Friday, August 19, 2016

The Children of Hurin

Severe Spoilers Ahead

The Children of Hurin is the longer and more elaborated version of a chapter in The Silmarillion called Of Turin Turambar. It was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, though never completed, and compiled and published by his son Christopher, after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death.

It centers around the tragedy of the family of Hurin Thalion, a Man who dared to defy Morgoth, the Dark Lord. In punishment, Morgoth captures Hurin and chains him to a mountain where he is forced to watch the servants of Morgoth carry out plans designed to destroy Hurin’s three children and his wife.

Since this story takes place in the middle of The Silmarillion, I would recommend this book only to those who have already read The Sil. And, if you’be already read The Sil, you probably have a good grasp on the story of the children of Hurin from the chapter Of Turin Turambar. For that reason, I’m going to be very loose with spoilers, so those of you have not read either version of the story, beware!

The story opens with the ending of a great battle, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Most combatants have been killed or captured, including the notorious warrior and king of his people, Hurin Thalion. He leaves behind his wife, Morwen, and son, Turin. So far, nothing diverges from Of Turin Turambar. But then, we get a little bit more backstory. We learn that Hurin had another child, a daughter, called Lalaith, who was killed very young by disease. We learn that this left deep impressions upon a young Turin. I found this to be a very good addition which added a sense of dimension to Turin’s character which was somewhat lacking in Of Turin Turambar. Through this little detail about his childhood, we get to know Turin’s soft side and that he really does care about people.

We also meet Turin’s childhood friend, a crippled woodworker named Sador. This friendship between them is very sweet. Turin even gives Sador his own knife because he has such great respect for him. Sador comes back later on to help Turin briefly.

The story begins to heat up once Turin’s village is overrun by evil Men. He is sent to Doriath, the realm of King Thingol and Queen Melian who are related to Morwen through Beren. Turin lives there and earns great respect both from Thingol and the people at large. However, with great respect comes great jealousy, and one of Thingol’s closest councillors, Saeros attacks Turin. Turin is able to defend himself--because of his superior battle skills--and he chases Saeros through the woods. Saeros eventually falls to his death and Turin, seeing what he has done, leaves Doriath expecting that he will be banished anyway.

Mablung, who witnessed the act goes to Thingol and tells him. Nellas, an elf-maid, comes forward and tells Thingol that Turin was attacked first by Saeros. Thingol ultimately decides not to banish Turin and Beleg Strongbow, Turin’s friend from Doriath, sets out to try and find him and bring him back.

The detail about Nellas was one of my favorite additions to this story. There is a hint of unrequited romance in her tale, yet I am happy that she and Turin were separated so she would not fall under the curse of Morgoth.

Turin goes through many other adventures which I will not relay here (like I said, I am assuming many reading this have either read The Silmarillion chapter or the book itself) including travelling with woodmen, working in Nargothrond, and starting his own village.

Before all that happens, Turin meets up with a group of outlaws. He quickly becomes their leader after proving his fighting ability. In one episode, Turin saves a girl from a nearby village whom the outlaws were chasing and rescues her. Turin then decides that he will not kill or abuse unless it be a servant of Morgoth. Turin returns to the camp one day to see Beleg, his childhood friend, tied up, unconscious with throwing knives surrounding him. The outlaws had apparently captured him and teased him. Turin is outraged at them, but delighted to see his new friend. When Beleg comes to and tells Turin that Thingol will allow him to return to Doriath, Turin resists and makes one of the biggest mistakes--he refuses to accept Thingol’s clemency and does not return to safety.

Thus the only direct heir of the house of Hador travels with the outlaws and Beleg returns to Doriath. The outlaws run into a petty-dwarf, which is a smaller version of a regular dwarf, and one of the outlaws shoots one of them. They encounter one particular petty-dwarf, Mim, and they force him to bring them to his home. There they discover that one of the petty-dwarves has been killed by an outlaw shaft. Turin promises to pay Mim back if he ever can to atone for Mim’s son’s death.

For those of you familiar with the story, you may notice the irony within this statement. Turin promises Mim wealth if he ever comes to it, but what Mim actually ends up with is a) the treasure left over by the sack of Nargothrond which was Turin’s fault and b) Hurin, Turin’s father kills him eventually. What a great ransom.

I will go no further in describing step-by-step each of the story’s events, but I do encourage you to read the book. For those of you who have read Of Turin Turambar, there are a lot of wonderful expansions of the story. I would recommend the edition illustrated by Alan Lee--he has beautiful artwork which really helps bring the story to life.

If you have not read The Silmarillion, it may be a difficult story to understand since it is intricately involved with the overarching story of The Silmarillion.

I will briefly list some of my favorite aspects of the story. I have already told you about Lalaith, Sador, and Nellas--three relationships which make it more easy to sympathise with Turin. I also really appreciated the added information about Nienor leaving Doriath to accompany Morwen to Nargothrond which makes her seem very brave and hearkens back to Eowyn. The added information about Turin in Nargothrond and his role with Gwindor and Finduilas added a lot to their characters and the story regarding Finduilas’ death. Finally, the end of the story is one of the most dramatic reveals I have ever read in history. It is in the ranks with the end of Oedipus, and Romeo and Juliet in terms of dramatic irony and tragic reveals.

I strongly recommend this book, and it is a must read if you enjoyed The Silmarillion.

Now, some quotes to entice you (this story is full of pithy statements by Turin that are dark and daring):

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”

“I will not walk backward in life.”

“False hopes are more dangerous than fears.”

“Let the unseen days be. Today is more than enough.”

“The doom lies in yourself, not in your name.”

“Why must you speak your thoughts? Silence, if fair words stick in your throat, would serve all our ends better.”

“On their deathbed men will speak true, they say.”

“Then Morgoth stretching out his long arm towards Dor-lomin cursed Hurin and Morwen and their offspring, saying: 'Behold! The shadow of my thought shall lie upon them wherever they go, and my hate shall pursue them to the ends of the world.”

“But whenever I say that I will do this or that, it looks very different when the time comes.”

“He was dark-haired as his mother, and promised to be like her in mood also; for he was not merry, and spoke little, though he learned to speak early and ever seemed older than his years. Túrin was slow to forget injustice or mockery; but the fire of his father was also in him, and he could be sudden and fierce. Yet he was quick to pity, and the hurts or sadness of living things might move him to tears.”

“But to this Orc-work such a life as we lead has brought us. Lawless and fruitless all our deeds have been, serving only ourselves, and feeding hate in our hearts.”

Have you ever read The Children of Hurin? Do you loathe or pity Turin? What is your favorite Alan Lee drawing?

Are you planning on reading The Children of Hurin? Is there anything you are looking forward to?

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