why ‘that daubing’?

Leaf by Niggle is a short story that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about creative inclinations and how they give glimpses of our Creator God.

Niggle was a painter, and not a successful one. He was a “very ordinary and rather silly little man” who spent his life attempting to paint a great tree with a forest and mountains beyond. In his mind, he could see the beauty and vastness of his vision, but everyday interruptions frustrated him. He procrastinated. He worked. He occasionally helped others, mainly his needy next door neighbor Parish.

When his earthly life ended, he was able to finally see the tree he was attempting to paint for all that it was:

“Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished. If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.

‘It’s a gift!’ he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally.”

When Parish (who never noticed during their lifetimes) is able to see the fulfillment of Niggle’s creation, he can hardly believe it. He is told that this is the painting Niggle was always working on–

“He tried to tell you long ago,” said the man; “but you would not look. He had only got canvas and paint in those days, and you wanted to mend your roof with them. This is what you and your wife used to call Niggle’s Nonsense, or That Daubing.”

Parish responds:

“But it did not look like this then, not real,” said Parish.

“No, it was only a glimpse then,” said the man; “but you might have caught the glimpse, if you had ever thought it worth while to try.”

My prayer is that this story encourages others the way it has me, that all of our stories encourage one another. I too am “very ordinary and rather silly.” I dream of my creative inclinations being made complete in the Kingdom of God. For now, I hope they can just be a glimpse of our beautiful Creator and all that is to come.

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