I never expected Tolkien to write a story as dark and tragic as the one portrayed in The Children of Hurin.
First, a full disclosure that might anger Tolkien fanatics. Despite the fact that I’ve watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy more than ten times, I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t able to finish reading The Fellowship of the Rings because I was extremely bored with it. It’s most likely because the movie has tainted me with its fast pacing, I have no idea why but the book was so boring that it drowsed me to sleep several times, not even halfway. I also failed to finish The Silmarillion. Twice I almost made it halfway—the first time was more than ten years ago, the second time was just a few days ago—and twice I just can’t bare through it anymore. Throughout the years, I have asked some fans of Tolkien whether it’s absolutely necessary to read (not watch) the main trilogy and The Silmarillion first before attempting the three Great Tales of Middle-Earth. Some said as long that I have watched the movies and have the basic knowledge from the first half of The Silmarillion or some thorough Wikipedia research (which I did on both account), it should be enough. Heck, some even said it’s better to not read The Silmarillion first for maximum experience of going in blind. Of course, there were also some that weren’t kind—some even felt offended only Morgoth knows why—by the idea that I’m reading The Silmarillion or attempted this without actually reading the main trilogy first. Guess what? I’m going to offend them more because I finished this book without reading The Silmarillion or The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I super loved it.
Picture: The Land of Bow and Helm by Alan Lee
With that knowledge in mind, I’ll make this review shorter than my usual reviews because I really think a lot of readers will do a better job than me in explaining the importance and connectivity of this tale to Tolkien’s main work. The Children of Hurin is one of the three Great Tales of Middle-Earth written by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien, the son of Tolkien. The Children of Hurin is relatively a short book. Excluding the preface, appendices, and glossary, the main content is only 200 pages long. What’s interesting though is how much depth and story was able to be told within 200 pages. Most of the story line revolves around the curse bestowed upon the children of Hurin, specifically the story of Turin Turambar that started from his childhood.
“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
I knew close to nothing about this book when I started it and I think it’s the best way to enjoy this book. All I did know was that the story was dark and tragic, but I never know how brutal it gets. Although the beginning was a bit rough, I still think the prose was able to grab my attention so much more than the prose in The Silmarillion. Don’t get me wrong, the writing style was still similar but The Silmarillion felt too much like reading a bible. I love reading history but the Bible is another different matter. In my opinion, The Children of Hurin was more approachable and I found the second half of the book to be full of engaging drama, heartbreaking twists and turns, intensely gripping storyline, and utterly unputdownable.
“False hopes are more dangerous than fears.”
Lastly, I also want to praise Alan Lee’s illustrations. The prose itself already offered a very atmospheric experience and Lee’s illustrations enhanced the immersive atmosphere even more. It was really easy for me to feel like I was inside a dark myth of Middle-Earth when I was reading through this book.
Picture: Glaurung by Alan Lee
I have no idea whether finishing the ‘required’ reading would actually enhance or diminish my reading experience. But for now, all I can say is that overall I found this book to be superb and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything from what I’ve read here. I highly enjoyed reading The Children of Hurin. Excluding a few mixed feeling on the beginning of the book, this was a fantastic and atmospheric reading experience.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)