Review: The Children of Hurin
WARNING: This review contains spoilers
To begin I would like to say that I have read and enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, I have read it several times and get more from it each time that I read it.
That said, I was extremely excited when I heard that a new book by Tolkein was being offered in the summer of 2007. I told my wife that it was a must have for our anniversary, and she came through. I opened it on the morning of May 14th and sadly had to put it aside for 2 ½ weeks until finals and papers were through.
Well that time finally came and I curled up with the book. For those of you who do not know, The Children of Hurin a story that has been told in various other forms in other Tolkien sources, namely the Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien, the son of the great author, took those stories and other writings by his father on the subject and compiled them into a full length novel. This and other background materials are explained in the introduction.
I began reading expecting the majesty and beauty of the Lord of the Rings (remember, that’s all I’ve ever read of Tolkien). I was surprised from the beginning. This work was much less descriptive than what I was used to from Tolkien. If you are familiar with the flow of Biblical narrative, big picture stuff with occasional narrowing of focus for dialogue and action, that is how I felt the flow of the book went.
Another difference I found was that this novel is darker than what I was used to from Tolkien. There was a sadness and a hopelessness to the life of the main character, Turin, that was hinted at in the Lord of the Rings but not as developed as it is in this book. In Children of Hurin, Tolkien develops a story that works out like a Shakespearian tragedy – everyone dies in the end. In looking at Tolkien’s history and his feelings about World War I, this sadness and hopelessness made sense. A friend of mine explained that much of Tolkien’s writings, outside of stories about Hobbits, was like this and showed his pain of loss. In light of that, this book made sense.
Even with the surprises, this book was excellent. Too many times today, authors write the same books over and over with the different characters and settings. It was nice to see a different side of an author that I have loved for years. I actually felt like I knew Tolkien better than from just reading the Lord of the Rings. I look forward to reading that trilogy again in light of this book and picking up other titles such as the Silmarillion. Children of Hurin is a must read.