on 17 April 2007
The Children of Hurin is the long-awaited addition to the Tolkien franchise. Started somewhere around 1916 - 1918 by J.R.R. Tolkien, then revised several times, it has taken his son Christopher Tolkien 30 years to finally complete it and form the tale of Turin Turambar and the other offspring of Hurin of Hador for publication as an independent work. It is the first, full-length, cohesive Tolkien novel to be published since The Silmarillion of 1977.
For Tolkien enthusiasts, the story will not be entirely unfamiliar because a short version of it appears in The Silmarillion, in the same way that a compressed version of The Lord of the Rings appears. You may also recognise snippets from other posthumous publications, specifically "Unfinished Tales" and "The Lays of Beleriand". However, if you are new to the franchise, it is still a wonderful tale, although expect it to be far darker than anything else you may have read.
The story 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 thousands of years before the story of the Ring. The great enemy was still the fallen Vala, Morgoth, and Souron only a lieutenant. Hurin, is captured by Morgoth in battle. When Hurin refuses to give Morgoth the information he demands, Morgoth sets a curse upon his bloodline. Thus, his family is destined for tragedy, despite the greatness of his warrior son Turin. In Turin's struggles through the lost world of Beleriand, everything he does fails or turns to bad.
Christopher Tolkien was granted the honour of becoming the J.R.R.'s literary executor by the author himself and insists that the majority of the text is the original word of his father. His only changes are grammatical and linguistic of "a stylistic nature". However, reading it, I can't help feel that there may have been a little more than that. Its style of writing feels more modern than The Silmarillion, for example, perhaps as a symptom of the 30 years that this work has been in progress. On the one hand, I think this is a good thing. For such a gloomy story, it has a readable quality that I believe some of the meandering parts of previous works lacked. Finally, for the real buffs among you - the new map and editorial notes are very interesting, plus wonderful Alan Lee illustrations that make this edition a joy to own.
on 8 October 2012
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.
This book proved hard going at first, but after some perseverance did reveal the Tolkien genius and things began falling into place. In my opinion, one needs to have read the Silmarillion for background in order to fully understand where this history fits into the greater scheme of things. A fold-out map helps with the geography.
In the preface it is explained when and how JRR Tolkien worked on the long version of the legend of the children of Hurin as an independent work and how the current text came about, whilst the introduction provides a brief discussion of Beleriand and its peoples near the end of the elder days. There is also a note on pronunciation.
The narrative takes the reader through the lands of Hithlum, Mithrim, Dor-Lomin, Dimbar, Brethil, Doriath, Talath Dirnen and Dorthonion. It begins with the childhood of Hurin and the Battle of Unnumbered Tears which marked the decline of the Eldar when Hithlum was lost. Hurin and his descendants were cursed by Morgoth whose evil realm was then expanding.
As a young boy, Turin left Hithlum for the hidden Elvish kingdom of Doriath where he stayed some years. After a dispute with an Elf, he left to become an outlaw. He eventually established a home on the mountain Amon Rudh, the domain of the petty dwarf Mim. This outpost was lost to the orcs through treachery.
Thereafter, Turin dwelt in the Elvish city of Nargothrond until its fall. Afterwards he established a home amongst the people of the forest of Brethil. At this time his sister left Doriath, lost her memory in an encounter with the dragon Glaurung and came to Brethil, with tragic consequences.
The wingless dragon made its way toward Brethil, intending to destroy this outpost, when the highlight of the book occurs: Turin's slaying of Glaurung. If one perseveres through the first difficult pages one will certainly enjoy this great tale of tragedy. It has all the Tolkien trademarks - an intricate plot, gripping imagery and elegant use of language.
There are beautiful colour plates and black & white illustrations throughout the text. The Genealogies section includes the House of Hador & People of Haleth, the House of Beor and the Princes of the Noldor. The Appendix includes The Evolution of the Great Tales and The Composition of the Text, and the book concludes with a List of Names.
on 24 April 2007
This is where it all began - Morgoth the Enemy, the early elven kingdoms, the races of men. So much depth and background whispered in the LOTR but never actually available in a complete narrative. Now this book appears with detailed dialogue and descriptions of places and events that shaped the lands of Middle Earth as we know them. I must say its brilliant but not for people who are looking for "LOTR The Next Chapter". The people who tried to read LOTR after the films came out and couldnt finish wont find solice here. Its for true fans - people who are fascinated by the world created by Tolkien and want more information and legend and magic. Its a work of art and something i will be reading 2 or 3 more times. After that I am looking forward to reading LOTR again to see how the story ties in and to enjoy the references characters make to the events in this book. Brilliant.
For people who say it reads like The Silmarilion, I must disagree. It isnt as descriptive of every hill and bush like LOTR but its alot easier to read than The Silmarilion and so fresh, its as if it was written yesterday. Its amazing to think that one person could come up with a world that is so cohessive and stands the test of time so well.
Just when you think they can't find another draft, note, poem or shopping list written by J.R.R. Tolkien, something new pops up.
But in the case of "The Children of Húrin," the result is a surprisingly solid and lucid story, full of familiar characters from other books about the history of Middle-Earth. Tolkien's timeless, formal prose and richly-imagined world make this novella pop from the pages, especially without his son's stuffier footnotes.
It opens with the story of Huon and Hurin, heroic brothers who lived back in the first age. But when battling the terrible Morgoth (the Middle-Earth Satan), Huor is slain and Hurin is taken prisoner by Morgoth, who torments and curses him. The Easterlings overrun his lands, and in fear for her son and unborn baby, Hurin's wife Morwen sends her son away to be fostered in Doriath.
And so Turin grows up in Doriath, until the day when he feels the need to go out and defend his distant family. His adventures take him through Middle-Earth, encountering great elves, orcs, lives with outlaws, and Mim the petty-dwarf. But his life is cursed by Morgoth -- as is the mysterious girl he falls in love with -- and his downfall will be one of horror and disgrace, even as he slays the most terrible dragon in Middle-Earth, Glaurung.
This book is actually a jigsaw puzzle -- Tolkien worked on the interrelated stories and poetry throughout his lifetime, but he never quite finished a solid cohesive story. So Christopher Tolkien cobbled together these various stories with Tolkien's unfinished works, pasted them together, and the result was "The Children of Húrin."
Surprisingly, the resulting story is very solid and strong, with a darker finale than "Lord of the Rings." While the main storyline is about Hurin and his son, it's sprinkled with familiar characters, such as Melian and Morgoth. And the rich, tragic storyline is full of noble elves, great human heroes, ancient lost cities and even a vengeful, talking sword.
And Tolkien's writing is somewhere between his "Silmarillion" style and his "Lord of the Rings" style -- it's formal and archaic, but he includes strong descriptions ("A flash of white swallowed in the dark chasm, a cry lost in the roaring of the river") and dialogue ("You are one of the fools that spring would not mourn if you perished in winter". One of the best scenes is when Morgoth and Hurin argue about theology and the "circles of the world" on a tower.
Despite the formality of his writing, the characters really pop out of their stories -- Turin is fierce, passionate and tragic, and his last scenes are absolutely stunning. His noble father and moody mother also come across well, and we get plenty of other colourful characters, from snitty elves to the evil Morgoth himself, who torments Hurin by forcing him to see everything Morgoth sees.
Since the actual story is only about two hundred pages long, it's fleshed out considerably by Christopher Tolkien's introduction and appendices, which explain about the writing and construction of the stories and poems, as well as a pronunciation guide, and a series of family trees.
And Alan Lee provides several beautiful drawings (both black-and-white and color), including Doriath's forests, eagles carrying Hurin and Huor, elven smiths, the dragon, Elf warriors, and finally the death of Turin, over a grey river under some burned trees.
Despite its brevity, "The Children of Húrin" is a stunning, brilliant piece of work, full of Tolkien's vibrant storytelling and memorable characters. Definitely a must-read.
on 26 April 2007
I'm writing this review for those who have not yet strayed far from 'The Lord of the Ring' or 'The Hobbit'. Much like myself a couple of years ago you were probably swept up by the movies and decided to read the books. But now that the adventure is over your looking for more, let me take you by the hand and lead you down the dark and brooding path of middle-earth's past. But be warned, this journey should not be taken lightly for middle-earth is vast and varied, even more so than the events of 'LOTR' let on, and it's history is as long as the history of our own world.
But if you are willing and strong of heart then follow me.
There is no better place to start on your journey into middle-earth's past than with the tale of 'The Children of Hurin', but there are two things you should know before embarking. 1) The story is a tragedy of epic proportions so be prepared for much heartache and hardship and 2) It is not 'The Lord of the Rings', in fact the story takes place a few millenia before those events.
Middle-earth's history may seem like a sprawling and confusing mythology at some times and it can be easy to get lost in the massive laberynth of detail, but if you can piece it together, starting with this book and working your way outwards to works like 'The Lost Tales' and 'The Silmarrilian, then you'll be greatly rewarded for the effort when re-reading 'The Lord of the Rings' as the knowlegde you have gained will lend such a depth of history and meaning to all of the charachters, races, places and events that made that book so very timeless in the first place.
You might not need it but this vast history is there, in every page of 'The Lord of the Rings', it is what makes it's heart beat so strongly.
All you have to do is choose to take the harder road.
on 16 July 2012
I'm a Tolkien fanatic and have been since 1976 when I first picked up a copy of the LotR. I was ecstatic when The Silmarillion was released, overwhelmed when Unfinished Tales came out and truly overjoyed when tCoH was published. Yes, the story is well known to Tolkien aficionados but the extensive and subtle reworking and additional detail are extremely well crafted and I was sooo in heaven reading what for me amounted to essentially "new" Tolkien. To those who say the Tolkien estate are cashing in on gullible Tolkien fans by re-hashing old material, I say no, no, no! The quality and style of the writing in this generally unhappy and extremely violent tale are as solid as Tolkien ever produced. It would easily tolerate being made into a high quality epic by Jackson et al. I can't get enough of Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth and Aman so maybe I'm biased. The Professor has developed single-handedly a colossal, wholly authentic, self contained mythology and "history" and tCoH does full justice to this utterly superb cannon.
on 11 June 2012
The Children of Hurin is a sad but beautiful tale that many readers would not associate with Tolkien. Despite the unmistakable writting style of Fantasy's finest writer, the story itself (which mainly concerns itself around Turin, son of Hurin, and the curse Morgoth, the original Dark Lord, sets upon him and his kin) is harrowing and at no point do hobbits come into the equation (after all they didn't exist in the 1st Age of Middle-Earth, in which this is based). The book is still brilliant however, with the superb Alan Lee once again doing the world of Middle-Earth justice with his beautiful drawings, though I do have a few critiques.
Firstly I feel Christopher Tolkien should have engaged the book with a little more of his own writting, by this I mean taking it out from the draft form it was initaly written in to a more polished book. Furthermore, I felt that the many names put in the book were (with a feww exceptions) needless and the book was at some points patchy with it's descriptions.
However these are all blasted away by the richness and sadness of the tale, though it is not a book to relax to. I would also suggest reading Christopher Tolkien's (who, in case you didn't know, is J.R.R. Tolkien's son and was edited all his father's post-mournally) fascinating foreword and his final commentries in the large appendix of the book, though I would read both after you have the read the tale as otherwise this will be rather more difficult to follow.
on 3 September 2010
Best J.R.R. Tolkien book ever written
Why didnt it get released when J.R.R. Tolkien was alive. If you dont like the Silmarillion and want another
Middle Earth book before the time of the hobbit or Lord of the Rings i reccomend this with 5 stars.
The Children of Húrin is set in the days of the Morgoth, the
first Dark Lord and will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with
Elves, dragons, Dwarves and Orcs, and the rich landscape and characters unique to Tolkien.
Please be aware the The Children of Húrin is not a story about Hobbits and their adventures.
Gandalf is not even mentioned in The Children of Húrin.
on 23 February 2015
This book is fantastic, it will grab you by the throat. I read it in two days, two weeks after I read The Silmarillion for the first time.
So, why I said "I hated it"? Simple: after reading this book, I just imagined if (IF!!) Tolkien could have published more worls in hit life time, works like this one that spreads thing that happens in The Simarillion. Imagine a whole book about Beren and LUthine, about Eol, about the dog from Valinor, about the Valars, some books about the details of one of the battles, about the battle between Elves and Dwarfs... gosh, the option are infinite...
BUt it was not so... I do not see this book as a false attempt, a false job jsut to get cash for the state. It is a very good stan alone book, everyone that like fantasy I think would enjoy it.
Also, the dialogues.... Here we have much more dialogue than in The Silmarillion, and, not surprisingly, they are very good. Tolkine was a master of the craft, every word counted.
Just loved this book.
Bear in mind that this book is kind of an expanded version of the tale already contained in UNFINISHED TALES, under the name "Narn I Hin Húrin" (the longest chapter in that book, by the way). The differences between the versions are clearly explained by Christopher Tolkien at the end of "The Children of Húrin".