J.R.R. Tolkien is the beloved author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but there are lesser-known tales he penned that deserve our attention. Here, then, is another masterpiece of his, a short story that most have never encountered: Leaf by Niggle. Really, the title should be read “Leaf” (small pause, cast a glance at the audience, in this case, your drywall) then continue on with a flourish of the hand: by Niggle.
The story revolves around a little man, a painter, and a perfectionist: his name is Niggle. This little man is preparing for a long journey. Tolkien doesn’t initially tell us what the journey is for, but by about page four it’s evident that Niggle’s days are coming to a close. He spends his hours working on a painting – always adding a new dab of vibrant oils here, or a scrap of canvas there. He labors day in and day out, viewing every rap on the door as nothing but an irritable distraction. Then one day the “Driver” arrives to take Niggle, and he embarks on his journey, and by the end he finds himself in an astonishing world that is his unfinished painting. In this allegory, Tolkien suggests that our actions in this world, especially our labors of goodness and beauty, influence and extend into the life beyond. I first read this story in a powder blue Ikea high back. Put your bare feet up against the fogged up window glass and watch the snow (in most of the Northern Hemisphere) as you pore over these pages. Leaf by Niggle is best consumed in the company of After-Eight chocolate or green tea, in a sound-proof environment of mid-summer temperature such as your closet.
On a different note, a young adult novel titled Ælefas was released only days ago. This epic-length fantasy takes place in a medieval age, albeit a future medieval age in which magic is brain-powered neurojectics, the heritage of a long-forgotten technological past. The tale follows fifteen-year-old Tobi Wulfhall and her brother as they embark on a pilgrimage to the wondrous city of Ælefas, where their father is unexpectedly accused of smuggling an object of power. The entire family is thrust into the dark plots of a neurojector who is desperate to find the object, while the shadows of war loom over the city. Written by reclusive family member Peco Gaskovski, the book has been in the making for a few years, drawing inspiration from the Swiss Alps and classic fantasy. This is a transporting midnight-read, filled with adventure, strange creatures, and an ancient ash that can blot out the memories of entire kingdoms.
Ælefas will be available for free during a five day slot on Kindle (from Monday, February 22 to Friday, February 26). You can find links to both Leaf by Niggle and Ælefas if you happen to be interested in taking a read.
Photo Credit: Maia Gaskovski