Leaf by Niggle

Last night I found ‘Leaf by Niggle’ that reminded me of  Royal Rosamond’s ‘Poetry On Leaves’.

John Rosamond

Above is a photo of my grandfather reading the magazine he self-published ‘Bright Stories’. Royal Rosamond returned to the place of his birth to write about the Ozark Hill People who have been compared to the Hobbits.

Poetry On Leaves (1946)


Royal Reuben Rosamond

“Poetry on Leaves

The spring sun was warm now, brightening as with happiness in the
open fields, the broad land resembling a crazy quilt because of the
wooded patches everywhere. Already the wild grapes were in bloom,
and if the sun continued smiling there would be, in every Hillman’s
cellar, many, many jars of grape juice for making jelly, and wine
for those who knew the trick of making it. Those pink-white blossoms
on the pale yellow bushes hard against warm hillside rocks were
huckleberries in bloom. The wild grapes and the huckleberries once
ripe, tangier here in Shannon County, Missouri, than most any other
place in the Ozarks.

I walked on, for I had yet a long way to go before nightfall. Now it
was but a mite after mid-day. After leaving the train at Winona, I
could have perhaps caught a ride to Eminence had I stayed with the
wagon road instead of footing it up the spur-track leading northward
to cross Jack’s Fork at the Hodge place where I left to journey up
Possum Trot toward Little Wonder Schoolhouse and Tucked Away Church
House, above which in the ride to the north, I lived – the place
where I was born and which I called home, where my parents had
settled in their youth and planned some day to die. The way was
long, the trail lonesome and ofttimes steep. As wild a region as
ever grew outdoors. No matter. I wanted to stretch my legs and let
the April breeze take the orders of a Saint Louis foundry away from

I went home on a visit once a year – had already worked five years
up there, long enough to forget how to talk (or write) hillbilly
talk, it seemed like. Still, I didn’t mind being called a hillbilly.
Life in the Ozarks had a tang. I liked everything about them, from
the blooming of the redbud and dogwood in springtime to pumpkin pies
and possum and coon hunting and listening to fox hounds in the fall.
I was born and bred here. This wilderness was in my blood. I felt as
much a part of it as does a back log to a fireplace. I was twenty
six years old now, and when I become fifty, I intend to retire, and
go sit on pappy’s rocker there on the front porch and rock and smoke
and think until I die.

Here on the side of Grapevine Mountain, high above the glistening of
Jack’s Fork below, for days and weeks and years back into the dim
past she had lived in splendid isolation, the silence, save for the
passing Hillman on the road below her cabin, as vast as the greenery
of the heaving land-billows rising higher and ever higher toward the
summit of the far ridge leaning against the blue heaven on the west,
below which was the great spring from which the stream Jack’s Fork
nursed and found perpetual substance. A skinny, faded creature in
her late forties, seemingly as antiquated as the furniture in the
two small rooms in her rustic cabin, yet she possessed the amazing
gift of cheerfulness. Even though her income was very meager, yet
she contrived to spread a spirit of near-opulence and comforting
friendliness about herself which was as convincing as was Mr.
Russell’s plush appearing abundance. In summer she mothered her
pansy beds, naming the little faces, as she called them, after the
little girls she taught in winter, the boys unslighted by living as
vegetables in her garden, the more refractory being a gooseberry
busy or wild plum tree.”


Leaf by Niggle

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Leaf by Niggle
Leaf by niggle.gif

Italian edition of Tree and Leaf, depicting Niggle and his leaf
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fantasy short-story
Publisher Dublin Review
Publication date
January 1945
Media type Print
Preceded by The Hobbit
Followed by On Fairy-Stories

Leaf by Niggle” is a short story written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1938–39[1] and first published in the Dublin Review in January 1945. It can be found, most notably, in Tolkien’s book titled Tree and Leaf, and in other places (including the collections The Tolkien Reader, Poems & Stories, A Tolkien Miscellany, and Tales from the Perilous Realm). This is notable because the book, consisting of a seminal essay called “On Fairy-Stories” and “Leaf by Niggle”, offers the underlying philosophy (Creation and Sub-Creation, see below) of much of Tolkien’s fantastical writings.

“Leaf by Niggle” is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien’s own creative process, and, to an extent, of his own life.

Plot summary[edit]

In this story, an artist, named Niggle, lives in a society that does not value art. Working only to please himself, he paints a canvas of a great Tree with a forest in the distance. He invests each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single vast embodiment of his vision.

However, there are many mundane chores and duties that prevent Niggle from giving his work the attention it deserves, so it remains incomplete and is not fully realised.

At the back of his head, Niggle knows that he has a great trip looming, and he must pack and prepare his bags.

Also, Niggle’s next door neighbour, a gardener named Parish, frequently drops by asking for various forms of help. Parish is lame and has a sick wife and genuinely needs help – Niggle, having a good heart, always takes time out to help but often reluctantly as he would rather work on his painting.

And Niggle has other pressing work duties that require his attention. Then Niggle himself catches a chill doing errands for Parish in the rain.

Eventually, Niggle is forced to take his trip, and cannot get out of it. He has not prepared, and as a result ends up in a kind of institution, in which he must perform menial labour each day.

In time, he is paroled from the institution, and he is sent to a place ‘for a little gentle treatment’. But he discovers that the new country he is sent to is in fact the country of the Tree and Forest of his great painting, now long abandoned and all but destroyed (except for the one perfect leaf of the title which is placed in the local museum) in the home to which he cannot return – but the Tree here and now in this place is the true realisation of his vision, not the flawed and incomplete form of his painting.

Niggle is reunited with his old neighbour, Parish, who now proves his worth as a gardener, and together they make the Tree and Forest even more beautiful. Finally, Niggle journeys farther and deeper into the Forest, and beyond into the great mountains that he only faintly glimpsed in his painting.

Long after both Niggle and Parish have taken their journeys, the lovely field that they built together becomes a place for many travellers to visit before their final voyage into the Mountains, and it earns the name “Niggle’s Parish”.


One religious reading of Leaf by Niggle could lead to the conclusion that the allegory of “Leaf by Niggle” is life, death, purgatory and paradise.[2] Niggle is not prepared for his unavoidable trip, as humans often are not prepared for death. His time in the institution and subsequent discovery of his Tree represent purgatory and heaven.

But Leaf by Niggle can also be interpreted as an illustration of Tolkien’s religious philosophy of creation and sub-creation.[3] In this philosophy, true creation is the exclusive province of God, and those who aspire to creation can only make echoes (good) or mockeries (evil) of truth. The sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God is one way that mortals honour God.

This philosophy is evident in Tolkien’s other works, especially The Silmarillion – one Vala, Morgoth, creates the Orc race as a foul mockery of the elf. Another Vala, Aulë, creates the Dwarf race as an act of subcreation[4] that honoured Eru Ilúvatar (The equivalent of God in Tolkien’s writings), and which Eru accepted and made real, just as Niggle’s Tree was made real.

Niggle’s yearnings after truth and beauty (God’s creations) are echoed in his great painting; after death, Niggle is rewarded with the realisation (the making-real) of his yearning. Or, if you prefer, Niggle’s Tree always existed – he simply echoed it in his art. From a metanarrative viewpoint, Tolkien’s Arda is itself a subcreation designed to honour the true stories of the real world. Thus, the Middle-earth legendarium, despite its lack of overt religious elements, can be interpreted as a profoundly religious work.[5]

An autobiographical interpretation[6] places Tolkien himself as Niggle – in mundane matters as well as spiritual ones. Tolkien was compulsive in his writing, his revision, his desire for perfection in form and in the “reality” of his invented world, its languages, its chronologies, its existence. Like Niggle, Tolkien came to abandon other projects or graft them onto his “Tree”, Middle-earth. Like Niggle, Tolkien faced many chores and duties that kept him from the work he loved;[3] and like Niggle, Tolkien was a horrible procrastinator.[7]

Tolkien himself might have disagreed with an allegorical interpretation. He wrote, in Letter 131 of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, “I dislike Allegory”. In specific reference to Niggle, he wrote in Letter 241, “It is not really or properly an ‘allegory’ so much as ‘mythical’.” On the other hand, in Letter 153 he said, “I tried to show allegorically how [subcreation] might come to be taken up into Creation in some plane in my ‘purgatorial’ story Leaf by Niggle.”

Drew Benton and the Rose Mouth Grail

Two months ago I met Vicki and Drew in a fanciful land on Everquest. I looked like a grey-haried Danish King whom I name Wolferose. This name is derived from my study of the name Hrothmund a character in Beowulf.“Rosamund, Rosamond, Rosamunde, Rosemonde is of Teutonic origin,
having been formed from the Old male name Rhosmund, softened down
from Ruodmunt same as the Old and Middle high German name Hrothmond
(Icelandic Hrothmundr) old Gothis, Ratmund. Junius’ translation
Ruodmunt. “red mouth”. The name if from Ruod-munt for Rad-Mund “man
for counsel” councilor of Radmun, “protector in council”

Tolkein’s Ring Trilogy was inspired by the Icelandic Tales authored by, and about, my kindred.

Above is the artwork of my my niece who became an orphan in the world when her father, Garth Benton, died two weeks ago. Vicki has taken Rosamond’s daughter under her wing. She is a Foundling in Art Mundi. I am the Protector of the Grail Council known as the Rose of the World. The Sleeping Beauty – is awake!

Jan Hrothmund

Beowulf, Rosamond (Hrothmond) and the Rose Mouth Grail Message List
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Beowulf, Rosamond (Hrothmond) and the Rose Mouth Grail



(Images: Cup-beaer, Wealhbeow, serving mead. Coat of arms. Beowulf
fighting dragon. Wolfhouse. Brendal’s mother.)

A movie version of the legend of Beowulf is due to be released in a
week or two. Today I found the definitive proof the name Rosamond
comes from the Hrothmond/Hrothmund, and is the source of the Hromund
who is the hero of the Icelandic saga,’Hromundr Gripsson’ that
inspired Tolkein. Some scholars suggest this saga is the source of
some aspects of the Arthurian legend, as well as a source of the
Lohengrin legend.

Hrothmund is the son of Wealhþeow who preformed the ceremony of the
mead cup, she the cup-bearer for the Danish kings. No one has been
able to define the meaning of her name, but it looks like it ends
with “beow” and might stand for mead made of honeycones. It is
suggested she is a servant or “slave”, but I see Maiden Server of
Mead. Perhaps she is a mead goddess.
Hrothgar wishes to adopt Beowulf, but Wealhbeow bids the king to not
forget Hrothulf, which looks like Hrotwulf “famous wolf”
or “redwolf”. Hrothgar has two sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund, the
latter being the source of the name Rosamond. Did Beowulf become
Hrothmund’s half-brother?

Hrothmund is said to mean “rose mouth”. This is meaning of the name
Rosenmund of which we see a coat of arms with two roses and a cross.
There is a Rosenmund Cup that is the centerpiece for the Gerberzunft
Guild in Basel. Did this cup ever SERVE mead to distinguished guests,
if only in a traditonal sence?

Beowulf was written by a farmer named Rolf. Is it possible he is my
ancestor and lived in Wolfhouse where the Roesmonts dwelt?


My family name, Rosamond, will forever be associated with the Beowulf
legend that depicts a usurption by Hroðulf, i.e. Hrólfr Kraki.

Here is the source of the name Rosamund found in “The Etymology of
the Principal Christian Names of Great …

By Richard Stephen Charnock

Rosamund, Rosamond, Rosamunde, Rosemonde is of Teutonic origin,
having been formed from the Old male name Rhosmund, softened down
from Ruodmunt same as the Old and Middle high German name Hrothmond
(Icelandic Hrothmundr) old Gothis, Ratmund. Junius’ translation
Ruodmunt. “red mouth”. The name if from Ruod-munt for Rad-Mund “man
for counsel” councilor of Radmun, “protector in council””

Jon Presco

Copyright 2007

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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