Children of Hurin by. J.R.R. Tolkien
Published by HarperCollins, April 2007
Review by Wayne Thomas Batson
If it weren’t for the works of Tolkien, I doubt very much that I would be a published author today. Twenty-six years ago, I first read The Hobbit, and I was absolutely mesmerized by Tolkien’s ability to draw me into the story, both through sympathetic characters and picturesque settings. And more than that, there was a sense of history to Tolkien’s writings that made me feel as a reader that I had stumbled onto a world that had long existed. Tolkien’s canon of writing was not a set of stories written to entertain me, but rather an incredibly entertaining chronicle of the events of an ancient civilization long forgotten by too many of our generation. Since that Summer of 1981, I’ve become something of a disciple of Tolkien’s. I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings about fourteen times. The Professor’s work has profoundly influenced my life and led, I think, to my books being published. So it was with electric anticipation that I awaited the release of The Children of Hurin. I present my review for your consideration. Keep in mind, as with any review, there will be some minor spoilers.
The story concerns the “greatest warrior” of mankind, Hurin and his offspring. During the Battle of Unnumbered Tears where many great warriors are killed, Hurin survives and even becomes a festering sore in Morgoth’s plans for world subjugation. Morgoth, by the way, is the black sheep of the Valar–less than gods, but more like to a powerful angelic beings. To put Morgoth’s evil in perspective, Sauron was one of Morgoth’s servants, described once by Gandalf as a “footstool” of Morgoth. That alone should tell you that Morgoth is seriously bad news.
At the end of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Morgoth captures Hurin and demands to know the secret location of Gondolin, the hidden Elvish city ruled by Morgoth’s last real threat, King Turgon. Hurin, with an inner power unfathomable to most of us, resists—even to the point of mocking Morgoth. But in his malice, Morgoth chooses not to kill Hurin. Instead, he levels a potent curse upon Hurin’s offspring and all those who love them and gives Hurin an everlasting front row seat to watch the misery unfold.
Here the story turns to
If having a story weigh on your heart long after you close its covers is any indication of quality, then The Children of Hurin is a marvelous story. I found myself dwelling on
And one or two things about the packaging of Hurin: Alan Lee has done the cover for the book, as well as, several breathtaking illustrations throughout. For long time Tolkien fans, that alone will prove worth the price of the book. But for any reader who loves fantasy art, you will drool (and perhaps, cry) over these images. Lee somehow manages to capture the emotion of Tolkien’s story over and over again. And, unlike so many other books with illustrations, Hurin manages to put every picture in just the right place. You’ll never find yourself thinking, “Now what’s this picture of?” Just as you read a marvelous scene, boom, the art hits you in the heart and the overall weight of the scene triples.
All this said, there are some negatives I want to point out. But seriously, do not read on unless you want spoilers of a major variety. I’m not kidding. DO NOT read any more of this review if you don’t want to find out what happens in the end.
I said above that I was glad that I read Hurin, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. That must sound strange. But you have to understand, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. No, I’m not a sap who unrealistically wants everything to turn out rosy. I absolutely love how in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien presents heroic victories, but they all come at tremendous cost. Sacrifice, death and suffering—okay, but I still want the victory. Hurin is a tragedy and an intimate, penetrating tragedy at that. Anyone and everyone you will come to love in this story will die and usually in the most gut-wrenching ways. You will be yelling at Morwen,
And after reading Children of Hurin, I am convinced there are things far worse than death. Watching every tragedy known to humankind befall your offspring—being chief among them. Morgoth’s curse so utterly devastated Hurin’s kin that it makes me wonder why he didn’t just throw a curse on ALL of his enemies and then, sit back and watch the mayhem unfold. And about Morgoth: there’s nothing better than having a really bad villain get what’s coming to him. But not in Hurin. Morgoth escapes virtually unscathed. I guess I knew that going in, as Earendil and the Valar take care of Morgoth much later in the history of Middle Earth. Still, I wanted to smack Morgoth with a big war hammer, but it never happens. CoH struck me much like
Wayne Thomas Batson, May 2007