The Children of Hurin

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 4 stars

This book, condensed from notes and unfinished manuscripts by JRR Tolkien’s son Christopher is set deep in the history of Middle Earth in the First Age in the midst of the Noldor’s war with Morgoth to reclaim the Silmarils. The story is covered in brief form in The Silmarillion but Christopher Tolkien explains in the introduction that, from the start, his father had intended it to be told in greater detail.

Húrin, of one of the three great houses of Men, leads his men, alongside the Elves, in battle against Morgoth in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, which the Elves and Men lose terribly and he is captured. In punishment, Morgoth (who is a god, remember) curses his children and then sets him upon a mock throne and forces him to witness their suffering from afar.

This is pure tragedy from start to finish. Like its Greek counterpart, there is the interference of the gods in the affairs of men, the noble hero who does great things, but with a sting in the tail that turns all his achievements to dust.

The writing feels like Tolkien and once I got over my distrust of any “new” book by a dead author I enjoyed it immensely. It does feel much more like The Silmarillion than The Lord of the Rings and although I’m not hugely familiar with historical epic myths, I suspect that’s what it was closed to in tone, with focuses on particular events in the hero’s life and then a couple of “linking” sentences to indicate that some period of time has passed (in some cases, years).

And that takes me to one little niggle about the book. Well, about the title anyway. Although it’s titled “The Children of Húrin”, the book is mostly about Húrin’s son Túrin, with his daughter Niënor only making an appearance quite late in the book and then to mostly progress Túrin’s plot. That and the huge canvas (with its background being the whole Silmarillion and beyond) meant that I had to make pretty frequent use of the genealogy and glossary of names at the back.

But this is an epic story that feels very much like it was written by JRR Tolkien and only polished a little by other hands. Recommended for Tolkien enthusiasts, but probably not for the casual reader.

Book details

ISBN: 9780618894642
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year of publication: 2007

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