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Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien November 27, 2007

Posted by a Wristfister in Books, Fantasy, Fiction.
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Children of Hurin

Published by Houghton Mifflin Co. [2007], hardcover, 320 pages. Reviewed by Bowie.

Synopsis: We’re back in Middle Earth, folks! This time it’s a tale regarding the tragedies of a human hero, Turin (son of Hurin), set several thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Raised by elves, self-exiled, and determined to avenge his father, Turin’s life is chronicled with an archaic narrative voice that is much easier to read than in The Simarillion.

Review: This book is an obvious must-read for any serious Tolkien fan, but it may also be the most accessible of his books to the the general reader, and by that I mean that there is absolutely no knowledge of Tolkien’s prior works required to enjoy Children of Hurin. I’d almost like to compare it to Beowulf, even though there are more differences than similarities. It is an epic tale of essentially one character and his triumphs and tragedies, that while is set in the much broader and deeper realm of Tolkien’s mythology, is so beautifully presented here as a stand-alone story. This first edition is illustrated by Alan Lee (who helped the art department at WETA with Peter Jackson’s LOTR films) and is quite possibly the most bleak and dark of Tolkien’s creations. It is heart-archingly tragic in the same vein as a classical Greek tradegy and I found myself actually feeling melancholic during much of it. In fact, there were moments that felt like it pierced the core of my heart. It is THAT sad. On a lighter note, I found the characterizations of Elves to be the most eye-opening. Not so much ethereal as in Rings, they are presented here as flawed but great beings, capable of all the darker emotions we tend to preclude them from, like jealousy and rashness. If you like happy endings, stay away from this one. Otherwise, be prepared for a thoroughly gut-wrenching but fascinating revisit to Middle Earth.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter The Return of Turin to Dor-Lomin. Turin has just returned to his birthplace, looking for his lost mother (Morwen) and sister:

‘Nor first will I die here!’ he cried. And he seized Brodda, and with the strength of his great anguish and wrath he lifted him on high and shook him, as if he were a dog. ‘Morwen of the thrall-folk, did you say? You son of dastards, thief, slave of slaves!’ Thereupon he flung Brodda head foremost across his own table, full in the face of an Easterling that rose to assail Turin. In that fall Brodda’s neck was broken; and Turin leapt after his cast and slew three more that cowered there, for they were caught weaponless.”

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Comments»

1. imani - November 27, 2007

What you pointed about the difference in Tolkien’s elves is part of why I prefer his First Age tales like The Silmarillion and now the fuller version of Turin. In LOTR they came off as too distant and perfect for my liking.

2. a Wristfister - November 27, 2007

I wholeheartedly agree. The lives of elves as told in the First Age tales are so much more…complex, for want of a better word. They are incredibly interesting once one realizes that they are NOT a homogeneous race, instead encompassing many factions and familial alliances, e.g., Teleri, Noldorian, Sindarian, etc.

3. misterbooks - February 19, 2008

You’ve done a completely justified review. I found this book to be a great addition to any JRRT collection. And it is easy to swallow, which might be a bonus, to those who were turned off by Christopher handling of The Silmarillion and its size and flow.
Peace,


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