Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: The Children of Hurin

It has been several years since I last read The Lord of the Rings, and even longer since I last read The Silmarillion.  Returning to Middle-Earth was a better treat than I had at first expected.  The first time I had read The Silmarillion, in middle-school in the 1980s, I found it to be interesting, although tedious in places.  Two of the longest tales (and therefore the most tedious) were the tales Of Beren and Luthien and Of Turin Turambar.  I found that I just had to plow through them to "get on with the story" of the First Age.

Yet as I matured, subsequent readings of both The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion have left me wanting more.  The books are too short, and lacking the level of detail that I wanted to see.  Fortunately, The Children of Hurin fills some of that in.  I still want more, but I was very pleased to see what I did.  For example, in Of Turin Turambar, the story describes what happens and the interactions of kings and lords, with some description of the lands in which Turin travels, but there is very little detail of daily life.  Yet in The Children of Hurin, we learn more about what life was like in Turin's childhood in Dor-Lomin, especially through his interactions with Sador Labadal.  Turin lives in a hall akin to Anglo-Saxon tradition, with Lady Morwen ruling the hall in her husbands absence.  There are servants and livestock, etc.  In The Silmarillion, there is no indication of this at all.  We don't know if the Edain are a pastoral people, or farmers, or what.  This story gives us some clues. 

There is something almost relaxing in reading the beautiful elvish names in the text, and it is easy to submerse oneself in the tale.  Words like Dor-Lomin, Nargothrond, Finduilas, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Eithel Ivrin...  they all beg the reader to pause and try out the words aloud.  Tolkien knew what he was doing when he created his languages, and it is a tragedy that they could not have been given full vocabularies. 

The Children of Hurin expands greatly upon the tale as presented in The Silmarillion, and in its expansion it gives more humanity and immediacy to the tale, which makes it more compelling.  It leaves the reader wishing that all the tales of Tolkien had been expanded at least to this degree, and gives some scope to the magnitude of Tolkien's legacy.  Tolkien led a long and fruitful life, but I wish he had lived at least another century or two so he could have had the time to flesh out the rest of his world and give it the treatment it deserves. 

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