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Abstract

This article proposes a link between J.R.R. Tolkien’s autobiographical short story Leaf by Niggle and twentieth century Surrealism. Elements of the story which are suggestive of surrealistic fantasy are discussed, alongside its singular origin and role as the antithesis of Tolkien’s slowly developed narratives, such as the monumental Middle-earth saga The Lord of the Rings and the more expansive The Silmarillion. The dream-like and subconscious qualities of Leaf by Niggle are outlined, as are Tolkien’s thoughts on that subject as revealed in his 1939 public lecture on fairy-stories. It is proposed that Leaf by Niggle, whilst occupying a unique place in Tolkien’s canon, can be placed within the long tradition of dream vision narratives dating back to the 1st century BC.

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