|Submitted by Dylan Wilkerson |
(Jul 02, 2008)
The Children of Hurin was a personal revelation. Even though I tried to read the Silmarillian a few times when I was a kid, I had found it to be very difficult to understand. I was left feeling almost intimidated by the language and unable to wrap my head around a whole new geographical setting for a story about Middle Earth. The Children of Hurin brought the world of the First Age into clearer focus for me, and I was enraptured. As a result, I read and loved the Silmarillion! I encourage any LOR fan who has not connected with the Silmarillion to read this.
The saddest part about it all to me is that the introduction explains that J.R.R. Tolkien had worked on the legends surrounding the First Age for years. He considered it more of a hobby than anything else (he was a very accomplished scholar). I can understand why his later project, The Lord of the Rings, was more accessible to publishers. The hobbits connect with the reader and function as a lighter introduction to the fascinating world that Tolkien created. The Children of Hurin has a much heavier, almost more ancient tone.
With a feeling more reminiscent of an Old English epic poem or Finnish mythology than a modern fantasy novel, Tolkien weaves a tale that is both haunting and strangely familiar. Like Sophocles' Oedipus, Hurin is cursed by divine forces. His family suffers. When you try to imagine Tolkien's inspirations, you can't help but wonder about the role of his WWI experience in shaping his bleak outlook about violence, revenge and conquering. The First World War triggered an existential crisis throughout Europe, it made people pause and wonder how such an "enlightened" society like Western Europe could unleash such terrible carnage upon itself. Whatever his personal motivation, something amazing has appeared from the vaults of J.R.R. Tolkien and we should be happy.
It's true that long-time fans of the Silmarillion might find this version of Children of Hurin to be simply an expanded take on versions that have already been published in different forms, the Lord of the Rings fan who isn't acquainted with the wonders of Tolkien's First Age should read this book and let the fun begin.