The Children of Húrin Paperback – 2 Apr 2009
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"I hope that its universality and power will grant it a place in English mythology" Independent on Sunday
"The darkest of all Tolkien's tales. Alan Lee's illustrations complement the writing splendidly" Times Literary Supplement
“A masterpiece…an extraordinary book. As in The Silmarillion you feel yourself in the presence of a personal genius.” A.N. Wilson, The Telegraph
From the Publisher
THE CHILDREN OF HÚRIN by ADAM TOLKIEN
I was brought up in France, and although my grandfather died when I was
very young, his work was always very much in evidence at home. My father,
Christopher, the third of J.R.R. Tolkien's four children, according to his
father's explicit wishes, has devoted himself to the publishing of my
grandfather's massive archive of material ever since he began work on the
"Silmarillion" papers in 1974. Ideally suited as he was through his
twenty-five years of experience as a professor of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford,
his work has always been that of the most rigorous editorial discipline. I
have always been impressed by his ability to preserve his father's original
writings as far as possible while applying the deft skill of an editor to
make his volumes readable and not simply a catalogue of unpublished texts,
something I was to learn first-hand when I undertook the daunting task of
translating the first two volumes of The History of Middle-earth for
Christian Bourgois, the French Tolkien publisher. With these books,
complete with Christopher's notes, as well as being able to discover some
otherwise completely unknown tales, readers could begin to understand the
way the author worked, and see how he would write and rewrite, often
revisiting the same stories and passages after many years, keen to refine
and improve his vast mythology, as well as to accommodate into his earlier
writing the fruits of his later invention and to create a complete and
seamless mythology, a saga spanning thousands of years.
Having spent the three years immediately following J.R.R. Tolkien's death
compiling The Silmarillion, Christopher went on to compile the book
Unfinished Tales, followed by the 12-volume The History of Middle-earth,
which was itself to take him 16 years. So when the twelfth volume, The
Peoples of Middle-earth, was published in 1997, it seemed probable that
this was to be Christopher's final book. The book's dedication to my
mother, Baillie, did seem to make it clear that this was a conclusion to a
long labour. But my father is as indefatigable as his father was, and he
had been thinking for a long while of the possibility of a better and more
complete version of one of the major tales from the Legendarium, "The
Children of Húrin", and one that would be closer to his father's vision.
He has explained a little more extensively what had been his intention with
The Children of Húrin :
`It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of The Lord of
the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days (as previously published
in varying forms in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of
Middle-earth) are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and
inaccessible in mode and manner. For this reason it has seemed to me for a
long time 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 some parts of it.
`When my father was a young man, during the years of the First World War
and long before there was any inkling of the tales that were to form the
narrative of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, he began the writing of a
collection of stories that he called The Book of Lost Tales. That was his
first work of imaginative literature, and a substantial one, for though it
was left unfinished there are fourteen completed tales. Among the Lost
Tales three were of much greater length, and all three are concerned with
Men as well as Elves: the stories of Beren and Lúthien, the Children of
Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. In 1951, three years before the
publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, he told of his early intention:
"I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only
placed in the scheme, and sketched."
`It thus seems unquestionable, from my father's own words, that if he could
achieve final and finished narratives on the scale he desired, he saw the
three "Great Tales" as works sufficiently complete in themselves as not to
demand knowledge of the great body of legend known as The Silmarillion.'
Remarkably, considering that the earliest passages in The Children of Húrin
are 90 years old, Christopher's reworking of the book works brilliantly. In
a sense it is not a new book, for versions and pieces of the story will be
familiar to some readers. For example, the whole tale was condensed down
into a single chapter in The Silmarillion, as was the story of The Lord of
the Rings at the end of that book, so what you have here is the
reconstructed version, complete with familiar elements and also pieces that
have never appeared before. (It might be compared to a sort of literary
Director's Cut, the long version of the story assembled from all the best
footage available, though my father probably wouldn't welcome the
We are especially delighted that HarperCollins agreed to publish the book
with illustrations, and that the artist is Alan Lee (this was a particular
request on Christopher's part). Alan was commissioned in 1990 to create the
first-ever illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings to mark Tolkien's
Centenary, and his 50 watercolour paintings were to prove more influential
than anyone could possibly have imagined, as Alan then spent five years in
New Zealand working as conceptual designer with John Howe for the Peter
Jackson trilogy. But now he is back, and has created some remarkable new
paintings and pencil drawings for the book, while Christopher has himself
redrawn the map, as indeed he did for The Lord of the Rings more than 50
We hope that readers will be sufficiently attracted to the tragic tale of
The Children of Húrin, and will discover the `great tale' that was so
important to J.R.R. Tolkien and then the whole fascinating mythology that
lies behind The Lord of the Rings. It is a testament to my father's skill
as an editor that he has been able to construct a complete narrative
without resorting to writing anything new. The words are one hundred
percent J.R.R. Tolkien's, and for anyone who has read The Hobbit and The
Lord of the Rings, this book allows them to take a step back into a larger
world, an ancient land of heroes and vagabonds, honour and jeopardy, hope
and tragedy. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This new telling, however, differs from the former in at least two respects. First and most obvious, it greatly develops the details so that we come to know the doomed players more intimately, better appreciating both their flaws and their virtues, and thus feeling the tragedy more personally when it manifests itself in turn after turn of their lives.
Second and perhaps more subtle is what this version leaves out. THE SILMARILLION continued the story further, revealing later events which, while not negating these present disasters, at least mitigated them somewhat, suggesting that evil's triumph was indeed only for a season. (There were also poignant touches, such as the extraordinary future of a certain gravesite, which lent a melancholy beauty to the sorrow.) Here, however, Christopher Tolkien, the author's son and editor, chooses to end the tale at a point which before had occurred in mid-paragraph. When I first glanced through HURIN and then reacquainted myself with the earlier publication, I seriously questioned this decision.Read more ›
The literary world was shocked at the announcement a new Tolkien novel was being published. After all, Tolkien died 34 years prior to CoH's publication date. 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 new Tolkien. Hollywood is eying it greedily, though the Estate is not interested in selling the film rights any time soon.
Depending on where you stand in Tolkien fandom will largely define your reactions to the story.
First, some quick facts:
*CoH can be read independently of Tolkien's other works, thanks to C. Tolkien's excellent introduction, which explains the context in which the novel occurs in Tolkien's universe. Though an overall knowledge of Tolkien's legendarium is helpful, due to the story's strength it's not required.
*CoH is much darker than the Hobbit Cycle and is tragic on a Shakespearin level. Even Shakespeare's characters have a better fate than the Children of Hurin.
*CoH's principal plot focuses on the dark lord Morgoth's curse on Turin and Neinor, the Children of Hurin, for Hurin's defiance against Morgoth. Morgoth is Tolkien's equivalent of Satan, who Sauron is a mere servant too.
*CoH is easier to read than THE SILMARILLION, though CoH still employs in places the archaic style found in that book.Read more ›
Having said that, I'm not entirely sure that The Children of Hurin actually adds all that much to the story as previously presented in the Silmarillion. Yes, there was a bit more dialogue, but the sweep of the narrative was still very broad and there wasn't actually anything much new here.
Perhaps more seriously, one of the reasons I think I liked the book was because I know the mythology and back story from the Silmarillion, including all the different names and characters, inside out. My suspicion is that if I'd come to it 'cold' as it were, the procession of new names and references to other parts of the mythology would have been close to impenetrable - as some of the other reviews on this page suggest.
So. Here's the rub. There's not a great deal of 'added value' here if you've already read the Silmarillion, unless you're a Tolkien obsessive like me. But at the same time, you kind of need to have read the Silmarillion first for half of the text to actually mean anything to you at all.
I AM a Tolkien obsessive and so did enjoy The Children of Hurin. And I just can't bring myself to give it less than '4' for this reason. But part of me wonders whether it really deserves a '3' for the weaknesses I've just mentioned...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well LOTR it isn't. Saying that it is a good read if a little slow going at the startPublished 1 day ago by Mark Warbrick
If you loved The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit but you're left wondering about the elder days and how it all came to be, The children of Hurin is one of the books you need to... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Elena A
This book is an interesting one because, despite it being written by J. R. R. Tolkien, it was released when I was in my teens, and so I devoured it almost immediately after its... Read morePublished 1 month ago by SocialBookshelves.com