Best of Series,  Show Notes

Episode 190: The “Best of” Series – “Leaf by Niggle” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Ep. 58

Welcome to another episode of our “Best Of” Series on The Literary Life with Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins, and Thomas Banks. Both this week and next, our hosts will be discussing J. R. R. Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle“.

Angelina sets the stage with a little historical background on Tolkien’s writing of this story as well as some thoughts on allegory and how to read a fairy tale. She talks about this story as an exploration of the struggle of the ideals and demands of art against the demands of practical life and the question of whether or not art is useful. Cindy shares her ideas about the importance of the Inklings for Tolkien to get his work out into the world. Angelina shares about the type of journey on which the main character, Niggle, is called to go on in this story. As you read, we encourage you to look for how Tolkien harmonizes the different tensions within the story.

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Commonplace Quotes:

Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet “Children’s Hour”;––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; a tender, fanciful link between the children and the Nature-world; humour, pathos, righteous satire, and last, but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual “Fall of Man.”

Charlotte Mason

The essay began by noting that total war was underway, with fighting not only “in the field and on the sea and in the air,” but also in “the realm of ideas.” It said: “The mightiest single weapon this war has yet employed” was “not a plane, or a bomb or a juggernaut of tanks”–it was Mein Kampf. This single book caused an educated nation to “burn the great books that keep liberty fresh in the hearts of men.” If America’s goal was victory and world peace, “all of us will have to know more and think better than our enemies think and know,” the council asserted. “This was is a war of books. . . Books are our weapons.”

Molly Guptill Manning, quoting from the essay “Books and the War”

In everything I have sought peace and not found it, save in a corner with a book.

Thomas à Kempis


by Edward Muir

Milton, his face set fair for Paradise,
And knowing that he and Paradise were lost
In separate desolation, bravely crossed
Into his second night and paid his price.
There towards the end he to the dark tower came
Set square in the gate, a mass of blackened stone
Crowned with vermilion fiends like streamers blown
From a great funnel filled with roaring flame.
Shut in his darkness, these he could not see,
But heard the steely clamour known too well
On Saturday nights in every street in Hell.
Where, past the devilish din, could Paradise be?
A footstep more, and his unblinded eyes
Saw far and near the fields of Paradise.

Book List:

Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward

The Company They Keep by Diana Pavlac Glyer

Smith of Wooten Major by J. R. R. Tolkien

Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte

Spirits in Bondage by C. S. Lewis

Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly

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