Thursday, May 24, 2007

Review: The Childer of Hurin

Yesterday, I completed the reading of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien (previously mentioned on April 17). Though his primary works have been varied in style and reading level, I have enjoyed all that I have read. This latest tale is no different. To give some context for what this compares to consider Tolkien's other primary works. The Hobbit was written as a children's story. The Lord of the Rings was accessible but written for at least a middle school reader. Finally, the Silmarillion is a work not for the faint of heart. The Children of Hurin is comparable in style to The Lord of the Rings.

However, it differs in many ways from the The Lord of the Rings. While The Lord of the Rings is a classic story of good vs. evil with conquering heroes, The Children of Hurin is more of a tragedy. The brave Hurin squares off with Morgoth (the analogue of Satan in Tolkien's Middle Earth), and Morgoth places a curse on Hurin's family. The tale deals primarily with how this curse plays out in the life of Hurin's son Turin. Though brave and mighty in battle, the curse follows him wherever he goes.

Hurin is also a protagonist with deep flaws. While he is, as mentioned, mighty in battle, he is also filled with pride and rarely listens to good council. In addition, some of his actions make him unfitting as a hero with which most would wish to identify. However, all of this makes for a story that is very different from what we are spoon fed these days.

I also had some reservations about how good the story would be. Tolkien's son Christopher had to do a fair amount of piecing together of this novel as his father left no completed manuscript before he died. Fortunately, that does not detract from the quality of the work in a noticeable way.

In conclusion, I think this is a book well worth reading. It fits well under the umbrella of Tolkien's Middle Earth without seeming like a rehashing of his other well known works. At some point in the future, I plan to read Unfinished Tales which includes an earlier version of this same story along with two others. Look for a comparison of the two coming to a blog near you in the future.

Until next time...

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