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.
(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.)