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The Children of Húrin
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Length: 292 pp.
J.R.R. Tolkien, good friend and spiritual mentor of C.S. Lewis and the author of what is probably the most important fiction of the 20th century, The Lord of the Rings, as well as its prologue, The Hobbit, has graced us from beyond the grave with a new novel.
But in stark contrast to The Lord of the Rings, which is for all ages, and The Hobbit, which, while enjoyable by all, was written for children, the ironically titled The Children of Húrin is not for children at all.
The book covers the lives of the children of Húrin, a man, a lord of the Edain who is captured by Morgoth (Middle Earth’s “Satan”, even worse than Sauron), imprisoned and forced to watch everything through Morgoth’s eyes, including his war on Middle Earth.
The Children of Húrin concentrates particularly on his son Túrin as he grows up, sojourns among the elves, falls in with outlaws, and experiences various other adventures, finally culminating in a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions as he joins the war against Morgoth and the dragon Glaurung.
(To put the story in temporal context, Húrin is the brother of Elrond’s great-grandfather. Elrond, many will remember, is an elf and one of the most long-lived characters in The Lord of the Rings.)
Readers of The Silmarillion, a posthumously published collection of assorted tales from Middle Earth that predate anything involving hobbits, will be familiar with much of this story. But Tolkien’s son, Christopher, has brought together finished and unfinished works to create a complete version without having to add anything of his own.
Sadly, some bookstore managers simply look at the title and assume it’s along the same lines as The Hobbit and stock it in the children’s section. It is a brilliant work, written in the same style one comes to expect from Tolkien, but towards the end, it grows rather dark and disturbing, probably inappropriate for most children under the age of 13. For everyone else, considering the author, this is easily the must-read fiction of the year, if not the century thus far.
June 13, 2007