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 Post subject: The Children of Húrin
PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:03 pm 
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I did a search for this topic and it doesn't SEEM to have appeared before ...

I posted this on the FB page of the Tolkien Society and wanted to post it here, too. Because you peeps are so good at talking Tolkien. :love:

I finally – FINALLY! - got round to reading The Children of Húrin when I was on holiday last week. I had previously put off reading the book because the story is so tragic, but I ended up falling in love with it. Tolkien’s writing is so powerful and beautiful, and the story and characters so memorable and haunting. I am very grateful to Christopher Tolkien for bringing this one to light and for being able to organise his father’s story-notes into a coherent whole.

And the beautiful, wild landscape of North Wales, with its misty mountains and ash forests, waterfalls and rushing rivers, standing stones and ruined castles, formed a most appropriate backdrop to reading the story! The mountains of the Lleyn Peninsula, glimpsed across the wide blue expanse of Cardigan Bay, looked like the gateway to Valinor ...

Some observations on the text:

1. I got some kickback for saying this but Middle-earth in the First Age honestly strikes me as being a desolate, god-forsaken (literally) place. Very beautiful, sure, but very bleak. Especially for the race of Men. At least the Noldor have their beautiful hidden realms which serve as sanctuaries (as doomed as these are). By contrast, Middle-earth in the Third Age seems positively civilised, what with the successful human kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor ... and, of course, the Shire (the most successful little country of them all!)

2. With that in mind, it struck me that Tolkien’s Elves are a conduit for spirituality, in a way. Given the deliberate absence of organised religion in his secondary world (save the austere monotheism practiced on Númenor), Tolkien seems to make his Elves a source of spiritual attraction: it’s as if the Firstborn are what humans could be, with greater power and wisdom, and a greater harmony, too, with the created order. How can one not love the Elves, especially the Noldor, for that? And yet the Elves in this story (and The Silmarillion) are gloriously flawed characters, not insipid plaster-cast saints. Which makes me love them more. (The more rebellious and feisty the Noldor are, the more I love them!) Saeros in particular seems all too human in his petty spite and viciousness towards Túrin. Túrin the mortal is a far greater character. And then there’s poor Gwindor, maimed for life, and the incredibly brutal fate of Finduilas ... these Elves are very human in their personalities, and I love them the more for it.

3. The story, to me, seems to be (partly) about predestination and free-will. Yes, Morgoth is powerful and his curse is powerful. But Túrin and his mother, Morwen, keep on making bad decisions and ignoring the good advice of others! As Gwindor says to Túrin, “The doom is in yourself, not your name.”

4. Glaurung is one of Tolkien’s most vivid and memorable villains.

5. I love Beleg Strongbow. And Gwindor, come to that.

6. Niënor/ Níniel is rather more feisty and interesting in this fleshed-out version than she is in the shortened ‘Silm’ version.

7. That ending. Wowzers. I knew it was coming, of course, but ... man. :cry:

8. Alan Lee’s gorgeously evocative and apt illustrations are a superb marriage of text and visuals.

9. The story made me appreciate, as never before, the intense tragedy woven into Galadriel's backstory. The fates of her brother Orodreth :( and of her niece Finduilas :(. And although Elrond's backstory isn't touched on in Children of Húrin, I was reminded of the tragedy there too.

10. I think this just became my second favourite work after LotR. :) As much as I adore Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, it is just so deeply satisfying to have a proper, full-length novel with dialogue and more rounded characterisation! I was left wanting more - much more. If only the good Professor had had more time ...!

But I love, and treasure, what we have. :)

ETA: Elrond compares Frodo to Túrin and Beren when he accepts the Quest of the Ring (and Hador, and Húrin!) :love: This means even more to me, now.

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Last edited by Pearly Di on Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:09 pm 
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I'm glad you got to read it finally, Di. It is a great work. I don't know why you would get kickback for saying that M-e in the first age was a desolate place. That's just the truth.

Many thanks yet again to Christopher Tolkien for successfully bringing the work to fruition.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:11 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
I don't know why you would get kickback for saying that M-e in the first age was a desolate place. That's just the truth.


A few folks did on the TS page, but I do not agree. (We know they are wrong. :D )
Di of course knows my reactions, having read CoH for the first time, not even three months ago. :)
A timeless and sombre epic.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:16 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
I'm glad you got to read it finally, Di. It is a great work.


So glad we have it!

Quote:
I don't know why you would get kickback for saying that M-e in the first age was a desolate place. That's just the truth.


It was very odd! As SV says, it was a few TS veterans. They disagreed and said the First Age was 'bright and colourful'. To me, it's incredibly dark and tragic! And Middle-earth is such a lonely, deserted landscape most of the time. Yes, the Elven realms were gorgeously beautiful, of course they were, but most of them were secret sanctuaries, often hidden from mortals ... and they, too, were doomed. :(

Quote:
Many thanks yet again to Christopher Tolkien for successfully bringing the work to fruition.


Absolutely.

SV ... I well remember your enthusiasm for CoH. :) Glad to have finally caught up with you! :P

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:51 pm 
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I love the stark wildness of First Age Middle Earth. But I am attracted to such wild and desolate places in real life (deserts, steppes, empty plains, silent forests, etc) so that may explain my attraction. The fewer people the better!

I would absolutely love for a talented film or TV director to try his or her hand at this story. It has all the right elements, narrative and visual, for devastating cinema.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:21 pm 
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Passdagas the Brown wrote:
I would absolutely love for a talented film or TV director to try his or her hand at this story. It has all the right elements, narrative and visual, for devastating cinema.


Yess! PJ da man!!! :poke: =:)

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:30 pm 
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Oh, you are mean! I like it!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:42 pm 
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smaug's voice wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote:

Quote:
I would absolutely love for a talented film or TV director to try his or her hand at this story. It has all the right elements, narrative and visual, for devastating cinema.



Yess! PJ da man!!! :poke: =:)


:er: ....can you just imagine PJ's brand of humour in CoH?

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:46 pm 
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In a word ... no. But I think that even PJ would realize that it wouldn't be appropriate. There was no such humor in Heavenly Creatures (so far as I can recall). All joking aside, I'd be interested in seeing what he could do with something like this, assuming he did restrain himself.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:03 pm 
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The late, great Ingmar Bergman would have been the perfect director for CoH. :D

Heavenly Creatures is PJ's best film! No crass humour whatsoever. And real tension and horror at the end.

SV, you're a caution. :p

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:07 pm 
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I love The Children of Húrin too! Such a devastating tale, but so good.

Quote:
2. With that in mind, it struck me that Tolkien’s Elves are a conduit for spirituality, in a way. Given the deliberate absence of organised religion in his secondary world (save the austere monotheism practiced on Númenor), Tolkien seems to make his Elves a source of spiritual attraction: it’s as if the Firstborn are what humans could be, with greater power and wisdom, and a greater harmony, too, with the created order. How can one not love the Elves, especially the Noldor, for that? And yet the Elves in this story (and The Silmarillion) are gloriously flawed characters, not insipid plaster-cast saints. Which makes me love them more. (The more rebellious and feisty the Noldor are, the more I love them!) Saeros in particular seems all too human in his petty spite and viciousness towards Túrin. Túrin the mortal is a far greater character. And then there’s poor Gwindor, maimed for life, and the incredibly brutal fate of Finduilas ... these Elves are very human in their personalities, and I love them the more for it.

This reminds me of one of the most interesting aspects of Túrin's character: his insecurity about his own mortality, especially highlighted in the conversations with Gwindor and Finduilas. He seems to have a gnawing feeling that because his time is limited unlike the elves, he must prove his greatness before he dies. It is remniscient of Eru's statements about man's destiny in Ainulindalë, but Túrin takes it in a harmful direction.

Quote:
3. The story, to me, seems to be (partly) about predestination and free-will. Yes, Morgoth is powerful and his curse is powerful. But Túrin and his mother, Morwen, keep on making bad decisions and ignoring the good advice of others! As Gwindor says to Túrin, “The doom is in yourself, not your name.”

Yes - the curse was strong, but not an absolute immutable decree (at one point Morgoth is even afraid it could fail). Certainly bad things happen outside his control, but Túrin is more than just a helpless victim of fate. I see that fatalist interpretation of the story sometimes and I think it's definitely wrong.

Quote:
4. Glaurung is one of Tolkien’s most vivid and memorable villains.

Yes, and his death is one of the most exciting and cinematic scenes Tolkien ever wrote!

Quote:
6. Niënor/ Níniel is rather more feisty and interesting in this fleshed-out version than she is in the shortened ‘Silm’ version.

Speaking of females, Aerin is an interesting character from the little we see of her. Burning Brodda's hall down is pretty awesome.

Quote:
7. That ending. Wowzers. I knew it was coming, of course, but ... man. :cry:

And it gets even worse if you continue after the ending! :( Húrin himself might be the saddest part of all. He survives, but he is turned to a shell of his former self - bitter, vengeful, and vindictive. Especially if you include The Wanderings of Húrin, where he visits Brethil and wreaks havoc there.

Quote:
It was very odd! As SV says, it was a few TS veterans. They disagreed and said the First Age was 'bright and colourful'. To me, it's incredibly dark and tragic! And Middle-earth is such a lonely, deserted landscape most of the time. Yes, the Elven realms were gorgeously beautiful, of course they were, but most of them were secret sanctuaries, often hidden from mortals ... and they, too, were doomed. :(

The first few chapters of the Quenta are bright and colorful. By the time we reach the First Age proper, though, it has gotten much bleaker, even if there are of course moments of great beauty. Maybe some of the Tolkien Society folks are too invested in the idea that "older is always better" in Tolkien. Which isn't entirely untrue, but it is more complicated than that.

Quote:
I was left wanting more - much more. If only the good Professor had had more time ...!

Yep! We get a glimpse of what could have been with the Tuor story in Unfinished Tales, but even that barely gets through the first act...it would be great if that had been completed, or a CoH-style take on Beren and Lúthien, or a properly finished Aldarion and Erendis, or...oh well. :neutral:

I don't know if George RR Martin was directly influenced by this story, but it's interesting that it has some things that are often seen as distinctive to him. You have incest, brutal deaths, only a few truly good characters and they tend to get killed off, a morally gray hero who leaves destruction everywhere he goes, a double suicide, etc. If more people had read CoH there wouldn't be many saying Tolkien is just black-and-white triumphalism (though these people probably haven't read LotR/Hobbit very carefully).


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:09 am 
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Pearly Di wrote:
1. I got some kickback for saying this but Middle-earth in the First Age honestly strikes me as being a desolate, god-forsaken (literally) place. Very beautiful, sure, but very bleak. Especially for the race of Men. At least the Noldor have their beautiful hidden realms which serve as sanctuaries (as doomed as these are). By contrast, Middle-earth in the Third Age seems positively civilised, what with the successful human kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor ... and, of course, the Shire (the most successful little country of them all!)


Agree, as you know.
I think the perfect phrase to describe the First Age in middle earth is 'beautiful and terrible'.


Quote:
4. Glaurung is one of Tolkien’s most vivid and memorable villains.
8. Alan Lee’s gorgeously evocative and apt illustrations are a superb marriage of text and visuals.


Yep. (See my avatar.)
Glaurung and Morgoth are Tolkien's best villains, though one can argue they are one and the same.

Quote:
ETA: Elrond compares Frodo to Túrin and Beren when he accepts the Quest of the Ring (and Hador, and Húrin!) :love: This means even more to me, now.


I only noted that two days ago, can't believe I missed it! :D

Additionally, the other character I sympathize the most in this tale after Túrin and Húrin is Brandir the lame. His own people did not think of him highly because he was lame by accident and was more a man of peace, than war. It was he who healed Nienor, who allowed Túrin to reside among them and then lost his leadership to him only , he tolerated the scorn of his own people for no wrong deed, watched his only love jump to her death, and was killed in the end by Túrin, whom he had saved, for speaking the absolute truth.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:35 am 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
In a word ... no. But I think that even PJ would realize that it wouldn't be appropriate. There was no such humor in Heavenly Creatures (so far as I can recall). All joking aside, I'd be interested in seeing what he could do with something like this, assuming he did restrain himself.


I think PJ can do fine serious films.
He just needs a book slapper or something. And a limited budget. That's all.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:58 am 
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And a time limit.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:01 am 
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OK, then, an extra book slapper. And maybe most of the CGI taken away.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:26 am 
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Agreed, Frelga. For me, CoH by Jackson absolutely have to be done with the same gritty aesthetic and restraint as FotR - no 3D, no HFR, no OTT thrills and spills rollercoaster rides, no ridiculous physics defying stunts with digital doubles, etc....

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:32 pm 
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kzer_za wrote:
Speaking of females, Aerin is an interesting character from the little we see of her. Burning Brodda's hall down is pretty awesome.


Oh hey, yeah, I loved her. :) That WAS awesome. 8)

Quote:
And it gets even worse if you continue after the ending! :( Húrin himself might be the saddest part of all. He survives, but he is turned to a shell of his former self - bitter, vengeful, and vindictive. Especially if you include The Wanderings of Húrin, where he visits Brethil and wreaks havoc there.


I'd honestly forgotten all this. :shock: Gah. :(

Quote:
I don't know if George RR Martin was directly influenced by this story, but it's interesting that it has some things that are often seen as distinctive to him. You have incest, brutal deaths, only a few truly good characters and they tend to get killed off, a morally gray hero who leaves destruction everywhere he goes, a double suicide, etc. If more people had read CoH there wouldn't be many saying Tolkien is just black-and-white triumphalism (though these people probably haven't read LotR/Hobbit very carefully).


Oh, word! 'Black-and-white triumphalism', bah humbug. :P People haven't read LotR if they think that!

Smaug's voice wrote:
Additionally, the other character I sympathize the most in this tale after Túrin and Húrin is Brandir the lame. His own people did not think of him highly because he was lame by accident and was more a man of peace, than war. It was he who healed Nienor, who allowed Túrin to reside among them and then lost his leadership to him only , he tolerated the scorn of his own people for no wrong deed, watched his only love jump to her death, and was killed in the end by Túrin, whom he had saved, for speaking the absolute truth.


Oh boy, YES. :shock: Poor guy. :( I don't hate Túrin, but he is a massive, massive [board violation term] here. His worst act, in my opinion. Beleg's death was a horrible accident, but killing Brandir ... Túrin, you jerk. :nono:

Still like him though. Despite everything! Or perhaps because of it. Yes, he has fatal character flaws. He's not a passive victim in all of this, far from it. But Morgoth's curse is a factor, and we shouldn't forget that.

This time I really felt, in a visceral way, the horror of Niniel when Glaurung gloatingly drops the horrible bombshell, the truth about her and Túrin. And her death scene really felt like a punch in the gut.

And Túrin's death scene, too.

Do people have any thoughts about Anglachel, the talking sword? Always struck me as bizarre. I mean, it's fairly bizarre even for Middle-earth. :D :) Appropriate, story-wise, don't get me wrong ... that cold, cold voice is awesome. Just - bizarre.

Although The Hobbit does have a talking purse. :P

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:38 pm 
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Talking swords are traditional. :)

Túrin is such a compelling character. A total jerk at times, but he just DOES NOT GIVE UP. Even when he does, he doesn't.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:36 pm 
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I split off the Film Osgiliation from this discussion

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:06 pm 
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Elentári wrote:
smaug's voice wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote:

Quote:
I would absolutely love for a talented film or TV director to try his or her hand at this story. It has all the right elements, narrative and visual, for devastating cinema.



Yess! PJ da man!!! :poke: =:)


:er: ....can you just imagine PJ's brand of humour in CoH?


Or imagine his brand of action in CoH!

Túrin races down a river on his floating shield, over twelve waterfalls, and past a gauntlet of attacking orcs (who he dispatches with ease), and finally ends up beneath Glaurung's belly to deliver the mortal blow. But Glaurung isn't so easily fooled, and a rumble in the forest ensues! The dragon is only subdued after Túrin concocts an ingenious plan involving log traps, huge nets and a scrappy army of bow-wielding Fallohides.


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