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The Children of Húrin

 

The Children of Húrin

The Children of Húrin
Front cover illustration
Editor Christopher Tolkien
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Illustrator Alan Lee
Cover artist Alan Lee
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre High Fantasy
Publisher
Publication date
16 April 2007
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 320
ISBN
  • ISBN 0-618-89464-0
  • ISBN 978-0-618-89464-2
OCLC 78790549
Preceded by Roverandom (1998)
Followed by The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009)

The Children of Húrin is an epic fantasy novel which forms the completion of a tale by J. R. R. Tolkien. He wrote the original version of the story in the late 1910s, revised it several times later, but did not complete it before his death in 1973. His son, Christopher Tolkien, edited the manuscripts to form a consistent narrative, and published it in 2007 as an independent work.

Contents

  • Overview 1
    • Synopsis 1.1
  • Publication history 2
    • Influences 2.1
    • Themes and interpretation 2.2
    • Writing 2.3
      • Editorial process 2.3.1
  • Reception 3
    • Sales 3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Overview

The history and descent of the main characters are given as the leading paragraphs of the book, and the back story is elaborated upon in Vala and the prime evil power, escapes from the Blessed Realm of Valinor to the north-west of Middle-earth. From his fortress of Angband he endeavours to gain control of the whole of Middle-earth, unleashing a war with the Elves that dwell in the land of Beleriand to the south.

However, the Elves manage to stay his assault, and most of their realms remain unconquered; one of the most powerful of these is Sindar of Beleriand, they proceed to lay siege to Angband, and establish new strongholds and realms in Middle-earth, including Hithlum ruled by Fingon, Nargothrond by Finrod Felagund and Gondolin by Turgon.

Three centuries pass, during which the first House of Bëor rules over the land of Ladros, the Folk of Haleth retreat to the forest of Brethil, and the lordship of Dor-lómin is granted to the House of Hador. Later, other Men enter Beleriand, the Easterlings, many of whom are in secret league with Morgoth.

Eventually Morgoth manages to break the Siege of Angband in the Battle of Sudden Flame. The House of Bëor is destroyed and the Elves and Edain suffer heavy losses; however, many realms remain unconquered, including Dor-lómin, where the lordship has passed to Húrin Thalion.

Synopsis

Húrin, lord of Men of the house of Hador in Dor-lómin, marries Morwen Eledhwen and they have two children, a son Túrin and a daughter, Lalaith. Túrin grows to boyhood. A kind woodworker in Húrin's employ, Sador, becomes his friend. However a plague from Angband kills Lalaith when she is three.

In the disastrous defeat of the

Thingol holds an absentee trial for Túrin, and as the only evidence is that Túrin humiliated Saeros without cause, Thingol is on the verge of outlawing him from Doriath until he should choose to return and ask for pardon. Just as the King's judgment is about to be put into effect, however, Beleg rushes in late accompanied by an Elf-maid named Nellas, who witnessed Saeros's assault upon Túrin from her vantage point in a tree. With Nellas's evidence taken into account, Thingol grants Túrin a full pardon, and Beleg leaves Doriath to find Túrin and bid him to return to Doriath.

Túrin meanwhile joins a band of outlaws in the wild, the Gaurwaith or "Wolf-folk", of which he later becomes the captain.Beleg traces the signs of Túrin's band, gathering news of Túrin from those who had seen or heard of him, but the outlaws repeatedly throw off his pursuit.

After a year in the wild Beleg succeeds in overtaking the band at a time when Túrin is absent. Mistrusting Elves in general and having become cruel through long lives of self-centered crime, the men mistreat Beleg in an attempt to elicit any information he might possess. After being tortured by the lawless gang for several days, Beleg is on the verge of death when Túrin returns. Túrin is horrified to see his friend so maltreated by his own men, and while tending Beleg Túrin vows to forsake the evil and cruel habits he has fallen into while among the lawless men, recognizing that his band's senseless cruelty towards the innocent Beleg can be traced back to his own lax standards. When Beleg recovers, he is able to deliver to Túrin the message of the king's pardon; Túrin is torn, but in spite of Beleg's pleas refuses to humble his pride, and will not accept the pardon and return to Doriath. Beleg then departs in order to participate in battles upon the north-marches of Doriath, in spite of Túrin's request that Beleg stay by his side.

Some time later, Túrin and his men capture Dor-Cúarthol, and word spreads that Beleg and Túrin, long unheard-of, have appeared again as the captains of a great host.

However, Mîm's hatred towards Beleg eventually reaches a breaking point, and he approaches a band of Orcs with an offer to lead them to the outlaw's headquarters on Amon Rûdh, in return for the promise of monetary compensation. The dwarf leads them to the hidden caves, and Túrin's company is taken unawares. They retreat to the top of Amon Rûdh to defend themselves, but the entire band are eventually killed, excepting Beleg and Túrin, whom the Orcs want alive. They bind Túrin and carry him off towards Angband, while leaving Beleg wounded and helpless, chained to a rock. Mîm approaches him after all the Orcs depart and is on the verge of torturing the Elf to death, when Andróg, one of the outlaws, who is wounded and had appeared dead, rouses himself enough to drive Mîm away and release Beleg before succumbing to his wounds. Beleg remains in Amon Rûdh until his own wounds are healed, and then, knowing that Túrin is not among the dead and must have been taken captive, follows the company of Orcs.

In pursuit of the Orcs, Beleg comes across a mutilated elf, Gwindor of Nargothrond sleeping in the dread forest of Taur-nu-Fuin. Gwindor had been an Elvish lord before being taken captive and forced to serve in Angband for many years, and Beleg remains with him. They see the Orc company pass by, and entering their camp that night find Túrin sleeping, and carry him away from the Orcs. When at a safe distance they stop, and Beleg begins to cut Túrin's bonds with his sword Gurthang, which Beleg had been warned was an evil blade which would not stay with him long. The sword slips in his hand and Túrin is cut; and Túrin, mistaking Beleg in the dark for an Orc who had come to torture him, leaps to his feet and kills Beleg with his own sword. When Túrin sees Beleg's face in a flash of lightning and realizes what he has done, he falls into a kind of frenzy, not speaking or weeping, but refusing to leave Beleg's body. In the morning Gwindor is able to bury Beleg, but Túrin remains crazed and witless with grief.

Gwindor leads Túrin through the wild for months, and Túrin remains in a fixed state of grief and guilt, not speaking, but doing only what Gwindor bids him. At length, however, the two reach Eithel Ivrin, where Túrin finally weeps for Beleg, and is healed. Having regained his senses, he and Gwindor proceed to Nargothrond, where Gwindor lived before his long imprisonment in Angband. There Túrin gains favour with King Orodreth and earns the love of his daughter Finduilas, although she was previously engaged to be married to Gwindor, and Túrin does not reciprocate her romantic feelings. After leading the Elves to considerable victories, Túrin becomes the chief counsellor of Orodreth and effectively commander of all the forces in Nargothrond. This fuels Túrin's pride, and he begins giving extravagant orders which are arrogant and ill-thought-out, and eventually hasten the doom of Nargothrond.

Messengers sent from Turambar, or "Master of Doom" in High-elven, and gradually overrules the gentle, lame Chieftain Brandir.

Meanwhile, in Doriath, Morwen and Nienor hear rumours of Túrin's deeds at Nargothrond, and Morwen determines either to find Túrin living or hear certain news of his death. Against the council of Thingol she rides out of Doriath alone, and when the king sends a group of Elves to follow and protect her, Nienor conceals herself among the riders and rejoins her mother. Mablung, leading the group, does not wish to proceed with Morwen's mission, but feels compelled to protect her and Nienor. When they approach Nargothrond, Mablung leaves Morwen and Nienor with a group of riders, and takes the rest to explore the ruins of Nargothrond in the hopes of finding information about the fall of the city and of Túrin's fate. There they encounter Glaurung, who has established himself in the ruins of Nargothrond, and he scatters Mablung's force before proceeding to the hill on which the women and Elves are waiting. His coming drives all of the horses mad, and in the frenzy Nienor is separated from all the others. When she regains the hilltop alone, she comes face-to face with Glaurung, who, upon discovering her identity, enchants her so that everything she knows is lost, and her mind is made blank.

When Mablung returns to the hill alone, also separated from his company, he finds her waiting on the hill like a lost child, and is forced to attempt the long journey back to Doriath on foot, leading Nienor by the hand. The two of them become stranded in the wilderness, and only the arrival of a few of the other Elves from the scattered group prevents them from starving to death. The few Elves continue their long journey to Doriath, but in an affray with a band of Orcs Nienor runs into the woods and is lost. Eventually she collapses near Brethil on the grave of Finduilas, where Túrin finds her and brings her back to the town. There she gradually recovers the use of speech, although she has no memory of any past life. Brandir falls in love with her, but though she feels a sisterly affection for him, she and Túrin develop a strong mutual attraction; Túrin has never seen her, and she remembers nothing of what she once knew about her brother, and not realizing their kinship, they fall in love. Despite the counsel of Brandir, they soon marry, and Nienor becomes pregnant.

After some time of peace, Glaurung comes to exterminate the Men of Brethil. But Turambar leads a perilous expedition to cut him off, and stabs the dragon from beneath while he is crossing the ravine of Taeglin, and is washed away, as Brandir watches helplessly. When Turambar wakes and returns to the hill where the scouts are waiting, Brandir bitterly informs him of Nienor's death and of hers and Turambar's true relationship as siblings, concerning which he overheard the dragon's words. Believing that Brandir has concocted the story as a lie stemming from jealousy of Nienor's love for Túrin, Túrin kills Brandir, who declares before dying his hope that he will rejoin Nienor across the sea, which only further infuriates Túrin. However, running crazed into the wild, Túrin meets Mablung, who has been seeking Nienor for years; as well as Morwen, who was never found after Glaurung's scattering of the Elvish company. Mablung, without knowing anything that has transpired since Nienor was lost in the woods, innocently confirms Brandir's tale. After Túrin has learned all the terrible truth from Mablung, he returns to the place where Nienor threw herself from the cliff, and takes his own life upon the sword, Gurthang, which killed Beleg so many years before.

The main part of the narrative ends with the burial of Túrin. Appended to this is an extract from The Wanderings of Húrin, the next tale of Tolkien's legendarium. This recounts how Húrin is at last released by Morgoth and comes to the grave of his children. There he finds Morwen, who has also managed to find the place, but now dies in the arms of her husband with the following sunset.

Publication history

The Children of Húrin was published on 17 April 2007, by HarperCollins in the United Kingdom and Canada, and by Houghton Mifflin in the United States. Alan Lee, illustrator of other fantasy works by J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) created the jacket painting, as well as the illustrations within the book. Christopher Tolkien also included an excursus on the evolution of the tale, several genealogical tables, and a redrawn map of Beleriand.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that the setting is intended to be our War of the Ring.

According to the Tolkien Estate:

The Children of Húrin takes the reader back to a time long before The Lord of the Rings, in an area of Middle-earth that was to be drowned before [2]

Influences

The story is mainly based on the legend of Kullervo, a character from the Finnish folklore poems known as Kalevala. Tolkien drew inspiration from the Kalevala for "The Story of Kullervo" in 1914, which was to become the model for his tale of Túrin.[3] Túrin also resembles Sigmund, the father of Sigurd in the Volsunga saga, in the incestuous relationship he had with his sister. In Richard Wagner's opera, Die Walküre (also drawn in part from the Volsung myths), Siegmund and Sieglinde are parallels of Túrin and Nienor. Túrin further resembles Sigurd himself, as both achieve great renown for the slaying of a dragon of immense power and magic.

Túrin's resemblance to figures from Classical and Medieval tales can be confirmed by a letter which Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman, a publisher from HarperCollins, concerning the fate of his works:

There is the Children of Húrin, the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Níniel – of which Túrin is the hero: a figure that might be said (by people who like that sort of thing, though it is not very useful) to be derived from elements in Sigurd the Volsung, Oedipus, and the Finnish Kullervo.[4]

The moral issues in The Children of Húrin have been compared to Tolkien's analysis of

  • Statement about the book by the Tolkien Estate
  • The Children of HúrinFAQ on the subject of by the Tolkien Estate
  • Statement about the book by HarperCollins
  • Interview about the book with Adam Tolkien (in Spanish but with an English version at the bottom of the page)
  • An introduction and background on the book at Tolkien-Online.com
  • FAQThe Children of Húrin
  • The Children of Húrin with analysis and reviews

External links

  •  
  • Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1 
Works cited
  1. ^ Carpenter 1981, letter No. 211
  2. ^ "The Children of Húrin".  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Carpenter 1981, letter No. 131
  5. ^ Solopova 2009, p. 48, citing West, R. C. (2000). "Túrin's Ofermod: An Old English Theme in the Development of the Story of Túrin". In  
  6. ^ Solopova 2009, p. 48
  7. ^ Solopova 2009, pp. 46–47
  8. ^ J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, The Children of Húrin, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2007. ISBN 0-618-89464-0, p.9
  9. ^ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, editor, The Children of Húrin, p.7
  10. ^ The Boston Globe Book Review of The Children of Húrin by Ethan Gilsdorf, 26 April 2007.
  11. ^ J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, The Children of Húrin, Ballantine Books, New York, 2010. ISBN 0-345-51884-5, p. 286
  12. ^ J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 0-007-32257-7, p.9
  13. ^ Hand, Elizabeth (27 April 2007). "The Return of the King".  
  14. ^ Boyce, Frank Cottrell (18 April 2007). "Spreading the elfish gene".  
  15. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (8 April 2007). "What took them so long?".  
  16. ^ Chittenden, Maurice (24 September 2006). "X-rated Tolkien: it's not for the kiddies".  
  17. ^ Salij, Marta (18 April 2007). "'"Just kick the hobbit and don't suffer 'The Children of Hurin.  
  18. ^ Giles, Jeff (17 April 2007). "The Children of Húrin".  
  19. ^ Crace, John (24 April 2007). "The Children of Húrin by JRR Tolkien".  
  20. ^ Deveson, Tom (15 April 2007). "Away with the fairies".  
  21. ^ Grovier, Kelly (27 April 2007). "In the name of the father".  
  22. ^ Marshall, Jeremy (14 April 2007). "Tolkien, before Bilbo".  
  23. ^ "The New York Times: Books-Best-Seller Lists".  
  24. ^ a b Italie, Hillel (1 May 2007). "Sales soar for new Tolkien novel".  
Notes

References

According to Houghton Mifflin, the U.S. publisher, already 900,000 copies were in print worldwide in the first two weeks, double the initial expectations of the publishers.[24] HarperCollins, the U.K. publisher, claimed 330,000 copies were in print in the U.K. in the first two weeks.[24]

The Children of Húrin debuted at number one on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list.[23]

Illustrator Alan Lee signing copies of The Children of Húrin

Sales

Other critics distinguished two audiences. Tom Deveson of The Sunday Times said that "although J.R.R Tolkien aficionados will be thrilled, others will find The Children of Hurin barely readable".[20] Kelly Grovier from The Observer, on the other hand, stated that it "will please all but the most puritanical of his fans", referring to the scepticism about Christopher Tolkien's involvement.[21] Jeremy Marshall of The Times generally echoed: "It is worthy of a readership beyond Tolkien devotees," although he thought it was flawed ("occasionally the prose is too stilted, the dialogue too portentous, the unexplained names too opaque"). He also presupposed that: "In The Children of Húrin we could at last have the successor to The Lord of the Rings that was so earnestly and hopelessly sought by Tolkien’s publishers in the late 1950s."[22]

The book received negative reviews from the Detroit Free Press ("dull and unfinished"),[17] Entertainment Weekly ("awkward and immature", "impenetrable forest of names ... overstuffed with strangled syntax"),[18] and The Guardian ("a derivative Wagnerian hero ... on a quasi-symbolic quest").[19]

The initial reviews following the publication of The Children of Húrin were mostly positive. Likening it to a Greek tragedy, The Washington Post called it "a bleak, darkly beautiful tale" which "possesses the mythic resonance and grim sense of inexorable fate".[13] A positive review was carried by The Independent (UK) ("dry, mad, humourless, hard-going and completely brilliant").[14] Bryan Appleyard of The Sunday Times (UK) set The Children of Húrin above other writings of Tolkien, noting its "intense and very grown-up manner" and "a real feeling of high seriousness".[15] Maurice Chittenden of The Sunday Times, said that "it may merit an X-certificate" due to the amount of violent deaths.[16]

Reception

I have contrived a narrative, in scale commensurate with other parts of the Narn out of the existing materials (with one gap, see p. 124 and note 12); but from that point onwards (see p.135), I have found it unprofitable to attempt it. The gaps in the Narn are here too large, and could only be filled from the published text of The Silmarillion; but in an Appendix (pp. 193 ff.) I have cited isolated fragments from this part of the projected larger narrative.[12]

Christopher Tolkien elaborates in the Unfinished Tales concerning his use of the Narn and of the Silmarillion in order to achieve a complete account of Túrin's tale:

In the Unfinished Tales there is a third gap in the narrative on p. 96: the story breaks off at the point where Beleg, having at last found Túrin among the outlaws, cannot persuade him to return to Doriath (pp. 115-119 in the new text), and does not take up again until the outlaws encounter the Petty-dwarves. Here I have again referred to The Silmarillion for the filling of the gap...[11]

Christopher Tolkien explains how the compilation of The Children of Húrin was achieved:

Of almost equal interest is Christopher Tolkien's task editing his father's abandoned projects. In his appendix, he explains his editorial process this way: "While I have had to introduce bridging passages here and there in the piecing together of different drafts, there is no element of extraneous 'invention' of any kind, however slight." He was criticized for having monkeyed with his father's text when putting "The Silmarillion" together. This pre-emptive strike must be meant to allay the fears of Tolkien's most persnickety readers."[10]

Ethan Gilsdorf reviewing The Children of Húrin wrote of the editorial function:

...it has seemed to me that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of the Children of Húrin as an independent work, between its own covers, with a minimum of editorial presence, and above all in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions, if this could be done without distortion or invention, despite the unfinished state in which he left parts of it."[9]

Christopher Tolkien gives this apology for his exercise of his authorized editorial function to produce this work of his father:

once upon a time... I had in mind to make a body of more or less connected legend... I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched.[8]

With the publication of The Children of Húrin, Christopher Tolkien quotes his father's own words on his fictional universe:

Editorial process

In the middle section (chapters VII to XII), that is, from the end of Túrin's residing on Amon Rûdh to his return to Dor-lómin, material is mostly drawn from the Silmarillion but is often supplemented with more complete but disconnected passages from the Narn (provided by Christopher Tolkien in the Appendix of the Unfinished Tales). Such more developed scenes include the exploits of the outlaws in Dor-Cúarthol, Túrin's romantic connection with Angband, and his last words to Morwen.

None of these writings forms a complete and mature narrative. The published Children of Húrin is essentially a synthesis of the Narn and of the account found in the Silmarillion. The first part of The Children of Hurin (chapters I to VII) is taken directly from the Narn with the exception of the Nírnaeth Arnoediad (chapter II), which actually forms the twentieth chapter of the Silmarillion; both in the Narn and in the much compressed Silmarillion version (Of Turin Turambar), this battle is only briefly mentioned.

Other incomplete versions have been published in other works:

A brief version of the story formed the base of chapter XXI of The Silmarillion, setting the tale in the context of the wars of Beleriand. Although based on the same texts used to complete the new book, the Silmarillion account leaves out the greater part of the tale.

Writing

The themes explored in the story include evil, free will and predestination. The book reflects also on heroism and courage. It has been suggested that Túrin's character is not only shaped by Morgoth's curse but that he himself is also partly responsible for his actions. The curse cannot completely control his free will, and Túrin displays traits like arrogance, pride and a desire for honour, that eventually cause the doom of his allies and family.[7] It has elements of revenge tragedies such as revenge (avenging Glaurung), madness (Turin's madness after finding out who Niniel was), multiple deaths (Saeros, Beleg, Gwindor, Finduilas, Easterling lord, Nienor, Brandir) and disguise (Turin's adopting new identities).

Themes and interpretation

[6]

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