1,641 of 1,670 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
To address the questions that most people have:
* This is an easier read than The Silmarillion.
* It is a greatly expanded version of Chapter XXI of The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar", BUT...
* Reading The Silmarillion is not necessary.
* It is told in a narrative voice.
* The narrative voice is archaic.
* The so-called archaic voice falls somewhere in between The Silmarillion and LOTR in style.
* Húrin is a great hero amongst men.
* His son, Túrin, is whom this story is chiefly about. His daughter Nienor makes a late, but significant, appearance. Significant enough for this book to be called The Children of Húrin.
* You will recognize a few names from LOTR, but don't look for furry-footed Hobbits. A Balrog makes a brief appearance, as does a dragon.
* Unlike some posthumous publications of Tolkien's, there is only one footnote in the entire narrative, and it doesn't interrupt the flow of the story. It's inclusion wasn't necessary, but the information was nice to know.
* There is an Index of Names at the back of the book to help the reader keep track of who is who.
* As always, a well detailed map is included.
* Read the Introduction. Christopher Tolkien does a wonderful job preparing the reader who hasn't read The Silmarillion for what is to follow.
I can't emphasize the last point enough. One reviewer noted that you wouldn't know who Melkor was, and that this was detrimental to the reading of The Children of Húrin. Not so! Melkor (known later to Elves and Men as Morgoth, which translates to "Dark Foe" in Sindarin) is discussed in the Introduction. In the event that you ignore my advice, Morgoth is the original Dark Lord, for whom Sauron was but a mere Lieutenant. Think on the malevolence of Sauron, and imagine him serving something far more powerful and foul. That is Morgoth. Indeed, "malice that wakes in the morning is the mirth of Morgoth ere night."
Between the Introduction and the first chapter, you have everything you need to know. Regarding the first chapter: it starts slow. It feels biblical: "Glóredhel wedded Haldir son of Halmir, lord of the Men of Brethil; and at the same feast his son Galdor the Tall wedded Hareth, the daughter of Halmir. Galdor and Hareth had two suns, Húrin and Huor..." But for those of us who are confused names, that's the worst of it, and as noted above, there is an Index in the back to help you keep track if necessary.
Húrin was a great warrior of Men, and fought with the elves against Morgoth in the Fifth Battle of Beleriand, called Nirnaeth Arnodediad in the Sindarin tongue of the grey-elves, meaning The Battle of `Unnumbered Tears'. It is aptly named, for many lords - elf, dwarf, and man - died that day. Húrin, though, was captured, for Morgoth wanted more than his life. He demanded from Húrin the location of the hidden city-kingdom of Gondolin, the last great stronghold of the elves. But Húrin defies Morgoth, mocking him, and in his wrath, Morgoth places a curse on his children: "Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death." And as final punishment, he binds Húrin in a chair high above the kingdoms of Men, so that he may look down "upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom you have delivered to [Morgoth]."
After Húrin was thus bound, Túrin was sent to Doriath and grew up in Menegroth, with the elf-King Thingol, who claimed him as "foster-son". There Túrin was taught the craft of those who would live in the woods, the language of the elves, how to hunt, and how to fight. He quickly became a great warrior, as lithe as an elf yet with the great strength of a man. He accepts from Thingol the Dragon-helm of his father, and fights against the Orcs in their skirmishes in the marches of Doriath. Many came to love him, and the Orcs fear the Dragon-helm, but as he is Húrin's son, Morgoth's curse followed follows him. Envy soon finds its way into the councils of Thingol, and Túrin leaves, believing that he has lost the favor of the king; but ever prideful, he believes that he has been wronged and refuses all ties to Doriath.
(A word about Orcs. They are the twisted creation of Morgoth. Many believe they are directly descended from the Quendi [elves], whom Morgoth imprisoned and then bent to his will, filling them with his malice and hatred of light.)
The tale follows Túrin as he goes from place to place: taken in with a band of outlaws; their encounter with the "Petty-dwarves"; Túrin's time in Nargothrond (a great elven kingdom); his love of the fair Níniel; and his great battle with Glaurung, father of and greatest, perhaps, of all the dragons. And where Túrin goes, so does the curse of Morgoth follow, leaving only despair in its wake.
One criticism of Tolkien is that he plays softball, whereas other authors - Stephen R. Donaldson in the late 70s and early 80s, and more lately George ("the other R.R.") Martin - play hardball. One interpretation of this metaphor is that Tolkien didn't put his characters through "the wringer" like Donaldson did with Thomas Covenant, and he didn't kill off any of his main characters, something that Martin seems to have devilish fun doing. (There are other interpretations, but I'll just address this one.) Obviously, anyone making this claim never read any of Tolkien's posthumous work or given any real thought as to what Frodo endured as the ring-bearer. Anyone reading this review knows that the cute little hobbit that was Frodo left Middle Earth from the Grey Havens with a broken, shattered soul. When thinking of Túrin, think more along the lines of Frodo's ending, and less Sam Gamgee's. Morgoth's curse is heavier than Frodo's burden in that through Túrin it touches the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Men and Elves alike.
Many will ask, "Should this have been published? Is it good enough to stand next The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, etc.?" A very loud YES to both. It's the only complete narrative of Tolkien's that hasn't been published, and that alone means that it should be published. That said, Tolkien was never satisfied with his own work, and was constantly editing and rewriting. What would *he* think? If it were possible for him to be looking down on this, my hunch is that he is wincing, and dying to edit the daylights out of this book (pun intended?). It's not a perfect work. Some passages feel uncomfortable, a few are out of place, but overall, I'll take Tolkien's imperfect work over virtually every other writer of fantasy's BEST work.
Reading the appendices, I was struck that Tolkien was, perhaps, a man misplaced in time.
His work, poetry and prose alike, rivals (if perhaps they do not exceed), the depth and quality of any who have come before him. Imagine him as a commissioned scribe, or someone who, like Martin or Jordan or Rowling today, made enough money from their work to do it full time. So much of what Tolkien left us is unfinished. Would that it were not so. We would be the better for it.
(By the way, the cover art for Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth depicts Mîm with Túrin and the outlaws, with Mîm pointing to Amon Rûdh.)
382 of 389 people found the following review helpful
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When the Tolkien Estate announced a new Tolkien novel to be published in April, 2007, the world was shocked. After all, Tolkien died 34 years before THE CHLDREN OF HURIN was published. Reactions varied from trepidation and fear, to charges that the Estate is trying to milk the pubic for more money, to sheer excitement that, beyond all odds, we're getting another Tolkien story. We all know Hollywood is eying it greedily, though the Estate has made it quite clear that it is not interested in selling the film rights any time soon.
Naturally, an event such as a publication of a new novel by a long deceased major author is bound to excite different reactions from different quarters. Depending on where you stand in Tolkien fandom will largely define your reactions to the story.
First, just a few quick facts about the novel.
*CoH can be read independently of Tolkien's other works, due largely in part to C. Tolkien's excellent introduction, explaining the background and context in which these events occur in Tolkien's imagined cosmos. Having an overall general knowledge of Tolkien's legendarium is certainly helpful, but fortunately it is not a pre-requisite as the story is strong enough to stand independently.
*CoH is much darker than the Hobbit cycle. It is a very tragic story on a Shakespearian level, and altogether not suitable for children, featuring incest and murder as prominent plot features.
*The plot revolves around the Dark Lord Morgoth's curse on Turin and Nienor, who are the Children of Hurin, for Hurin's defiance against Morgoth. Morgoth is Tolkien's equivalent of Satan, and who Sauron is but a servant too.
*CoH is easier to read than THE SILMARILLION, though CoH still employs in places the archaic style found in that book. In style and content, it bears similarities to both LOTR and THE SILMARILLION, mingling the archaic style of the later with the more conventional novel style of the former.
*Although the novel has been "reconstructed" by Christopher Tolkien, unlike certain elements of the published SILMARILLION, there has been no editorial interpolation or invention. Other than minor grammatical errors and some brief transitional passages, the text is entirely as Tolkien conceived it.
*Approx 25% of the text has never been published before. The remaining 75% has been published in THE SILMARILLION and UNFINISHED TALES, though Christopher Tolkien notes there are several changes to the text that do not appear in UNFINISHED TALES
*Though the press has made much of the fact that Tolkien began this in 1918, almost all the text used in the book was written AFTER LOTR was written
*There is a swift narrative urgency. While THE SILMARILLION stands as a broad overview of Tolkien's mythology with hundreds of characters vying for the readers' attention, CoH keeps its focus on a well-defined cast of main characters.
There are three primary readerships that will be approaching THE CHILDREN OF HURIN. Depending on what group you belong to will largely define your reaction to the work.
The first group is that portion of Tolkien's fanbase who has read the Hobbit Cycle, and most if not all the posthumous publications regarding his legendarium (THE SILMARILLION, UNFINISHED TALES, and the HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH series). These are the hardcore Tolkien fans, who are known to debate the rather arcane finder points of the mythology and are very much into the "lore" of it all. This reviewer belongs in this group.
This group will overall be quite pleased with the work. Tolkien left much of his work unfinished, and it is nice at long last to have a completed version of one of the central legends of the First Age. Much of the actual text will not be new to them, as the much of the novel largely has already appeared in UNFINISHED TALES and THE SILMARILLION, though there are several stretches that have not been published before, or the material is handled differently than in previous publications. Naturally, the story is already well known to this group, and there are no plot surprises. I will say, however, even though I knew how the story ended, when I finished reading CoH, I was moved by the sheer pathos of the tragedy, moreso than when I read the other, compressed versions.
The second group are those who largely have read only the Hobbit Cycle, and found THE SILMARILLION and other books very dry and difficult to get through. It is for this group, and the third group, that C. Tolkien primarily did this project for. Due to the arid, remote style of THE SILMARILLION, and the diffuse, contradictory, and unfinished nature of most of HoME, as well as the heavy editorial content, much of Tolkien's mythology remains unknown to the casual reader. This book was meant to address that, and to make the legends of the First Age more accessible to the general reader. The style is a successful blend of both the Silmarillion and LOTR. For those of this group unfamiliar with the story, many will probably be surprised at how dark and altogether depressing. Undoubtedly, there will be readers who find the pathos and tragedy of Turin rather offputting, but on the same token there will be readers who find it riveting.
The third group is those who know Tolkien primarily through the Peter Jackson films. This group will probably have the most far ranging variety of reactions of the three main groups, from sheer delight at the story to utter bewilderment and confusion. Those looking for a story along the lines of the Hobbit cycle will be invariably disappointed, and this group may be the most surprised at the darkness of the story.
A fan once wrote to Tolkien, saying that he only read THE LORD OF THE RINGS during the Lent season, because the novel is so hard and bitter. For those unfamiliar with the storyline of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN, many will be surprised at how dark the "new novel" actually is. CoH is much bitterer than its famous predecessor
Overall, I think that CoH is a fine novel in its own right, and I also think that it is a perfect bridging link between his most famous work (LOTR) and, as Tom Shippey says, the work of his heart (the Silmarillion). I also feel that CoH, in terms of style, is, to put it in vulgar terms, Silmarillion light and LOTR heavy, and serves as a primer for what to expect within the Silmarillion. While CoH certainly shares several main hallmarks of the Silmarillion style, especially the beginning chapters, the book reads quite well, and bridges (successfully, in my opinion), the remote style and wide focus of the Silmarillion with the more conventional novel approach of the Hobbit cycle. CoH also has the benefit of being a product of long study of the manuscripts to produce the most accurate version to Tolkien's intentions, something that cannot, unfortunately, be said of the 1977 SILMARILLION.
Will it stand the test of time? That, only time can answer. But if I was a betting man, I think time will be very gracious to this last novel from the father of fantasy.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The Children of Húrin, also known as Narn i Chîn Húrin, is the latest J.R.R. Tolkien book. The stories of Túrin (son of Húrin) appear in earlier works like The Silmarillion, and are now released in full novel form thanks to tireless editing by his son, Christopher Tolkien. The tale takes place in the First Age of Middle Earth, and is somewhere between the Silmarilion and The Lord of the Rings in style, audience, and readability.
Húrin defies a god and his entire family is cursed. We experience most of the story through Húrin's son Túrin, who journeys through the entire western half of Arda - befriending Elf, Man, and Dwarf alike - to escape his doom.
You don't have to be a die-hard Tolkien fan to enjoy this book. While you can read The Children of Húrin as a stand-alone work, I do recommend reading The Silmarilion, or at least having some familiarity with the First Age. I do not recommend this as your first experience with Tolkien, due to the book's dreary theme and heavy style.
The language is dense. VERY dense. Dialog and descriptions are highly formal. The number of unique names for people and places is enough to fill a sizable appendix. The main characters change names a good four of five times each through the course of the story. Many of the places have similar names, and some of the important items in the book even have names. Side effects may include bouts of violence in fussy readers. If you feel that committing names to memory is important to your reading, you may want to put a bookmark in the appendix, make some index cards, or have a copy of The Silmarillion handy. For Tolkien fans, this excessive use of proper nouns is expected, and is very important to the charm of Tolkien's works. Tolkien was a linguist, and for every new name, new meaning is bestowed upon the characters and places.
Beyond the language, the themes are familiar and classical. The story is relatively short, but each chapter is almost episodic in structure. Túrin travels to a new place, makes friends, enemies, and horrible mistakes. All of these mistakes occur as a direct result of his rashness, or by dark, coincidental irony. His mistakes force him on to a new locale and new mistakes. People who seem untouched by Túrin's folly inevitably get drawn in later. There's not a lot of internal dialog, so most of the characterizations are created by actions. The overall effect is that you're reading an ancient epic, and I'm sure this is why The Children of Húrin is often classified as epic high fantasy, in the purest sense of the genre.
Christopher Tolkien has a lengthly foreward and appendix, explaining his editorial process, and describing the source materials used to create the novel. Foremost is C. Tolkien's insistence that the novel is published "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 [J.R.R. Tolkien] left some parts of it." (p.7, Preface) I expect that this process may have a deliberate effect on the story, as some of the passages are only summaries of action, contain alternate tellings, or are threads dropped or terminated with little or no pretense.
The posthumous releases have been a subject for hot debate among Tolkien fans, who question how much of the releases have contained creative writing. I have no strong opinions on Christopher Tolkien's editing process, which he's made very clear for readers. I recommend reading the entire work and appendices before forming your own conclusions. I'm a fan of Middle Earth and will happily receive this and any future Tolkien stories set in this rich, fully-realized world.
Read The Children of Húrin if you're a Tolkien fan, or enjoy classic and epic tales of fantasy. Don't read it if you're disheartened by constant tragedy. Few tales of the First Age have happy endings.