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Tree and Leaf. Smith of Wootton Major. The…
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Tree and Leaf. Smith of Wootton Major. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth,… (1975)

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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433638,921 (3.69)11
Repackaged to feature Tolkien's own painting of the Tree of Amalion, this collection includes his famous essay, 'On Fairy-stories' and the story that exemplifies this, 'Leaf by Niggle', together with the poem 'Mythopoeia' and the verse drama, 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth', which tells of the events following the disastrous Battle of Maldon. Fairy-stories are not just for children, as anyone who has read Tolkien will know. In his essay On Fairy-Stories, Tolkien discusses the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy and rescues the genre from those who would relegate it to juvenilia. The haunting short story, Leaf by Niggle, recounts the story of the artist, Niggle, who has 'a long journey to make' and is seen as an allegory of Tolkien's life. The poem Mythopoeia relates an argument between two unforgettable characters as they discuss the making of myths. Lastly, and published for the very first time, we are treated to the translation of Tolkien's account of the Battle of Maldon, known as The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth. Tree and Leaf is an eclectic, amusing, provocative and entertaining collection of works which reveals the diversity of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination, the depth of his knowledge of English history, and the breadth of his talent as a creator of fantastic fiction.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
a mixture of lectures and short stories by JRR Tolkien ( )
  nadineeg | Nov 30, 2018 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2447447.html

A collection of Tolkien short pieces, including his aesthetic manifesto, "On Fairy Stories"; the allegorical story "Leaf by Niggle"; and his verse drama "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son".

I wonder what possessed the publishers to combine these very different pieces by Tolkien together between the same set of covers? I was a little baffled when I first read them, I don't think I was more than twelve at the time.

I now find it much easier to grasp "On Fairy Stories", since I've read a great deal more Tolkien, a lot more fantasy literature, and also a lot more literary criticism since the first time I tried it. Not being partisan in the debate myself, I can only say that Tolkien defends his patch vigorously and well.

As a convent-school pupil, I was pretty familiar with Catholic teaching on the afterlife even aged 12, and the allegory in "Leaf by Niggle"is not subtle. But what I realise now is the extent to which Tolkien was writing about himself - Niggle's great work of art is not appreciated by his neighbours, who think it's a waste of time, rather as some of Tolkien's fellow dons must have speculated about his writing.

"Beorhtnoth" is still rather above my head. The play in itself, Tolkien's only attempt at drama, isn't very dramatic. The short essay before it (and the shorter one after) make it clear that this is in some way a critique of, well, I'm not sure what; is it other scholars, or the original author of the "Battle of Maldon"? I actually liked it more as a twelve-year-old, where there was the romance of the partially preserved manuscript and the effort of tackling an unfamiliar form of writing.

Funny how we change, as life changes us. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Apr 8, 2015 |
Un saggio sulle fiabe e a seguire delle fiabe incentrate su Feeria.
Abbastanza interessante il saggio, le fiabe sono invece molto particolari, soprattutto perchè completamente diverse rispetto a quelle "classiche" che mi erano state raccontate quando ero bambina.
Una piacevole scoperta. ( )
  Saretta.L | Mar 31, 2013 |
A collection of some of Tolkien's shorter pieces. Most of this short work is taken up by his essay On Fairy-Stories and a very short allegorical piece called Leaf by Niggle. Both are about 'sub-creation' as Tokien calls it and both were written between 1938 and 1939 when Tolkien was working on The Lord of the Rings. I think these are both essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Tolkien's view of his work and the world he created.

In On Fairy-Stories Tokien defends works of what we would probably call fantasy today from the literary critics of the time (presumably including those who felt a Professor at Oxford University should not be wasting his time on such trivialities). As a lover of fantasy who gets annoyed with contemporary literary critics and readers for dismissing a whole genre as 'just escapism' I thoroughly enjoyed this (even though I can't say I understood everything he wrote). For me, it was a real mountain-top experience - one of those pieces of work that seems to capture something you felt that you weren't even aware you felt or that you were unable to put into words yourself and lift you up beyond that to open up new thoughts and new vistas.

I have pages of quotes from the essay but I will restrict myself to two quotes which, to me, summarise Tolkien's views on what makes a good fairy-story.

To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent form.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.

Leaf by Niggle is a short, allegorical work which, unusually, Tolkien seems to have written very quickly about a painter, Niggle, who is working on a great piece of art depicting a tree. The painting seems to run away with him, there are always new things to be added, and he struggles constantly against interruptions from his neighbour, Mr Parish, who is always asking Niggle to run errands for him at the most inconvenient times. Niggle also knows that one day soon he will have to go on a long journey and he worries that he will never find the time to get his painting completed. For a writer who professed a strong dislike for allegory, this is a very good one, and summarises Tolkien's fears and hopes about his own great work. Particularly poignant when I think that he wrote it before finishing The Lord of the Rings.

All the leaves he had ever laboured at were there, as he had imagined them rather than as he had made them; and there were others that had only budded in his mind, and many that might have budded, if only he had time. Nothing was written on them, they were just exquisite leaves, yet they were dated as clear as a calendar. Some of the most beautiful - and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the Niggle style - were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr Parish: there was no other way of putting it.

The essay and story above were published together as Tree and Leaf and both moved me to tears at various points (probably an odd way to feel about an academic essay but there you go).

Smith of Wootton Major is another short tale which grew out of an introduction Tolkien was asked to write for a new edition of George MacDonald's The Golden Key. It seems Tolkien intended this story to serve as his example of what he thought a fairy-tale should be but in typical Tolkien fashion the introduction was never finished. Shortly before Tolkien's death Smith of Wootton Major was published as a separate work. It's a tale tinged with some sadness but also with a lot of beauty. There are some lovely illustrations by Pauline Baynes in my edition. It's not really a children's story although I think children would probably enjoy it.

The last piece, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, I found more difficult. This piece is made up of two short essays: one giving the historical background to Beorhtnoth who died at The Battle of Maldon in Essex in 991 AD (I had never heard of any of this before reading the essay) and the second on the meaning of the Old English word ofermod (I struggled a bit with this one) and a third section which is a piece of poetry about The Battle of Maldon. On first reading this I thought the poetry was Tolkien's translation of an Old English poem but I discovered via wikipedia that it was one he wrote himself about two characters after The Battle of Maldon. I enjoyed it and it found it a lot more readable than I thought I would. ( )
3 vote souloftherose | Mar 9, 2013 |
A collection of Tolkien's shorter work. Tree and Leaf is an essay "On Fairy-Stories" and an example "Leaf by Niggle". "Smith of Wooton Major" is an illustrated tale about a village cook who makes a special cake, with a faery token inside. "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth" is a translation of an Old English fragment of poetry, and an essay about the old poet of Maldon who wrote about the battles of 991 in Essex as the local force battled the vikings. ( )
3 vote tripleblessings | Feb 2, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. R. R. Tolkienprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baynes, PaulineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saba Sardi, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure.
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Tree and Leaf contains "On Fairy Tales" and "Leaf and Niggle". The same title has also been used for editions containing other short pieces, including "Mythopoeia" and "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth", and "Smith of Wootton Major", among others.
This work is for editions of Tree and Leaf that include "Smith of Wootton Major" and "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth"
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