Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien








Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






Readers who loved The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit need to prepare themselves for a darker tale with tragic heroes if they choose to read The Children of Hurin. Christopher Tolkien, son of the author, collected the pieces of this story told by his father, but not published until now. Set in a period of time long before The Hobbit, in the first age of Middle Earth, Turin and Nienor are The Children of Hurin, who was a great warrior who confronted Morgoth, the force behind Sauron, the well-known force of evil from the other tales. Turin is a complex character, and Tolkien presents his story with a completeness and insight that isn’t often present with other Tolkien characters. This is  dark story, packed with tragedy and despair. Not recommended for kids. Here’s an excerpt, from the end of Chapter 4, “The Departure of Turin,” pp. 75-79:


Now Turin was made ready for the journey, and he bade farewell to his mother, and departed in secret with his two companions. But when they bade Turin turn and look back upon the house of his father, then the anguish of parting smote him like a sword, and he cried: ‘Morwen, Morwen, when shall I see you again?’ But Morwen standing on her threshold heard the echo of that cry in the wooded hills, and she clutched the post of the door so that her fingers were torn. This was the first of the sorrows of Turin.

Early in the year after Turin was gone Morwen gave birth to her child, and she named her Niënor, which is Mourning; but Turin was already far away when she was born. Long and evil was his road, for the power of Morgoth was ranging far abroad; but he had as guides Gethron and Grithnir, who had been young in the days of Hador, and though they were now aged they were valiant, and they knew well the lands, for they had journeyed often through Beleriand in former times. Thus by fate and courage they passed over the Shadowy Mountains, and coming down into the Vale of Sirion they passed into the Forest of Brethil; and at last, weary and haggard, they reached the confines of Doriath. But there they became bewildered, and were enmeshed in the mazes of the Queen, and wandered lost amid the pathless trees, until all their food was spent. There they came near to death, for winter came cold from the North; but not so light was Turin’s doom. Even as they lay in despair they heard a horn sounded. Beleg the Strong-bow was hunting in that region, for he dwelt ever on the marches of Doriath, and he was the greatest woodsman of those days. He heard their cries and came to them, and when he had given them food and drink he learned their names and whence they came, and he was filled with wonder and pity. And he looked with liking upon Turin, for he had the beauty of his mother and the eyes of his father, and he was sturdy and strong.

‘What boon would you have of King Thingol?’ said Beleg to the boy.

‘I would be one of his knights, to ride against Morgoth, and avenge my father,’ said Turin.

‘That may well be, when the years have increased you,’ said Beleg. ‘For though you are yet small you have the makings of a valiant man, worthy to be a son of Hurin the Steadfast, if that were possible.’ For the name of Hurin was held in honour in all the lands of the Elves. Therefore Beleg gladly became the guide of the wanderers, and he led them to a lodge where he dwelt at that time with other hunters, and there they were housed while a messenger went to Menegroth. And when word came back that Thingol and Melian would receive the son of Hurin and his guardians, Beleg led them by secret ways into the Hidden Kingdom.

Thus Turin came to the great bridge over the Esgalduin, and passed the gates of Thingol’s halls; and as a child he gazed upon the marvels of Menegroth, which no mortal Man before had seen, save Beren only. Then Gethron spoke the message of Morwen before Thingol and Melian; and Thingol received them kindly, and set Turin upon his knee in honour of Hürin, mightiest of Men, and of Beren his kinsman. And those that saw this marvelled, for it was a sign that Thingol took Turin as his foster-son; and that was not at that time done by kings, nor ever again by Elf-lord to a Man. Then Thingol said to him: ‘Here, son of Hürin, shall your home be; and in all your life you shall be held as my son, Man though you be. Wisdom shall be given you beyond the measure of mortal Men, and the weapons of the Elves shall be set in your hands. Perhaps the time may come when you shall regain the lands of your father in Hithlum; but dwell now here in love.’



Thus began the sojourn of Turin in Doriath. With him remained for a while Gethron and Grithnir his guardians, though they yearned to return again to their lady in Dor­lómin. Then age and sickness came upon Grithnir, and he stayed beside Turin until he died; but Gethron departed, and Thingol sent with him an escort to guide him and guard him, and they brought words from Thingol to Morwen. They came at last to Hurin’s house, and when Morwen learned that Turin was received with honour in the halls of Thingol her grief was lightened; and the Elves brought also rich gifts from Melian, and a message bidding her return with Thingol’s folk to Doriath. For Melian was wise and foresighted, and she hoped thus to avert the evil that was prepared in the thought of Morgoth. But Morwen would not depart from her house, for her heart was yet unchanged and her pride still high; moreover Niënor was a babe in arms. Therefore she dismissed the Elves of Doriath with her thanks, and gave them in gift the last small things of gold that remained to her, concealing her poverty; and she bade them take back to Thingol the Helm of Hador. But Turin watched ever for the return of Thingol’s messengers; and when they came back alone he fled into the woods and wept, for he knew of Melian’s bidding and he had hoped that Morwen would come. This was the second sorrow of Turin. When the messengers spoke Morwen’s answer, Melian was moved with pity, per­ceiving her mind; and she saw that the fate which she fore­boded could not lightly be set aside.

The Helm of Hador was given into Thingol’s hands. That helm was made of grey steel adorned with gold, and on it were graven runes of victory. A power was in it that guarded any who wore it from wound or death, for the sword that hewed it was broken, and the dart that smote it sprang aside. It was wrought by Telchar, the smith of Nogrod, whose works were renowned. It had a visor (after the manner of those that the Dwarves used in their forges for the shielding of their eyes), and the face of one that wore it struck fear into the hearts of all beholders, but was itself guarded from dart and fire. Upon its crest was set in defiance a gilded image of Glaurung the dragon; for it had been made soon after he first issued from the gates of Morgoth. Often Hador, and Galdor after him, had borne it in war; and the hearts of the host of Hithlum were uplifted when they saw it towering high amid the battle, and they cried: ‘Of more worth is the Dragon of Dor­16mm than the gold-worm of Angband!’ But Hürin did not wear the Dragon-helm with ease, and in any case he would not use it, for he said: ‘I would rather look on my foes with my true face.’ Nonetheless he accounted the helm among the greatest heirlooms of his house.

Now Thingol had in Menegroth deep armouries filled with great wealth of weapons: metal wrought like fishes’ mail and shining like water in the moon; swords and axes, shields and helms, wrought by Telchar himself or by his master Gamil Zirak the old, or by elven-wrights more skilful still. For some things he had received in gift that came out of Valinor and were wrought by Fëanor in his mastery, than whom no craftsman was greater in all the days of the world. Yet Thingol handled the Helm of Hador as though his hoard were scanty, and he spoke courteous words, saying: ‘Proud were the head that bore this helm, which the sires of Hürin bore.’

Then a thought came to him, and he summoned Turin, and told him that Morwen had sent to her son a mighty thing, the heirloom of his fathers. ‘Take now the Dragon­head of the North,’ he said, ‘and when the time comes wear it well.’ But Turin was yet too young to lift the helm, and he heeded it not because of the sorrow of his heart.


More sorrow follows on the pages of The Children of Hurin, and also more satisfaction for readers who enter again into Tolkien’s fantasy that provides a backdrop for insights into our human condition.


Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2007



Buy The Children of Hurin

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2007 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





*    2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2007 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/The Children of Hurin.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth AvenueOak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com