‘The Children of Hurin’ – A New Middle Earth Novel

Medium ImageDespite some who might say otherwise, be advised that The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien is not part of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

It is, instead, from the earlier mythological history of Middle Earth, of which ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is but a (far later) sequel. Also, be aware that this is not “Lord of the Rings, Episode 1”. In fact, you will find very little in the heroic and sad tale of Hurin’s children that is directly tied to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, particularly if your familiarity with the story comes more from the films than from the books.

It takes place in the First Age of Middle Earth, when Sauron was but the lieutenant of the first Dark Lord Morgoth and the great war to recover the Silmaril jewels from him was waged, literally to the edge of ruin, by the Elves. Men had yet to enter the story, and the Rings of Power had yet to be forged. Hobbits were nowhere to be seen (or at least noticed by anyone), the Istari (wizards) had not arrived, and the lands we see in the ‘Lord of the Rings’, in the last days of the Third Age, are not even on the map.

I’m rather excited about the publication of this work, as I’ve long thought that the stories of Hurin’s children could possibly make an excellent novel and/or film. In some ways, the depth of the tragedies and the triumphs is even greater than that of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and if approached well could actually make a better movie. An epic adventure with more “epic” than “adventure”, perhaps, maybe along the lines of a ‘Ben-Hur’ or ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on film, though I suspect a fair amount of ‘Wuthering Heights’ on the page.

If you’re looking for the story, much of it can be found in the poem “The Lay of the Children of Hurin” in Volume III of ‘The History of Middle Earth’, ‘The Lays of Beleriand‘. This is an early and sketchy work by JRR Tolkien, and some things changed by the time the next version of the tale, found in ‘The Silmarillion‘ (Chapter XXI, ‘Of Turin Turambar’), was published after Tolkien’s death. Again, this is an incomplete version of the tale, being more a narrative history than a story. Finally, the most complete and detailed account of the saga is to be found in the pages of ‘Unfinished Tales‘, in what’s the longest and most-finished of those collected works, ‘Narn I Hin Hurin’. Large chunks of the tale are lost or were never completed, but it makes for great reading (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Murdoc’s tempted to refresh his memory by re-digesting the aforementioned pieces, but I think I’ll just wait for the book, which will be released on April 18th and will check in at only 320 pages. ‘Narn I Hin Hurin’ itself, missing several components of the story, runs 110 pages in ‘Unfinished Tales’, so I’m a bit surprised that the new telling isn’t longer.

I expect that about 3.2 bazillion kids are going to buy this thing and quit by page 20. I could be wrong, and I have no idea whatsoever about the style that Christopher Tolkien has chosen to utilize, but despite some grand sequences, heartbreaking love stories, and (yes, my precious) a dragon, I fear that legions of Orlando Bloom fans are going to be disappointed.

Murdoc, on the other hand, believes that he knows what to expect and cannot wait. Available in standard and deluxe hardcover versions.

(NOTE: It’s been a long time since I’ve read any the various versions of the story. If you’re a Tolkien nitpicker who would like to argue about little details I got wrong like the pronunciation of Hurin’s name in High Elven or the combination of Kirk’s safe in ‘This Side of Paradise’, you win. Go somewhere else.)

Comments

  1. The Noldor would have done much better against Morgoth if they had upgraded to a 6.8mm spear. The 5.56mm spear, while bright and shiny, had serious trouble penetrating Yrch armor and other hard targets. Of course, the lack of battleships was a serious hindrance to any naval campaign, especially in the absence of a creditable carrier task force. This pretty much left the oceans to Morgoth and constrained the elves and their human allies to the land until the intervention of Manwe.

  2. I had no idea this book was coming out and I appreciate the heads-up. I am grateful to Murdoc for this post. On the other hand, I would prefer that Mr. Christopher Tolkien make an edition of LOTR that has all the missing pieces from Return of the King, such as the warfare in Dale and Lorien that is central to understanding the strategic struggle. Or if there is more material in the First Age, that he instead complete the more heroic epic of Tuor and the fall of Gondolin that led to the triumph of Earendel. So I will probably get this, but not the deluxe edition. Thanks again for the news. Sorry, Buckethead, JRR himself said that Morgoth never waged war by sea 🙂 Loved the spear line, though. Then again, since Elven women were over 6 feet tall and their menfolk taller and broader, and the orcs they fought were smaller than modern men and were afraid of sunlight, it wasn’t the spears, either. It was the asymmetrical warfare Morgoth employed that won his wars for him. It’s hard to fight against immortal demons led by someone second only to God in power. Only Marines and Noldor would dare to try…