On this week’s episode of The Literary Life with Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins, and Thomas Banks continue their discussion of J. R. R. Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle“. If you missed the Back to School 2020 Conference when it was live, you can still purchase access to the recordings at CindyRollins.net. Angelina opens the book chat highlighting Tolkien’s mirroring of Dante’s Divine Comedy with Niggle’s journey, and our hosts move through a recap of the story. The questions we should be asking as we read are whether this story deals with the recovery of our vision and whether it ends with a eucatastrophe.
Cindy brings out more of the autobiographical nature of this story for Tolkien. Angelina tosses around the idea that Parish and Niggle may be doubles and be a picture of Tolkien’s two selves. Thomas talks about what Niggle has to do in the “purgatory” section of the story. They also talk about the themes of art and the artist, sub-creation, and redemption. Come back next week to hear a discussion about why we ought to read myths.
Listen to The Literary Life:
It is when a writer first begins to make enemies that he begins to matter.Hilton Brown
Kill that whence spring the crude fancies and wild day-dreams of the young, and you will never lead them beyond dull facts—dull because their relations to each other, and the one life that works in them all, must remain undiscovered. Whoever would have his children avoid this arid region will do well to allow no teacher to approach them—not even of mathematics—who has no imagination.George MacDonald
There were people who cared for him and people didn’t, and those who didn’t hate him were out to get him. . . But they couldn’t touch him. . . because he was Tarzan, Mandrake, Flash Gordon. He was Bill Shakespeare. He was Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deidre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees.Joseph Heller
On the Death of Dr. Robert Levet
by Samuel Johnson
Condemned to Hope’s delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blasts, or slow decline,
Our social comforts drop away.
Well tried through many a varying year,
See Levet to the grave descend;
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of every friendless name the friend.
Yet still he fills Affection’s eye,
Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind;
Nor, lettered Arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined.
When fainting Nature called for aid,
And hovering Death prepared the blow,
His vigorous remedy displayed
The power of art without the show.
In Misery’s darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
Where hopeless Anguish poured his groan,
And lonely Want retired to die.
No summons mocked by chill delay,
No petty gain disdained by pride,
The modest wants of every day
The toil of every day supplied.
His virtues walked their narrow round,
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure the Eternal Master found
The single talent well employed.
The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by;
His frame was firm, his powers were bright,
Though now his eightieth year was nigh.
Then with no throbbing fiery pain,
No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.
Rudyard Kipling by Hilton Brown
A Dish of Orts by George MacDonald
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien
Support The Literary Life:
Become a patron of The Literary Life podcast as part of the “Friends and Fellows Community” on Patreon, and get some amazing bonus content! Thanks for your support!