Category: J.R.R. Tolkien

book review: The Children of Hurin


Having stuck with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with its numerous names and locations the slimmer Children of Hurin does not at first look like much of a challenge. Add to that the illustrations that are peppered throughout the book by J.R.R.Tolkien and you half expect this to be digested in an single sitting.

It might have been but what made it difficult was getting the head round the family trees and the maps that are helpfully included in the appendixes. There is a story there, about a cursed king and his son and daughter, but it takes time to emerge.

The fact that Tolkien is one of the greatest story tellers is not in doubt but he does make it difficult for a reader that is not necessarily prepared to go into the sort of depth and detail he obviously revels in. It reminded me of those people who not only loved the Lord of the Rings films but had to own the director’s cut and squeeze every minute out of that world.

As a more casual reader it’s a challenge sticking with it. After an introduction by Christopher Tolkien that shows quite clearly how dedicated the son is to his father’s work and vision, you get into something that starts slowly. Even when the basic facts have been established the problem with characters that rove around the place is each new land requires a detailed explanation and the family trees and strings of names come out again.

In the meantime the son wrestles with the curse that prevents him from resting in the kingdom of the elves and takes him out to seek a challenge from the dark Lord that keeps his father chained and captured. The challenge is finally met by a dragon that is slain in a battle that is not finished before the cruel hypnotic beast has informed the son of Hurin that he married his own sister by mistake. Both the children of Hurin end up taking their own lives and the father is released powerless and broken.

That was not quite the ending I was hoping for and although of course the idea that good triumphs over evil is not always a given it does leave you feeling rather cheated when that scenario is not played out. In terms of sparking an interest in the world of Tolkien this might work but the better place to begin is The Hobbit and then the trilogy.

book review: The Children of Hurin


Having stuck with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with its numerous names and locations the slimmer Children of Hurin does not at first look like much of a challenge. Add to that the illustrations that are peppered throughout the book by J.R.R.Tolkien and you half expect this to be digested in an single sitting.

It might have been but what made it difficult was getting the head round the family trees and the maps that are helpfully included in the appendixes. There is a story there, about a cursed king and his son and daughter, but it takes time to emerge.

The fact that Tolkien is one of the greatest story tellers is not in doubt but he does make it difficult for a reader that is not necessarily prepared to go into the sort of depth and detail he obviously revels in. It reminded me of those people who not only loved the Lord of the Rings films but had to own the director’s cut and squeeze every minute out of that world.

As a more casual reader it’s a challenge sticking with it. After an introduction by Christopher Tolkien that shows quite clearly how dedicated the son is to his father’s work and vision, you get into something that starts slowly. Even when the basic facts have been established the problem with characters that rove around the place is each new land requires a detailed explanation and the family trees and strings of names come out again.

In the meantime the son wrestles with the curse that prevents him from resting in the kingdom of the elves and takes him out to seek a challenge from the dark Lord that keeps his father chained and captured. The challenge is finally met by a dragon that is slain in a battle that is not finished before the cruel hypnotic beast has informed the son of Hurin that he married his own sister by mistake. Both the children of Hurin end up taking their own lives and the father is released powerless and broken.

That was not quite the ending I was hoping for and although of course the idea that good triumphs over evil is not always a given it does leave you feeling rather cheated when that scenario is not played out. In terms of sparking an interest in the world of Tolkien this might work but the better place to begin is The Hobbit and then the trilogy.

The Children of Hurin – post IV

Well the curse takes them all to their graves and the dark lord continues to rule with out challenge. Although he does lose his faithful servant the dragon he is not going to lose too much sleep over it and even lets Hurin lose at the end in the knowledge that he can do more harm.

This feels like a start of something and when it does end it is with a sense of slight anti-climax because the story did not quite go according to plan plus with Morgoth still in control there is a real sense that justice has not been done.

At the end there are family trees, maps and appendices about how the book was written. This in a way is more interesting because it shows the love a son has for his father and his commitment to keeping a world that came out of his father’s imagination going. There are notes about when J.R.R wrote the book and how it fitted in with other works he was planning plus an insight into the switch from just being a story told in verse to something that ended up in prose.

A book that is a struggle to get into but then keeps going with a great plot but probably one that the Lord of the Rings fans rushed out to buy quicker than anyone else. Also you can’t help but feel like you a reading a children’s book when people on the train catch you at the moments when the entire right hand page is taken up with one of the illustrations that pepper the book, good though they are.

A review will follow soon…

The Children of Hurin – post III

By now the curse that lies on the children of Hurin is not only bringing doom to Turin but anyone he decides to visit. So there is always a mixed response when he turns up and sure enough the little empires of elves and men start to crumble as Turin wanders through Middle Earth.

He brings death to his friends and manages to provoke Morgoth to bring out not the Orcs but a dragon that has a very cruel streak and managed to bring desolation to Turin and his mother and sister.

What felt like it was building towards a climax when a mixed army or men and elves stormed the Dark Lord’s lands now feels like it is going to end in death and failure. Not quite what you were expecting but maybe that’s refreshing after the success of the climatic battles in Return of the King.

The moral of the story so far seems to be: do your best to avoid curses, particularly from those that happen to go by the nickname of The Dark Lord.

Final chunk tomorrow…

The Children of Hurin – post II

Although this is a story still populated by odd names of characters and locations there is a real plot developing and it is that which keeps you reading on. Turin has blotted his copybook in the land of the Elves after wandering off first put of boredom and then returning to kill one of the King’s council after a row.

He joins up with a band of outlaws to populate the woods but they are driven away from their hunting grounds by orcs and end up getting in a position of hunger and despair so they turn to a dwarf and seek shelter in his home in return for sparing his life.

There are personality stories developing the whole time with Turin managing to fall out with people left right and centre, including for a while the elf who is sent by the King to tell him he is pardoned for killing a member of the council.

All you really want him to do is get to the battle when Turin tries to release his father from the imprisonment of the dark Lord.

More tomorrow…

The Children of Hurin – post I

It is a bit like reading some of those Old Testament passages of the Bible trying to get past the start of this story with the family lines explained. But once the names and the relationships and blood lines have been gone through the action does start to take over and the children of Hurin face their first test as their father and his Elvin friends are crushed in battle by the dark lord Morgoth.

This is a world long before the Lord of the Rings but because of the writing style and the context setting introduction by Christopher Tolkien it feels like an easy extension of the trilogy we all know so well.

Left as a 10 year old boy is Turin the son of the captured Hurin who is sent by his mother to seek safety in the woods to the south inhabited by Elves. The story is unfolding with the all-powerful Morgoth sowing seeds of hate and revenge and presumably Turin will be the one to channel those into a fight.

Hopefully there will be more action and not so many names of fathers, sons and the lands they inhabit.

More tomorrow…