The Children of Húrin Book Discussion: Post after you finish the book.
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Anyways, starting again....
I found the writing to be absolutely beautiful in this book. I read it slowly, just to draw out the experience and relish each moment, each delightful phrase. Some of them just left me breathless, so beautifully expressed, like:
"Morwen did not gainsay him; for in Hurin's company the hopeful ever seemed the more likely." I LOVE that! "the hopeful ever seemed..."
and I had typed other examples, but it took me awhile to find them all and I don't have time to do it all again :-(
Anyways, it's a wonderful book. I love Alan Lee's illustrations - isn't the Helm beautifully wrought? Gorgeous!!
I'd talk about the story a bit, but not sure how much we want to go into it yet with people still reading it. I'm content to wait. This will be a book I'll be reading again and again, just for the words alone, let alone the story :-)
clam, Hurin is indeed dark and bittersweet. Turin is the anti-Aragorn or the Un-Aragorn. Where ultimately things turn out well for Aragorn (an understatement), Turin's life comes to a tragic end.
I love your word "wordsmithing" Clam, I've never heard that before and it's absolutely perfect to describe Tolkien's writing here. And I think you're right cad_lib, I think most of the writing is the Professor's too.
Turin has such a very different personality than Aragorn. Turin seeks out power and authority, taking it as a given (it seemed to me) that he should have it. But Aragorn was so reluctant to go back to Gondor and become the king, he really resisted power. So is that the message? If one is too proud and ambitious it will lead to disaster and defeat, but if one is humble and reluctant success will come to you? I guess both characters are extreme examples in order to make the point, but isn't ambition, self-confidence, and yes, even pride necessary for success? I really like the comparision to Aragorn, it's given me some good thoughts to kick around. But maybe Turin was tragic because of the curse rather than his character.
I loved the legends. Hearing how the Native American couple dove into the crack on the Island of the Great Turtle (Mackinaw Island) had me almost in tears.
I guess I read The Children of Huron, one of the Great Lakes Legends series.
* whoops *
I know many have expressed the idea that Faramir was the most "botched" character in the Jackson movies, but I think Strider/Aragorn was way off in the movies. In the Trilogy, Strider is never beset with the doubts that the movie character has. We never see the depth of the man (The Man?) in the movie. By not having doubts, the real Strider was not arrogant or proud. He was doing his utmost as a servant of the Good, in whatever way needed, against The Shadow. As such (servant/protector) he was fulfilling his royal office or role and destiny long before crowned. Turin always got a bit full of himself, even though he usually sought to do good (Outlaw period noted exception).
Corollary to Jackson missing Aragorn's character, is he missed on Elrond: Elrond in the movie is petty and bitter; he missed on Frodo, by making the effects of the Ring too powerful to soon. Frodo comes off like a wasted druig addict when he puts on the Ring.
Having said that, I did like the Jackson movies, as movies go. I'm sure many books have fared worse when translated to film. Nothing against any of the actors, either. My motto:
Never judge a book by it's movie
And yeah, I agree with you Tolkien sure didn't write a very sympathetic character in either Morwen or Turin (how do you get to accent the "u" - I can't figure it out?). I think I was making a comparison (in my head) with Tess of the D'ubervilles, was she fated to have all those rotten things happen to her or did she bring them on by her actions? Turin, was he the way he was because of the curse, or was he just an arrogant guy to begin with? Was Morwen so stubborn because she was totally frantic about her son or was it all arrogance and selfishness in her too.
I found I wanted to like Morwen 'cause I sort of identified with her a bit, sending hubby off to war, waiting back home with the kids - it's definitely a challenge and probably skews one's priorities. But when she wouldn't listen to Thingol's advice and consequently put so many at risk, it certainly wasn't very admirable on her part.
The characters weren't fleshed out as much as I would have liked either - perhaps that's the nature of the more formal language that's used in CoH? I know you read Beowulf after CoH, Clam, from what I remember (which we have seen can be shakey!), is there not the same distance with the characters in that story too? Now I'm going to have to re-read Beowulf too! O my :-)
As to your question about the curse being to blame, all I can guess is that the curse didn't help. ;o) Things would have gone badly for Túrin anyway, but without the interference of the Dragon (who was sent by Morgoth) we would never had had the sister/brother fiasco. Túrin most likely still would have come to a bitter end, but it hopefully would not have been by his own hand.
I don't see it as more than that - but that may be enough of a purpose to the story.
At it's super deep level, consider this: God, in the Old Testament, gave such a curse of Morgoth's to all of mankind: punished, sinful, out of Eden, childbirth painful, etc. But, even if we are 'condemned at birth' (which Tolkien believed) - perhaps each individual still goes through their own personal fall.
Good advice re books vs movies, I really enjoyed the movies but there certainly were/are a lot of discrepancies.
I'm sorry if I'm going on and on about this so much, I'm just so enraptured with the book and, like I said, now I just want to immerse myself in Middle-Earth for a few weeks (I think I'll have to get paperbacks of LOTR, my hard cover is just way too heavy to lug around in my purse while we're in Ontario!)
I enjoyed CoH very much. The writing is beautiful, even if the tone is sad. I wasn't very hopeful about the book when I heard it was being released, but I was pleasantly surprised.
As for chronolgy, you're a little off (my memory was too, but I checked the Tale of Years, Appendix B):
At outset of the LOTR (Frodo departs Shire), it is 3018. Aragorn is 87 years old. He is one year younger than Denethor, Steward of Gondor! Ages of a few prominent characters in 3018:
Denethor-88 (b. 2930)
Aragorn-87 (b. 2931)
Theoden-70 (b. 2948)
The relative ages of Strider & Aragorn really struck me first time I noticed it. Too bad this didn't come out better in Jackson's movie. It is only in the expanded DVD version that there is an extended scene where Eowyn learns how old Strider is and realizes he is a Dunedain/Numenorean.
*sorry for slipping into lecture mode*
*gosh I really love those stories*
And don't apologize for "lecture mode" cad!!!!! I love talking with everyone here about it all - I get such bemused expressions from people when I start talking about it in RL :-S
Despite having read the Silmarillion lo these many years back (turns out, after putting it up on LT, that I may have one of THE earliest editions - at least here across the pond from "The Professor's" home turf) and being familiar with the general gist of the tale, I was impressed with how Christopher was able to make it almost seem "new" again. It was both depressing and uplifting (if that's possible!). Anyway, I thought it a very good read, for what that's worth. The scene at the end between Hurin and Morwen - heartwrenching isn't even the word for it...
Thanks for giving me such a great forum to post my meager thoughts on this subject - you're all a great bunch!
Pssst. My copy of The Sil is a 'First American Edition.' I would never dream of parting with it. The inscription says:
Merry Christmas to our favorite "Hobbit" - Clare,
Dec 25, 1977
from Mom and Dad.
It still hurts sometimes, you know, like just before it rains...
katylit - I'm almost to Rivendell - we're at the Ford at the moment. I'm really stressed with this being the end of the school year, so I am escaping to Middle Earth every chance I get!
All of the tragedies of Turin and Nienor are due to Morgoth's curse and evil plots. And the whole reason: Hurin knows the secret of Turgon and Gondolin and will not betray them to Morgoth. So Hurin is the epitome of loyalty and faithfulness, and hope. Due to the marred and twisted world caused by Morgoth and his followers, even all that is noble about/from Hurin can lead to, or be twisted to, bad ends.
But maybe Hurin's loyalty and faithfulness are what give us that ephemeral sense of uplifting that jarod mentions?
I've been kinda sick the last few days hobbitprincess, so am still stuck at Bag End! Hopefully tomorrow I will start the journey out with Frodo and Sam :-) But I hear you about the escaping, since I couldn't read I watched the movies yesterday and today instead.
All in all, I think this is truly a tale of Man in that the main characters, aside from Hurin, were all guilty of being hasty, as Treebeard or Loial would say. It also seemed to me that at the base of their haste lied a fundamental hubris, most notably in Turin. There also seems to be the commentary of the ridiculous nature of men who profess to have learned from their mistakes, yet repeat them over again as time and habit seems to dull the edge of lessons learned the hard way. In short, I guess, most men are fools.
As for Hurin, it is no less a tragedy for him. What is his reward for unwavering loyalty? His children are dead and he is released only to happen upon his mad wife on, literally, her last night of life. It's such a different view with which we are left in comparison to LotR. At the end of Return of the King, at least we have hope that there are men who can lead their race to shining prominence.
character development was not changed because, of course, that would mean that Christopher would be doing the writing. So i would not have wanted that. It's just that I do so miss the depth of the character development in The Hobbit & LotR where you really get to know the characters. In CoH i feel more like i'm viewing all this from afar the characters are remote from me as a reader; enigmatic & unknowable except in a very superficial way. Warming up to them was just was not possible. The sense of doom is just inescapable. Every time Turin is in a situation that is halfway upbeat there is still a pervading feeling of doom hanging over all & of course, inevitably things go south for him. It is sad & one feels sorry that this family has so much sorrow & tragedy but they just aren't people you can feel a lot of empathy with! The tragedy is certainly of Greek proportions. It's a good read but it is what it is-a different kind of story than LotR.
Definitely loved it though, despite the sadness. There was that sense of doom throughout, but that was inevitable given the curse and all.
I like what kawika says about it being a story about hasty men and repeated mistakes. I didn't feel sorry so much for Turin though since he was so bull-headed. Poor Hurin indeed, though! :( It's a bit of a Job story from Hurin's perspective.
Interesting that several have mentioned the distance from the characters in this book compared to LOTR. I didn't notice it while I read it, but on second thought, this was more documentary-ish, less character development. I liked that aspect of this one. It worked, I think. Whereas LOTR wouldn't be the same at all without all the character details, CoH is great without it.
#15, I like that about there being the fall of a divine nature and then also a personal failing. Double-doomed.
Anyway, I love this story along with practically all things Tolkien. It was nice to have it in it's own setting instead of the brief and chopped up forms I've read it in multiple times before. Even with those multiple readings, I still found myself hoping/wishing Turin would make a different decision or something would turn out better. I mean, who pulls a sword out of a still breathing dragon? Doh!
Alas, a tragedy is a tragedy. Although the Greek comparison is appropriate, I couldn't help thinking of Hamlet. I had just read that again recently, so Shakespeare's tragedies were a little fresher in my mind than the Greek.
It's interesting how Morgoth seems to have "won" on the Hurin side of the House of Hador but "loses" in part due to Tuor's side.
If you're unsure, check it out from the public library and read it. Then you will know if you want to own a copy, and you can rest assured of your own conclusions about the tale.
Húrin to Morgoth:
"But Húrin answered: 'Do you forget to whom you speak? Such things you spoke long ago to our fathers; but we excaped from your shadow. And now we have knowledge of you; for we have looked on the faces that have seen the Light, and heard the voices that have spoken with Manwë.'"
"'This last then I will say to you, thrall Morgoth,' said Húrin, 'and it comes not from the lore of the Eldar, but is put into my heart in this hour. You are not the Lord of Men, and shall not be, though all Arda and Menel fall in your dominion. Beyond the Circles of the World you shall not pursue those who refuse you.'"
Bëor to Felagund, in the introduction:
"'A darkness lies behind us; and we have turned our backs on it, and we do not desire to return thither even in thought. Westwards our hearts have been turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light.'"
These are just a very very few, of course. I loved this book even more than I thought I would. I was absolutely sobbing by the end. I really liked having the whole section dealing with Túrin as a child, which wasn't in the Silmarillion version at all. It helped me to get closer to the character of Túrin, whom I really didn't like in the Sil but felt much more sympathetic towards in CoH.
Moreover, the tale has such a pervasive inevitability to it, that at times I felt as though I was watching a poisoned animal die. Turin shows only impetuousness and blindness to the overall situation, and I never had the sense that he would be able to turn the curse, or that he’d ever succeed in anything that he did. That robbed the tale of tension for me. Moreover, his actions for the most part take place in a vacuum; he’s off by himself, away from his people and his family, messing up other people’s lives for the better part of the story. I guess we’re supposed to remember that Hurin has been placed in a position to “see” him all the time, but some tension would have been added by developing his character and seeing Turin’s struggles through his eyes.
The business with the dragon, and Turin’s overall saga, had a lot of echoes of Beowulf for me, and I’m not entirely certain what Tolkien was trying to get at, beyond plucking the historical zeitgeist, by riffing on that tale. (Maybe it was just me who thought there were similarities in the shape of the tale, though). He can also be seen, retroactively, as sort of an “anti-Aragorn”, who never really figures out what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to grow. To that extent, I’m found lacking in empathy for him as well. His eventual end is not so much tragic as pathetic, I thought.
The deception of the dragon, and marriage of brother and sister was a neat turn, though. I am trying to recall other mythic precedent for that part of the tale, where people do not know who the other is. For a time I thought perhaps their offspring would live and become some part of the big picture, but then over the cliff she goes, and with it that supposition. Splat.
I’m not certain what this story does to inform us of the overall Middle-earth saga, either. I guess it illuminates the fact that Elves and men have always had a rocky, on-again, off-again relationship. Basically, they never really know what to do with each other. That hasn’t really progressed by the time we get to LOTR.
So, I’ll go with a critical thumbs-up, for the sheer bravado of the world-construction, yet again, and the shoot-the-moon idea of the density of this invented history. I felt as though I was reading a real history. However, the story construction, though echoing with elements of Greek Tragedy, didn’t quite get at the “moral” point of such tales in an obvious way for me. And the characters remain ciphers or “event movers” for the most part, that I felt were all externally rather than internally motivated. (Here noting that inner dialogue is not a characteristic of classic myth in general, and so further serves the illusion that this is a “found” myth from an ancient time and not a 20th century scholarly invention).
To help you understand the "place" of Turin in Tolkien's Mythology, think of the entire first age this way: There are three main tales for Tolkien's first age: Hurin/Turin, Beren/Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin (and the descendent of a royal couple - the mixed-breed savior/emissary, Earendil) They are tied together by the fourth "continuity thread" - the creation of the Silmarils by Feanor, their theft by Melkor, and the attempts of a portion of the Elves to disobey the myth's demigods and attempt the long, futile task to recover them.
It really seems, in all of JRRT's rewrites, that he developed these three tales in detail, and the rest of the entire mythology was created to build a tree on which these three bright ornaments could be hung.
And if there is a moral, it has to be understood in the larger mythology, and it's what I said before in this thread: "What man tries without divine help is doomed to failure" (and I'll add now: except for short-term victories acheived through love)
Beren/Luthien received some happiness, through their love of each other, but really didn't impact the ultimate storyline, except through their offspring. Gondolin fell, in spite of best efforts, and it took the self-sacrifice/risk of Earendil to save Elves/Men. Turin just had a sucky life.
No point beyond that, really.
Just my (quickly written) thoughts.
Mim turned and looked at him (Turin) darkly. "You are one of the fools that spring would not mourn if you perished in winter," he said to him.
I'd love to use it on someone, but I'm afraid it comes out sounding a bit more harsh than I would ever intend. I'm yet to meet someone so trollish that they deserved that quote.
JPB, you seem to have such an outstanding all-encompassing knowledge of the Professor's work. I'm yet to read all of the extra publishings, but I know who to ask if I get confused on timelines or family ties!
sorry, got all excited there. I can't see CT ever expanding and releasing a B&T book, dagnabit. Is it just me, or does that story seem at odds with the rest of the mythos of Silmarillian? More like a traditional hero-lover myth. Perhaps why i like it so much.
I also appreciated the "mythic historical distance" when you consider how very much prior to the events in LoTR this tale is. The land they are living on doesn't even exist any more! Their personal 'Atlantis' myth hasn't even happened yet! This tragedy is soooo far in the mists of history, BUT the emphasis is that people (through the elves) still know and remember what happened. It's like the ultimate moral tale. "Don't be like Turin" and "Pity Turin." It's partly his fault (he wasn't very bright... ) and partly he was destined to be shat upon.
And I always felt most for poor Hurin, but (and this might sound bad) I was glad that he got to see his wife for the evening AND I was glad that she died in his arms! Because, I thought it would be more tormenting for him to have to care for her madness for longer - after already knowing it was all his fault (sort of). This way the poor man has a bit of peace. All that he loves is dead, so there's not anything left to torture him with, just memories.