts on what exactly makes up a fairy-story, as opposed to a fairy-tale, etc, and how story does not tell a beautiful lie, but a better truth that speaks to who we are. Mythopoeia, a poem in response to detractors, is in many ways the same thoughts from Tolkien's essay but in poetic form. "Leaf by Niggle" draws out the tensions of calling, responsibility and the "sub-creative" powers which we are endowed with as the imago dei. The one oddity, though by no means detracting from the book, is the translation of "The Homecoming of Beorthnoth." It is an inspiring and intriguing story, but does not completely fit with the ideas of creation and story.
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