Davis's Reviews > The Children of Húrin

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien
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's review
Apr 21, 12

Recommended for: People who tried the Silmarillion and failed
Read from April 18 to 20, 2012

The Children of Hurin is a story of the First Age, thousands of years before Frodo even existed. If the Silmarillion was too dense, unwieldy, and lacking any main character, this book alleviates all of those.
This is the antithesis of the Lord of the Rings. Turin, the protagonist, is an anti-hero; he is selfish, arrogant, rash, defiant, rude, uncouth, and lacks any sense of chivalry. He goes through Tolkien's world offending hosts, making rash decisions, killing needlessly, and basically stomping all over the pristine world many think Middle-Earth is. Here is a novel without the perseverance of Frodo, the nobility of Aragorn, or the pure goodness of Sam. Some critics of the Lord of the Rings say that Tolkien created too pristine a world, too comforting of a place; only a handful of major characters die in the Lord of the Rings, and most of them were old or evil. Here, people die for no good reason at all.
That is not to say this book will only depress you. It is full of epic scenes, intense battles and flights from enemies, and heart-wrenching moments. It is a tragedy, but it is still as epic and sweeping as Tolkien's other works.
There are faults in this work; the names are many, and not just the eight names Turin himself takes on to hide his identity. There are many irrelevant (to this story) characters that are mentioned, but do little for those unfamiliar with the rest of the mythology. It would have been more straightforward and less cluttered to not mention many of the elves and men at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears who do not take a later part in the story, and many of Turin's family line that bear no relation to the story at hand. Unfortunately, this is the first paragraph of the entire story, and may turn away those who tried the Silmarillion and failed.
The theme of destiny is the foremost one in this novel. Morgoth's curse follows Turin wherever he goes, by whatever name he goes by; people continuously remark that there is a shadow over him. However, is his fate self-fullfilling? Many of Turin's actions are rash and have terrible consequences, but they are from his choices, not the curse. Does Turin make these decisions because he is cursed, or does he make that choice believing he has no other option when he really does? Sandor says "a man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it." Does Turin, in running from his curse, fulfill it head on? Could he have prevented the horrible things that happened to him had he been careful, patient, and kind? He could hardly have known who Nienor was, and the murder of Beleg was an accident; but he could have stayed in Doriath, or returned with Beleg, or been less aggressive and not provoked Glaurung to a final battle. This ambiguity creates a much richer story. Are we able to avoid and change out fates, or do they follow us mercilessly?
In the Lord of the Rings, there was good and evil, black and white; here, there is only Turin and his grey cloak.

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Brent Keck Excellent review, but you missed one important point that many may find perplexing. While Turin was indeed overshadowed by the curse and continually portrayed as making one poor choice after another, this is not the full story. Turin was counted as one of the few "Elf Friends" a special designation given by elves to those non-elves who serve the elves in special and often heroic ways. To have received this highest of accolades he surely must have done things the that the wise and high elves considered valiant and worthy of their praise and honor. The designation was afforded to Frodo and Turin alike. We know what Frodo did. What did Turin do? Many of his deeds are not specifically recorded, but he was a great foe of orcs and at times a great friend and companion. As with the Silmarillion, we don't get the whole of the story only the action parts, Tolkien rarely spends more than a couple words on the good and peaceful times in Middle-Earth. Perhaps this is true of Turin as well. A terribly flawed character, but, perhaps, not as flawed as you present. And, after all, he did have a talking sword and a dragon helm.

Davis Many of Turin's deeds are awesome and definitely not evil; he slays one of the last dragons, frightens away and slays countless orcs, and stemmed Morgoth's advance south for many years almost single-handedly. He repents when his evil deeds are brought to his attention, and that is commendable. Elf-Friend is apt; he refrains from killing Saeros, shows mercy to Beleg when his outlaw allies do not, and would have prevented Nargothrond from being sacked had he been able. Perhaps much of his rash killing is directed at Men rather than Elves; he slays Brandir and the outlaw with little hesitation. Perhaps when his home life was destroyed by Easterlings, who are men, and his father's love for Elves had a bigger impact on his opinion of both.

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