Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Narn I Chîn Húrin: The Tale of the Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien

Warning for librarians: the title on the jacket does not agree with the title page. This has already caused confusion placing reserves. Booksellers and the press are using the cover title. Some library catalogs are using the title page title.

The story of Middle Earth continues, as Christopher Tolkien has edited more of his father J.R.R. Tolkien’s early writings and gives us Narn I Chîn Húrin: The Tale of the Children of Húrin. Húrin is lord of Dor-lómin in a hard time when men and elves fight the evil strength of Morgoth, the dark lord of the north. Morwen is his wife and mother of Túrin, Urwen, and Niënor. After her husband is captured by Morgoth, she sends her son Túrin to live with the elves in the hidden realm of Gondolin. These events take place long before the events in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Readers of the Silmarillion may remember the outline of the story, which I will not reveal. In The Children of Húrin the story is greatly expanded and readers learn why Túrin and Niënor wander into the dangerous lands of the west. In the new work (a really old work) there are also dwarfs, orcs, and a dragon that does not fly, but no hobbits. Compared to the Silmarillion, the new book is easy reading, as there is a constant narrative and clear line of action. There are many names, as every major character has several, but readers are clearly told when names change. Christopher Tolkien provides a glossary of names in the back of the book.

Tolkien fans will enjoy the epic story and the great writing. They may come to agree with Beleg, an elf of Doriath, who says, “Alas! Child of men, there are other griefs in Middle-Earth than yours, and wounds made by no weapon. Indeed I begin to think that Elves and Men should not meet or meddle.”

Readers will also enjoy the wonderful illustrations of Alan Lee.

Every library should have this book.

Tolkien, J.R.R. Narn I Chîn Húrin: The Tale of the Children of Húrin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. ISBN 0618894640

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