Thursday, July 5, 2007

Unfinished Tales - Part II

I have finished the next story in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales. As previously mentioned, this is the "Narn i Chîn Húrin (The Tale of the Children of Húrin)". It is also a very rough early version of the story in the recently published The Children of Hurin. As I previously promised, here is a brief comparison of the two.

The overall plot is the same in both versions, but as expected, the "Narn" version is significantly less polished. Many of the chapters in the Narn are shorter and less developed. There is actually a significant gap in the story from the time that Turin and the Outlaws begin their dwelling with Mim the Petty Dwarf until after the sack of Nargothrond. If I had read these versions in the opposite order, I could image being very frustrated as there is merely an appendix at the end of the story that tries to piece together the plot during this period of the story. It also shows just how much work Christopher Tolkien put in as editor to produce the more recent edition.

Otherwise, the characters are the same, and the geography is more or less identical. Beyond sitting down and doing a side by side comparison (which I did not nor do I intend to do) the differences are not troublesome. The one thing I did find troubling was the lack of a map of Beleriand as it was in the First Age of Middle-earth. I referred to the map in The Children of Hurin - which I also did in reading "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin". Given the breadth of locations in Tolkien's works, it would be quite difficult to keep up without a map.

In short, it is a compelling, but rather frustrating version of the story. However, I believe this is what you are signing up for when embarking on a book that in its very title claims to be "Unfinished".

Until next time...

No comments: