Still, while most dedicated Tolkien fans will no doubt deeply appreciate this work, it seems to me that The Children Of Húrin has had a rather cool reception with the general public. That is not altogether surprising, considering the story's content and structure. The world is harsh. The characters are complicated. Evil is everywhere. It is not a happy ending.
The main body of the story centers around Húrin's son Túrin and his struggle against darkness and doom. (The same story is sketched in brief in Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion.) As a result of Húrin's defiance of Morgoth in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, he and his kin are placed under a curse by Morgoth. The inexorable working of doom is present at every turn, and though Túrin proves himself a formidable warrior and claims many valiant victories, the curse ultimately claims his life.
The Children Of Húrin is a sober commentary on the tragedy of life, while simultaneously avoiding the whirlpool of fatalism. The basis of things is tragic, warped, irrational, but there is still goodness, and light, and hope; and, like gold or jewels, when these things are scarce they are all the more precious. Evil may triumph for a day, and weeping may endure for a night. But the very nature of the case demands that evil must ultimately be destroyed. "Blind you are, Morgoth Bauglir, and blind you shall ever be, seeing only the dark." (See my previous post on evil: A House Divided.)
In reading this book I was again struck by the directness and precision of Tolkien's prose. He makes the narrative come alive with broad strokes and sparse descriptions, deepening the epic atmosphere of the story. Take this fine passage as an example - bold adjectives, vivid verbs, no chaff:
Now they waited until the starlit night was late, and they passed over in the white mists before the dawn. And even as the sun rose red beyond the Blue mountains, and a strong morning-wind blew and scattered the mists, the guards went up onto the west shore, and left the Girdle of Melian. (201-202)
The illustrations by Alan Lee deepen the mystical and brooding aura of the story profoundly. His quasi-impressionistic style draws you physically into the scene and provides the perfect counterpart to Tolkien's storytelling.
This was a significant book for me, as I see in myself many of the same flaws of Túrin Turambar - chronic impatience, strong self-will, cold insensitivity, and an invincible pride. I do not know what lessons of truth and wisdom this book may hold for you, but I am convinced you will not come away empty handed.
"This is a sure way to death," said Dorlas.
"It is the only way, to death or to life," said Turambar, "and delay will not make it seem more hopeful. Therefore follow me!" (234)
Image courtesy of time-blog.com