Monday, 23 April 2007
'The Children of Hurin' - J.R.R Tolkien
If you looked at the title and thought ‘hang on, that sounds familiar…’ then you are more than half right. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a new work by Tolkien but rather a gathering together of notes by Christopher Tolkien (Tolkien’s son and literary executor) who has worked these into the tale of Turin, told in ‘The Silmarillion’ and ‘Unfinished Tales’, to create the stand alone piece that Tolkien apparently always envisaged.
Set in the First Age of Middle Earth (thousands of years before the One Ring was even forged), ‘The Children of Hurin’ is a bloody tale of fate, revenge and tragedy. Turin’s father (Hurin) is captured by the Dark Lord Morgoth but refuses to divulge the secret of the elven city of Gondolin. Hurin’s perceived arrogance brings down the curse of Morgoth on his family, a curse that is played out relentlessly until the final page.
‘The Children of Hurin’ takes a big step away from the jollity of ‘The Hobbit’ and the rites of passage themes in ‘Lord of the Rings’, it is a brooding piece that is concerned with the inevitability of fate and the cruel twists that lead there. In the world of the First Age, man seeks to control his own destiny but is ever subject to the whims of a dark power far greater than Sauron. In Turin’s case this is especially true, particularly with the advent of the Dragon Glaurung (Turin’s own nemesis).
I very much enjoyed this book; it delivers everything that Tolkien is renowned for (in terms of plot, history and strong distinctive characters) although I personally would have liked to have seen more of Glaurung. The illustrations, by Alan Lee, are as stunning and evocative as ever. ‘The Children of Hurin’ doesn’t actually deliver anything new to the canon as this story has been told before. What it does do however is provide the reader with a more accessible route into a period of Middle Earth history that the casual reader of Tolkien may not have found already. ‘The Silmarillion’ is notoriously heavy going while ‘The Children of Hurin’ (although dry at times) is eminently more readable. This was Christopher Tolkien’s aim and I think he achieves it very well indeed.
Eight and a Half out of Ten