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When you begin reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s work many start with The Hobbit and then move on to The Lord of the Rings. That is often the extent to many people’s Tolkien-intake – and it’s certainly the easiest route to take, for if you take even a one step more,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can
The first step on this particular road is found in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings in which we are provided with a tantalising hint of the extraordinary breadth and depth in which this book takes place. The tales told within The Lord of the Rings are in fact the last, and arguably the least of the great and extensive history of Middle-earth.
Beyond the appendices are books like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and if you’re really willing to commit yourself to this particular journey, The History of Middle-earth – a 12-volume compendium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s exploration of the three great Ages of Middle-earth.
Within both The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, as well as several volumes of The History of Middle-earth we are introduced to Túrin, the son of Húrin, but to properly follow the story from beginning to end requires one to have committed to the aforementioned journey which, sadly, many do not. In fairness, it is somewhat understandable, considering the sheer wealth of material and the intricate nature of its publication.
Until now, that is.
Published in 2007 (I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to reviewing this book) Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, who has spent his life compiling and publishing his father’s work, released The Children of Húrin. It might seem redundant, but in fact this book is Christopher’s effort to open the door for non-fanatics to partake in some of the splendour of the First Age of Middle-earth, without having to pick up The Silmarillion or work their way through the Histories.
The Children of Húrin is a compilation of the whole of the story concerning the family of Húrin – including a few of Húrin’s adventures, his wife Morwen, and the tragic life of his three children, Túrin, Urwen/Lalaith, and Niënor. While Christopher Tolkien primarily brought together all of the relevant story already written by his father, there is an unknown amount of bridging material Christopher wrote in an effort to both make this story run naturally from beginning to end, while simultaneously avoiding any of the editorial insights that are commonplace through most of the other work he has published after his father’s death.
As a result, we have a single, continuous story, with no editorial intrusion, that brings people for the first time into easy access to one of the most important stories Tolkien ever wrote, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
And it is a singularly tragic tale. Let me warn you, there is no happy ending, this is tragedy in all its glory. It is beautifully written – a stunningly beautiful story that, despite its overwhelmingly tragic style, must nevertheless go down as a key story in Tolkien’s Legendarium. More than that, however, this book is wonderful on its own. I can’t imagine that it is necessarily overly attractive to non-Tolkien fans – though given just how well written it is, and how captivating the story, I wouldn’t dismiss the idea – it is regardless an absolute must-read for anyone who has even a passing-interest in Tolkien.
There are two small essays in the back which provide a little editorial insight – for those of us who enjoy such things – but they are unnecessary to enjoy the story in and of itself. These days we very rarely get to read a true tragedy – unsurprisingly, considering most people don’t want to read a tragedy. But tragedy has been a tried and true genre for millennia, and Tolkien mastered it in his writing the life of Húrin and his family.
Further, this story overlaps with many other familiar names and tales. Beren and Luthien are contemporaries to this tale, as are those from their family. It sits in the middle of some of the great defeats of the free people of Middle-earth, and the dominance of their great enemy, Morgoth. We finally get to meet Glaurung, the Father of Dragons on Middle-earth. And there are some interesting names – including my favourite, Glorfindel.
Whether you have read Tolkien before, I’m willing to bet that this medium-length book is worth your time. Tolkien’s writing is concise and constrained to a single story (mostly), moves along at a rapid pace, and though it has no happy ending is nevertheless completely captivating. Add in numerous paintings by renowned Tolkien artist Alan Lee, and The Children of Húrin is an absolute must-read.
Joshua S Hill, 10/10
The Children of Hurin is the bringing together of many of JRR Tolkien's unfinished works by his son Christopher Tolkien.
There are tales of Middle-earth from times long before the Lord of the Rings, and the story told in this book is set in the great country that lay beyond the Grey Havens in the West: lands where Treebeard once walked, but which were drowned in the great cataclysm that ended the First Age of the World.
Unfortunately The Children of Hurin does not give us much of what we have no already had. The Silmarillion was excellent, in its own dry way, of providing Tolkien fans with the pre-history that they so badly wanted.
However, what The Children of Hurin does do is expand upon stories only lightly touched upon in The Silmarillion. The Fall of Nargothrand is arguably the highlight of the book.
Then Turin, being yet bemused by the eyes of the dragon, as if he were treating with a foe that could know pity, believed the words of Glaurung, and turning away he sped over the bridge. But as he went, Glaurung spoke behind him, saying in a fell voice: 'Haste you now, son of Hurin, to Dorlomin! Or perhaps the Orcs shall come before you, once again. And if you tarry for Finduilas, then never shall you see Morwen or Nienor again; and they will curse you.'
The Children of Hurin: The Fall Of Nargothrand
This publication has received much criticism with some saying that it is purely cashing in on the Tolkien "brand". I feel this is a bit harsh and that the book does serve a purpose and it is evident that a lot of care and dedication went into the editing of this work.
I would still recommend that one wishing to understand the pre-history of Tolkien's world would be better served by reading The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales but there are definitely a few chapters within The Children of Hurin which make reading it a worthwhile venture for die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
A worthwhile read for die-hard Tolkien fans.
9 positive reader review(s) for The Children Of Hurin
Arthur from Shire
A master piece.10/10 (2019-06-18)
Finduilas from Nargothrond
It may cover material/storyline points that were already written in the Silmarillion, but as someone who has read both versions many, many times, the Children of Húrin book is so, so much more than a restatement. It’s easier to read than the Silmarillion, despite the fact that it still has quite a bit of geography and genealogy, and it moves me so deeply that every time I read it I have to stop in the middle, put the book down, and cry on the living room floor. If you like to suffer in a good way, read this book— I can’t recommend it enough.10/10 (2019-05-20)
Anthony from United States
This is a special book for Tolkien readers on its face (which is why poor Ollie's review, such as it was, elicited so negative a reaction), as it's only the fourth, and most-likely final novel set in his Middle-earth. Unlike everything else that's come out under his name since The Silmarillion, published 40 years ago, it's a complete narrative, painstakingly assembled by Christopher Tolkien from his father's manuscripts. That it's actually such a good read is just icing on the cake. It's dense, dark, dismal, and delightful.8/10 (2017-10-13)
Alma from England
I had been wanting to read this book since a while and when I saw a library had it, I was extremely happy. I was so excited while readingI had to close the book for a few seconds every now and then to just calm the sheer joy I was having reading and get into the more serious mood of the book. As you can tell, I was already a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan before, so I can't tell you if you will like it if you have never read Tolkien before. However, I think you might truly like it anyway, since it stand on its own and is not obviously linked with LotR and tH : it is set in the first age in Beleriand, a suken part of Middle-Earth by the third age when those two others books take place. I was a mild fan of Tolkien before, but this book really made me appreciate and understand his work better. I had already tried to read the Silmarillion twice but reading Children of Hurin made me went to try again, I think it might a really good gateway to the Silmarilliom, as it is between this book and the Lord of the Rings in term of writting style. P.S: I was going to give it a 8 or 9 but because of Ollie, I am giving this a 10 to raise the rating, because this is not a 6 ! I reccomend it.10/10 (2017-05-27)
Elizabeth from Canada
I just read this book cover to cover in less than 24 hours-I simply could not put it down! This is Tolkien as you've never read him before- this poignant, vivid glimpse into the tragic first age of Middle Earth contextualized The Lord of the Rings in a way I had never imagined. You understand why the elves have such an unshakable hatred and distrust of the enemy-in the spring of their years they were ever beset by evil and suffered unimaginable loss at the hands of Morgoth. Moreover, with CofH one gets the sense that they are reading authentic middle English literature about a real world and ages long past-so authentic is Tolkien's prose. CofH also demonstrates just how central language and names were to Tolkien's writing. Overall this book has deepened my understanding and love for Middle Earth more than I had even hoped! Brilliant <310/10 (2016-01-14)
Aragon from Middle Earth
Totally agree with you Fea. I also can't wait till Ollie's son's books come out because he must be one of the world’s best writers if he can write better than Tolkien wrote this book.10/10 (2015-07-28)
Hurin from Middle-earth
This is my favourite out of all the other Tolkien books I've read. I felt sad at the end, it was that well written also you get to see a little into the First Age. I think it is a masterpiece, the story is amazing.10/10 (2012-04-23)
pippin from shire
are you kidding me ollie! i cried at the end of this from how strong the end is. why make tolkien lovers mad by giving one of his books a bad review? i thouht lord of the rings is a little better, but this book is still wonderful!10/10 (2012-03-01)
Fea from Kuuliakis
Then, Ollie from Nottingham, I look forward to reading your son's novels - he'll be one of the greatest writers the world has ever seen!8/10 (2012-03-01)
Mimi from Manila
For JRRT die-hard fans. People who aren't into Middle-Earth so much would not appreciate the beauty of the story as much as a die-hard would. Anyways, it's a masterpiece just the same. Tolkien never gave us less.9/10 (2012-03-01)
Antonio from Itality
An orotund, serious, grim tale which discourages fans but awakens those most puritanical. Above all this, The Children of Húrin is a book of conspicuous magnitude and scholarliness.7/10 (2012-03-01)
Omarion from Dublin
This book is a masterpiece, and a seven-year can not even be close to be writing one of these very good Tolkien fantasies, the ending is somewhat sad and the beginning is somewhat boring but the book over all is very good for people that understand it.8/10 (2012-03-01)
9.1/10 from 13 reviews
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