Since I rank J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as one of the Top Ten books of all time, I was naturally compelled to read his posthumously published novel, The Children of Hurin, when it was released last week. Reading it I was reminded again of his expansive imagination and worldmaking ability. In the end, however, The Children of Hurin is simply a fine story brought to print through the dedicated efforts of Tolkien's son, Christopher.
The story reads like a Shakepearean tragedy, only its setting is of a different world, the Eldar Days of Middle-Earth, long before the time of the Hobbits of The Lord of the Rings. If you try and fit all the pieces together, the family trees, the names and places, the historical context, it is quite maddening. I quit that early on and settled down in a good story.
The story focuses primarily on Turin, the son of Hurin, a man and yet one who became the foster-child of an eldar, an elf-king by the name of Thingol, when his father was captured by Morgoth (the satanic force in the Eldar Days.) Turin becomes a mighty warrior, proud but yet one with pity (mercy). His fateful life has many twists and turns, but overall it is tragic. The world is getting darker, beset by Mordor's orcs and a dragon named Glaurung. There are moments of peace and happiness that Turin knows, and yet he seems fated to see whatever good thing he does or touches have a dark lining. All that is good seems to turn to bad in his hand, the result of Mordor's curse on him. And yet, all is not lost -- there is the hope that help will come from Valinor (the place of the Vala (equating, perhaps to angels) one day. But not this day.
Turin's life is one of loss, in many ways. Lost love, lost friendship, lost honor, lost family --- and yet, as in The Lord of the Rings, the unseen hand of providence seems to be at work. Evil is truly evil Good is worth fighting for. Honor matters, as does friendship. Even in the midst of darkness, we are inspired.
If detail matters to you, Christopher Tolkien has provided some context with his preface, introduction, genealogies, and appendices. But read the story first. Enjoy the tale.