Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

Book Reviews Books Media

The Children of Hurin 209

Posted by samzenpus
from the pre-rings dept.
stoolpigeon writes "Throughout much of his life, J.R.R. Tolkien worked on a series of stories set in his well known middle earth. A few he considered his "Great Tales" and he would return to them often, writing them multiple times and in multiple forms. One story that he worked on often over many years was the tale of Hurin and his children Turin and Nienor. Following his death, Tolkien's youngest son Christopher has worked to collect, edit and publish much of what his father wrote but never published. The tale of Hurin's children has been told in part already in some of those works. But it is in this book that for the first time the complete tale is told from start to finish of The Children of Hurin." Read below for the rest of JR's review.
The Children of Hurin
author J.R.R. Tolkien
pages 313
publisher Houghton Mifflin
rating 7/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 0-618-89464-0
summary The complete tale of the children of Hurin
Some insight from what I think of this book is revealed in the fact that I preordered a copy before it was published last year. I was very excited when it arrived, made it about a third of the way through and then set it aside for quite a while. It was just recently that I saw my copy sitting on a book shelf and decided that I would finish it. It really didn't take too much time. The story is not very long. The reason I had trouble was because I had been hoping for something along the lines of "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings", Tolkien's most widely read efforts. They read like most modern novels, whereas much of the material published since Tolkien's death is written in a more classical and frankly, difficult to read style. Christopher acknowledges that those works are perceived in this manner in his preface by stating, "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of 'The Lord of the Rings' for whom the legends of the Elder Days (as previously published in varying forms in 'The Silmarillion', 'Unfinished Tales', and 'The History of Middle-earth') are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner." I have read the first two from that list of three and would say that yes, they are in many ways work to read.

Unfortunately I didn't find "The Children of Hurin" to be much more approachable or easy to enjoy. I think that Christopher's motivation is to bring these tales to a wider audience, but I doubt very much he succeeded. There are a few problems that plague the book. The first is that there is a constant use of proper names, for places and people, that for most readers will be unfamiliar. Not only that, they will be difficult to pronounce. The book does have a small pronunciation guide in the beginning, but the bottom line is that often I felt like I was reading a book written in another language. To some extent it is, Tolkien's own elvish tongue. But without some familiarity or explanation much of it just slides past and makes reading the story difficult. Main characters change names throughout the story and keeping track of it all can be difficult. Here is a short paragraph about Hurin's wife Morwen.

"Hurin wedded Morwen, the daught of Baradund son of Gregolas of the House of Beor, and she was thus of close kin to Beren One-hand. Morwen was dark-haired and tall, and for the light of her glance and the beauty of her face men called her Eledhwen, the elfen-fair; but she was somewhat stern of mood and proud. The sorrows of the house of Beor saddened her heart; for she came as an exile to Dorlomin from Dorthonion after the ruin of the Bragollach."

That isn't an unusual passage. That is the style and much like most of the entire book. Antiquated english with an immense amount of proper names and relationships constantly spread throughout.

The setting is Beleriand, some 6500 years before the events of "The Lord of the Rings". This land would eventually be mostly destroyed in a war that would end the First Age. So the places do not correspond to the landscape of middle-earth in "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings." The main evil in the land is Morgoth. He has come to middle-earth and set up shop in Angband. Hurin, a man, dares to defy Morgoth. Morgoth captures him and binds him to watch what befalls his wife and children that Morgoth has cursed.

This curse and how it works itself out is the redeeming quality of the story. The vast majority of the book focuses on Turin. He is an amazing warrior and leader of men. At the same time he is incredibly proud and rarely listens to anyone else. This failure of character on his part is pushed along by the malevolence of Morgoth and so a flawed man is also trapped in the machinations of an evil power. The working of the story brought to mind the great Greek tragedies. The reader confronts issues of fate and free will. It is a beautiful story, it is just not written in a manner that is going to connect well with a modern audience. And I doubt J.R.R. Tolkien would have ever released it in the present state. This may sound presumptuous on my part. In fact I know it is, but in the first appendix Christopher gives a history of how this tale developed as well as snippets from the other versions that existed.

J.R.R. had begun to tell the story in verse. The small sections of that poetry that are given in the appendix to this work, and that go beyond what was published in "The Lost Tales" is much more descriptive and beautiful than what is given in "The Children of Hurin". Often Children reads more like a history book than a novel. The facts are all there, and at times the life is too. But too often it just feels like a listing of facts about events, people and places.

So how can I rate the book as a 7 out of 10 with all these issues? Well for some people, nothing that gives them more information about middle-earth and its history can be bad. They are probably cursing my name in the tongue of Mordor at this very moment. They loved "The Silmarillion" and they probably adored this work too. I share some of their passion, and despite its weakness, I did enjoy this story, especially once I had moved fully through the telling and could look at the arc of the entire story. It is a work of great skill and though I don't think it is Tolkien's best, it is still much better than many others.

For someone who is a casual fan or answers "I've seen the movies" when you ask them about "The Lord of the Rings", this is not something they would probably enjoy. Getting them "The Hobbit" to read would probably be a more pleasant experience for everyone involved. Or just wait and see if New Line can ever get done with the legal barriers and make a film of that was well.

The edition that I bought and matches the ISBN I've given is a hard-cover with beautiful art by Alan Lee. The cover dust jacket is gorgeous and there are full color illustrations throughout. The appendixes include the history of the tales as I've mentioned, genealogies, a list of names and a map of Beleriand. There is also a preface, slightly longer introduction and pronunciation guide. The preface, introduction and appendixes were all written by Christopher Tolkien.

You can purchase The Children of Hurin from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Children of Hurin

Comments Filter:
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:44PM (#22731014) Homepage
    Christopher Tolkien thanked Guy Kay in the acknowledgements to The Silmarillion [amazon.com] , but it's never been clear to be what Christopher Tolkien was forced to fill in on his own in this posthumous works. What about The Silmarillion or this work is from the hand of another fantasy writer?
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:47PM (#22731056) Journal

      Christopher Tolkien thanked Guy Kay in the acknowledgements to The Silmarillion [amazon.com] , but it's never been clear to be what Christopher Tolkien was forced to fill in on his own in this posthumous works. What about The Silmarillion or this work is from the hand of another fantasy writer?

      He does make it clear in the History of Middle Earth series that the chapter that had to be pretty much written from the ground up was the Fall of Doriath. The only complete narrative of that event dated back to the Book of Lost Tales, and there were serious problems with JRRT's own later envisionment of this key event. To get the Silmarillion to a point where it was publishable, CJRT was forced to write a new version, which he did with Kay's assistance.
      • by STrinity (723872)

        He does make it clear in the History of Middle Earth series that the chapter that had to be pretty much written from the ground up was the Fall of Doriath.
        Not only that, but HoME contains the manuscripts they used to construct the book, so if you want, you can verify that every word is from JRRT's pen.
        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @06:29PM (#22733520) Journal
          It's long been my opinion that the entire HoME series was released for one purpose; and that is as an apologia for the published Silmarillion, and in particular for the Doriath chapter, which CJRT and Kay did write due to the lack of any suitable text by JRRT.

          To be more clear on the problems with the Doriath chapter:
          1. The only complete narrative of this chapter is found in the Book of Lost Tales, which is the earliest phase of the mythos, and would have been completely unsuitable for inclusion in the Silmarillion.
          2. There were serious plotting problems with the outlines that JRRT came up with, in particular how precisely the Dwarves managed to get past the Girdle of Melian to attack and kill Thingol. In all the extant texts, the Dwarves leave after Thingol refuses to surrender the remade Nauglamir (with Beren and Luthien's Silmaril set within it), and then get some pals from the other major Dwarven cities of Beleriand and then get back into Menegroth and murder Thingol. Since everything else ever written about the Girdle of Melian suggests that it was impenetrable to those who Melian or Thingol didn't want in (including Morgoth and his servants), why in the devil could a pack of angry Dwarves get past it.

          In fact, the entire Nauglamir subplot of the Silmarillion is fraught with these problems. It was Hurin (Turin's father) who, after Turin's death, finds the Nauglamir in the ruins of Nargothrond and then himself manages to get through the Girdle of Melian and into Doriath, not just alone, but with a bunch of guys with him!

          This seems to have been a major stumbling block for JRRT's completion of the Silmarillion. The Nauglamir is key to the final episodes in the Silmarillion because it is this "necklace of the Dwarves" in which the Dwarves of Nogrod set Beren and Luthien's Silmaril. It is after Thingol's murder that Beren and Luthien recover the Silmaril and after their death, it is passed on to their son Dior and from him to his daughter Elwing, and ultimately to Earendil, a major figure in the mythos who, in the published work, ultimately gets only a couple of small chapters because, ultimately, JRRT could never make it work.

          CJRT and Kay's solution to the Fall of Doriath solves a number of the problems (though not all of them), and without it, there really could not have been a published Silmarillion. There's a sideways admission of it in the Foreward of the Silmarillion ("as much the son's work as the father's"), and there is an ultimate admission in the release of the final versions of the Silmarillion that JRRT worked on in (as I recall) Volumes 10 and 11 of HoME of the fact that the Fall of Doriath was entirely CJRT's and Kay's writing. It did take him until almost the end of HoME to finally admit it openly, so I think there was some shame there, in that he didn't try to work with some of the possible solutions that Tolkien was rolling around in the late 1950s and early 1960s before the interruptions caused by the 2nd editions of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and JRRT's total reworking of the cosmography of the mythos ultimately made it impossible for the old man to finish it himself.
          • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @09:45AM (#22738390)
            The Girdle of Melian, though powerful, was never intended to stand against a great force assailing it. Lost Tales mentions as such that the orcs would eventually grow powerful enough to take Doriath, now that they had conquered everything else North of it.

            As for Huor slipping past, she also specifically noted that the Girdle could not block those with a destiny greater than her own (like Beren). And obviously Hurin bringing the Nauglamir was an important enough event to grant him passage.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bkaul01 (619795)
      In this work, Christopher Tolkien is very clear about what his role was: choosing which version of his father's words to use. All of the words are J.R.R. Tolkien's. The Silmarillion does not deviate far from that standard, either. It's the Histories of Middle Earth where you'll find much of Christopher's own writing ... and then, it's typically a recounting of the history of the writing of the epics by his father, more often than it is actual "Middle Earth mythology" in a direct fashion.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:44PM (#22731026) Journal
    It's been out for a year.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

      by andawyr (212118) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:53PM (#22731130)
      He's the first one to finish it.....

      I agree with much of what he said in the review - I tried to read The Silmarillion, but just couldn't get into it. I too was expecting a LOtR experience, was was very much disappointed by what I found.

      I'm certainly not alone.
      • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:55PM (#22731168) Journal
        I read it within a couple of days of getting it (I got it Father's Day). Of course, I'm a bit of a JRRT buff, and I've the HoME series from start to finish twice. My problem is that it's simply a merging of the two major versions of the story, and nothing particularly new. It's rather like a Who's greatest hits compilation, one song different, but other than that all the same.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Cesium12 (1065628)
          Well, HoME is pretty much a collection of stories with commentary. It's not a proper novel, and it is somewhat intimidating, because of the huge body of work and correspondence Tolkien amassed. There may be nothing new for devoted fans, but it's a self-contained book and slightly more approachable.
          • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @04:08PM (#22732066)
            That's why it's a huge pile of fail.

            There's a ton of new stuff in HoME that's separate from Silmarilion (and Unfinished Tales) that could be threaded into the story without contradicting what we already know. Just off the top of my head from the beginning of Lost Tales:

            -the magical alloy "tilkal" invented by Aule, used in the chain to bind Melkor
            -expansion of the last fruit/leaf of the two trees and how they were crafted into the Sun and Moon
            -I'm sure there was something about foretelling the moon/sun chase being responsible for letting Melkor back into the world through the Gates of Morning

            "Editors" will say not everything that the author comes up with should be put in the end product, but Chris Tolkien seemed determined to give us everything. So why not spend the time to weave it all into the story, work in what you can, and where versions conflict, just pick the best aspects?
        • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by andawyr (212118) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:02PM (#22731266)
          Well, you're certainly ahead of me :-) I doubt if I'll ever read it, let alone buy it.

          I remember quite clearly the huge excitement when it was announced that 'Children' was going to be published - I also remember thinking that a lot of people were going to be disappointed when the book was released, since I *knew* that it was going to be 'unreadable' for most people.

          I haven't heard much about the book since it was released, so I think my assumption about the popularity of the book was correct. To 'true' fans, 'Children', and all other books by JRR will always be popular; to the general populace, The Hobbit and LoTR are pretty much it.

          It's somewhat sad, since JRR created a huge amount of content. However, when it's written in a style that's as difficult to read as his 'other' books are, they'll remain, for the most part, obscure.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rucs_hack (784150)
            The one incarnation of his work that I enjoy is the bbc radio adaption of Lord of the Rings. All bar the singing, which is hideous.

            Aside from that I find his work laborious to read, and not sufficiently entertaining to warrant the effort. Most of it seems like a required reading exercise, and the extreme attention to detail, which I am sure some enjoy, comes across as an extended history lesson, not entertainment.

            I suspect it takes a real passion for his work to read everything he wrote. I appreciate his ta
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            "It's somewhat sad, since JRR created a huge amount of content. However, when it's written in a style that's as difficult to read as his 'other' books are, they'll remain, for the most part, obscure."

            I have always felt that Tolken, while great at making up interesting people, places and events, was a rather crappy writer. His books were unnecessarily difficult to read, often long winded, and the stories seemed fractured. I understand that he had very detailed ideas about what his stories looked like, b
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            It's not hard to read. It's just not possible to understand it if you start reading The Children of Hurin. You need to read the Silmarillion before.
            • It's just not possible to understand it if you start reading The Children of Hurin. You need to read the Silmarillion before.

              Reading between the lines I see that you appear to imply that its possible to understand the Silmarillion?

              Or are you saying that reading the Silmarillion, even though it cannot be understood either, you are more likely to understand this?

              If so, is there something one can read in order to be able to understand the Silmarillion?

              Because I've 'read' the Silmarillion (if it can properly be
        • by alta (1263)
          I'm about half way through HoME which I got this christmas. Very enjoyable, although I often find myself thumbing to the index to find the 'other' names for people or places. Yes, a lot of folks, Turin especially, have 3-6 names throughout the tale.
        • I read it between that evening and the next day after I got it (and I pre-ordered it, as well). I've read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and many other books as well. I found The Children of Hurin to be more of an expanded version of what it was in The Silmarillion/Unfinished Tales, and I loved it. No, it's nothing particularly new - what do you expect, it's not like Christopher is actually rewriting the story. His dad already wrote it; Christopher can't add to the story. I'd much rather read s

          • My point is that I already own all the material via the History of Middle Earth for which this version is cobbled. Most of it, in fact, is pretty much from the Unfinished Tales version.
        • by ozbird (127571)
          It's rather like a Who's greatest hits compilation, one song different, but other than that all the same.

          Ah, a Led Zeppelin greatest hits: "The Song Remains The Same". (Ironically on the second CD of "Remasters", which is mostly forgettable - the first CD rocks, though.)
      • by abigor (540274)
        The Silmarillion was far and away my favourite Tolkien work - well, the Ainulindale was a bit of a slog, but the rest of it is sublime.
        • I loved The Silmarillion as well. My favorite work by the good prof. Only part that was difficult for me was "Beleriand and its Realms". Now *that* was a slog - a 20 or so page geography lesson.

          As for the book review I have a problem with this:

          Well for some people, nothing that gives them more information about middle-earth and its history can be bad. They are probably cursing my name in the tongue of Mordor at this very moment. They loved "The Silmarillion" and they probably adored this work too. I share some of their passion, and despite its weakness, I did enjoy this story

          If you don't like The Silmarillion, it's probably best that you don't review Tolkien's even more obscure work. The farther you wander from The Hobbit, the deeper the water gets.

      • I as well. It reminded me of reading the Old Testament, only made up. (As Tolkien was described as a devout Roman Catholic, that really doesn't surprise me.)

        Yet, placed in the proper context, I found that the particular tone found in the Silmarillion makes for a nice change-of-pace in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, usually found when Elrond goes off into one of his stories, or Tolkien himself uses that tone as an aside to the reader.

        I could see myself reading The Hobbit to my kids someday when I have
        • Some of my favorite memories were that of my Mom reading The Hobbit (and to a lesser extend, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) to us as bedtime stories.

          I'll never forget this one time - she would read the character voices high pitched if it was a hobbit speaking, and low pitched for Gimli. She got them backwards once and ended up making Frodo sound all gruff and low pitched... we still laugh about that today.
      • Try it again in a few years. Worked for me.

        I guess you need to let it settle in for a bit, to get a grip on the massive amount of story, before you can read it through. Pretend you already know the story and just reading a summary. After all, that's really what it is.

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:46PM (#22731838) Homepage Journal
        I read The Hobbit to my seven year old son, which he liked tremendously. As soon as we finished, he immediately asked, "Is there a Hobbit II?"

        Questions like that just make you want to sigh. It is sad that Tolkien finished so few books.

        They say Tolkien was the kind of writer who never let go of a manuscript until it was ripped from his unwilling hands. "Hobbit II" was exactly what LotR started out to be; it ended up being the final episode of the Silmarillion, bringing to an end the Elvish presence in Middle Earth.

        Think about that. Practically every chapter in the Silmarillion would be an entire LotR sized work, if it were expanded to the scale it had in Tolkien's head. The story of the Children of Hurin is not exception. It wants to be over a thousand pages of lush mythopoetic prose. What it is, as published, is a couple of hundred pages of story sketches reworked into reasonably acceptable narrative consistency.

        Furthermore, it is not finshed by a writer with J.R.R. Tolkien's gift for language. It's not that there aren't occasional bad pieces of prose in LotR, which in a work that size is not surprising. But there is so much that is so elegantly written and perceptively detailed in it. Reading the Silmarillion, and The Children of Hurin, is like reading a plot synopsis of a great opera. Some operas have better plots than others, but it's never the plot that makes them great.

        Some day, when the works have gone into the public domain, there may be writers who successfully turn their hand into finishing the pieces from Tolkien's mythology. Sadly, most of us will not live to see that day.

        • by Evil Pete (73279)

          I always wish he had shifted focus after LOTR and turned the Tale of Luthien and Beren into a full novel. But he probably wouldn't have anyway, too personal I guess ... since he regarded his wife as Luthien. Luthien and Beren could have been even better the LoTR: after all how does a couple of small humans throwing a ring into a volcano compare against two lovers, one immortal single handedly recovering a Silmaril from incredibly powerful Morgoth (Sauron was just one of his stooges) and defying death itself

        • Some day, when the works have gone into the public domain, there may be writers who successfully turn their hand into finishing the pieces from Tolkien's mythology. Sadly, most of us will not live to see that day.

          I have never understood this Geek obsession with derivative works.

          We do not need more of Middle Earth. We need writers of talent who have faith in their own creative vision.

        • by 2.7182 (819680)
          Actually, if you look at the SIlmarillion, the Lord of the Rings is described in about 2 pages.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tubs (143128)
        The Silmarillion is a story that spans thousand of year with casts of hundreds - some of which are mentioned only a couple of times though they crop up at major times. There's also the problem (that I find) of many names being similar - Finrod, Fingon, Fingolfin, Finarfin.

        But, I would say two things - get a Middle Earth Glossary and persevere.

        The Silmarillion is a magnificent collection of legands of middle earth - full of love, honour, betrayal, greed, power, sadness, despair and hope.

        It will take you 10
    • by sdedeo (683762)
      I've just gotten finished burning all the books of mine published in 2007. Can't have any of those clogging up the house! Tomorrow I go for a memory erasure to make sure I don't think about them very much (or, hopefully, recall them at all.)
  • Beren and Luthien (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sam_paris (919837) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:53PM (#22731136)
    I always loved the story of Beren and Luthien as told in the Simarilion and if any new book was compiled by Christopher I would prefer it to be a fuller and more expansive telling of this story. Although I can't complain about hearing more about Hurin and Turin..
    • The problem with this (and The Fall of Doriath chapter is the exception) is that CJRT does not write or expand stories within his father's creation. The Beren/Luthien story was never really fully told beyond the earliest version from somewhere around 1916-1918. The later versions are rather short and to the point, which is pretty much why the published version is cobbled together from.

      Quite frankly, probably the greatest loss, to my mind, are the planned large expansions that JRRT was going to make to the
  • Hard to read.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kazrath (822492) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:55PM (#22731170)
    The review indicates it was a hard book to get through because of the dialog used. I found that all of Tolkien's books were very difficult to read. I used to pick up the Hobbit if I was having difficulty sleeping and would be out cold after 10-15 pages. I find his over descriptive style very boring to read yet, I recognize that his accomplishments have enabled many of my favorite writers in creating some of my favorite stories/books. If it were not for Tolkien, the Fantasy/Adventure genre may have never taken.

    • Re:Hard to read.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dzimas (547818) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:13PM (#22731434)
      The Hobbit is as close as Tolkien got to writing a children's book, replete with witty asides throughout. My father was an English teacher, and he read it to me while we lived not far from the Bird and Baby, where he and the other members of the Inklings gathered for years. I was seven years old at the time, and it enthralled me. I recently read it to my son, and he enjoyed all save the most tedious passages. That said, English is not my wife's first language and she refused to read a word of it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MGROOP (926053)
        I know you are probably referring to his stories on Middle-Earth. However, he did write other things, and one can only be described as a children's story:
        Roverandom [amazon.com]
        You may want to check wiki [wikipedia.org] on this as well. It mentions several other children's books. However, I have only read the one.
      • by initialE (758110)
        Also check out Roverandom [wikipedia.org]
    • by jizziknight (976750) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:14PM (#22731448)
      Over descriptive? Seriously? Have you ever read The Tale of Two Cites? The Hobbit is a children's book compared to that. The Lord of the Rings is a harder read (especially The Fellowship of the Ring), but is still relatively simple compared to some of Dickens' books, and some of the other so-called "classics."

      As a side note... has it ever occurred to anyone else that maybe the reason certain books are "classics" is because of school teachers requiring all their students to purchase and read those books year after year? I mean, if it weren't for being forced to read them in school, I would never have read The Tale of Two Cities, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, etc. How many people would really go to a bookstore, pick up one of those and think, "Wow, this looks like a really interesting, enjoyable read. I think I'll buy it"? I doubt not nearly enough for them to be considered "classics."
      • by Dutch Gun (899105)
        Or Moby Dick. A single chapter describes Ishmael's room. Another chapter? Walking down the street to the ship. For ~560 pages of difficult text, very little in the way of action actually happens in that story.

        I actually hadn't read The Lord of the Rings trilogy until a few years ago. I was surprised at how light a read it was, especially compared to some of the classic I remembered from my school days.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sir.Cracked (140212)
          So, by that measure, Neal Stephenson should be an Instant Classic!!

          An entire chaper describing the proper process of eating Capt. Crunch, a significant (10 pages or so) fragment of erotic fiction. Cryptonomicon should be required reading in schools!!!
        • by anagama (611277)
          I really like Melville. He was way ahead of his times on a social level. For example, in the last book I read "Typee" (semi-autobiographical), he seriously trash talked the Missionaries and such who came to the South Pacific in an effort to "civilize" the natives, turning a relatively stable and easy existence into one of disease, hardship, and death. This isn't to say he failed to recognize that peoples of the S. Pacific could also be cruel, just all those who came to civilize the place were much much w
      • by Abcd1234 (188840)
        What? I picked up Frankenstein on a whim, and it's a fantastic book. As is Nicholas Nicholby, The Scarlet Letter, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and a number of other so-called "classics" that I've read. And my English training ended at the close of my mandatory courses in University.

        Just because *you* don't like them doesn't mean they aren't great pieces of literature. Many require knowledge of their context to truly appreciate, and many certainly require an appreciation of writing as a form, as well as a medi
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by oldwindways (934421)
        You may have a point in that the appeal of many "classic" works of literature is simply not there for grade school students. Personally I was never a fan of Dickens, something I attribute to the fact he was paid by the word and so tended to go on interminably. That being said, some classic stories have timeless themes which appeal to young minds. I take exception to your categorizing Frankenstein with the work of Dickens and Hawthorne; to a young man with an interest in science, the idea of creating a su
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        The important thing to remember about Dickens' work is that the stories were originally serialized. They were meant to be read in short bursts over the course of many many months. If you read them that way, they're wonderfully entertaining stories.

        How many people would really go to a bookstore, pick up one of those and think, "Wow, this looks like a really interesting, enjoyable read. I think I'll buy it"? I doubt not nearly enough for them to be considered "classics."

        Funny, because that's exactly what
        • I loved Tale of Two Cities and I usually re-read it every 2 years or so and I never had to read it in school. The very descriptive style really puts me into the time about which Dickens was writing. Action is great, but sometimes you just want to really 'be there'.

      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        How many people would really go to a bookstore, pick up one of those and think, "Wow, this looks like a really interesting, enjoyable read. I think I'll buy it"? I doubt not nearly enough for them to be considered "classics."

        *raises hand*

        Moby Dick, Tale of Two Cities, Juneteenth, Bridge over San Luis Rey,... Some people like to read. More over some of those books you were forced to read in school are (*shock and awe*) actually good books.

        Has it ever occurred to anyone that some books are assigned ye

      • Replying to myself instead of each one individually...

        I agree with most of your points, the classics do generally contain intriguing story lines, are thought provoking, etc. I was commenting mostly on the style in which they are written. I love to read, and enjoy many different genres. But a lot of the books that are labeled as classics are very difficult reads. Most of them, if I were not forced in some way to read them from beginning to end, I would have put them down after the first few chapters and neve
        • by Angostura (703910)
          The style is something that you get used to, that you have to give yourself time to adapt to. Rather like trying to read Ian Bank's Scottish dialogue. It's not too tough once you get into the rhythm of the text.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kismet (13199)
      I felt the same way when I was a first-time Tolkien reader.

      May I suggest that literacy does not merely consist of "knowing how to read words?" Children are inexperienced with literacy even when they know the mechanics of reading, because the language often fails to convey the intended ideas and sentiments. What good are prose and eloquence when these devices result in confusion and boredom?

      Some people do not understand visual art. They have not developed a sense for it. Others can't fathom fine cuisine, hav
    • by Speare (84249)

      I find it kind of irritating that so many people today find books like the Silmarillion to be so difficult they won't finish it. While I'm not accusing you of being a lightweight, I do see more and more "literature" catering to the simpler tastes instead of challenging the reader.

      Few students bother reading Shakespeare in high school anymore. I did, and I enjoyed it, and I am glad I tried it. I got the jokes, I saw the ways that various scenes were metaphors for the human condition, I felt like I was i

  • by instantkarma1 (234104) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @02:59PM (#22731214)
    I hear he uses an antiquated writing style and BIG words, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Shakespear was a hack.

      There I said it and I'm glad.
    • And not in the last century.
    • This was not on the level of Shakespeare.
      I very much enjoy Shakespeare's poetry.
      Much of the Shakespeare that people read was never intended to be read. It is meant to be seen, and I do enjoy that as well.

      That was funny - but just thought I'd make the distinctions.
  • For those versed with the more colorful aspects of the German language, Huren is the plural of Hure, meaning whore....

    So, Children of Whores? I know, unintentional, but entertaining nonetheless.... even with it being HurIn, not HurEn....

    • by rpresser (610529)
      Considering that Turin ends up shtupping and impregnating his sister Nienor, almost apropos.
      • There's a nice long history of incestuous couplings in German history and literature. Siegelinde and Sigmund of Die Valkure for one, which is of course based on earlier germanic legends...

        And sorry Star Wars fans, Luke and Leia are borrowed right out of this tradition. Fortunately Lucas had the common sense to put in Han Solo to foil their germanic destiny...

        PS Even John Williams 'leitmotifs', musical themese for characters, in the soundtracks borrows heavily from Wagner's approach in The Ring Cycle.
  • by slashbart (316113) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:12PM (#22731402) Homepage
    and the second time it was enjoyable.

    That was 28 years ago though, when I once read the Lord of the Rings in one go, between 21:00 and 04:30. That was nice (I skipped the poems though).
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:15PM (#22731464) Homepage
    The problem is that Children of Hurin has little plot, coherence, or structure. I wrote about it here [wordpress.com], which sums my (negative) feelings about the book.
    • Considering that it's pretty much yanked out of the Silmarillion and put on its own, it's little wonder. Still, one must remember that JRRT was, to some degree, emulating the Classical and Medieval chroniclers like the Venerable Bede, in that they were reporting history, rather than laying out stories. There is a key difference, and unless one is used to the style that he invoked in the Silmarillion, it's not going to make much sense.

      I happen to like that style, but I still feel the book was somewhat poin
  • by Dave21212 (256924) <dav@spamcop.net> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:21PM (#22731554) Homepage Journal
    Sorry Mr. Peck, but that was the most schizophrenic review I have ever read :) I can't decide if you love it or hated it. Perhaps you should stick to reviewing the latest Walkman or Digital Photo Frames [amazon.com] :)

    "it is just not written in a manner that is going to connect well with a modern audience"
    - Shall I suggest the comic book, or the new blog version perhaps ? (just kidding)

    I've read nearly everything in the series, and this book matches up well to the style and stories that you'll find in The Similrillion or Lost Tales. If you enjoyed those, especially Lost Tales, you may enjoy Children of Hurin. Yes, it's not a style that mimics the latest J.D. Robb, but then it isn't supposed to, that's one of the things that appeal to me about the text.

    • I beg to differ, as I stated here [slashdot.org].

      The individual sections of The Silmarillion at least had some narrative cohesion behind them and some development, however minor, of the characters, and it was also designed more a history than a story. This made it different from LOTR and also showed enough narrative to demonstrate how Tolkien could have made it into a real novel; Letter 347 shows that Tolkien continued to work on The Silmarillion or on similar material to the end of his life.

      Children of Hurin is closer

      • I'm not sure how you can justify this, considering this book is largely taken from the 1950s version of the Turin saga (to be found in the Book of Lost Tales), which is simply an expanded rewrite of the 1930s version. To make this clear, the version of the Turin saga found in the published Silmarillion is also largely the 1930s version (with, as I recall, a bit of the Grey Annals tossed in). I mean, you could pretty much take the BoLT/Children of Hurin version and drop it into the published Silmarillion w
    • I loved it and hated it. It is a beautiful story - locked in a format that makes the reader work too hard to get the beauty out. If I had not grown up a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien I'd have probably not cared for it at all. And I'm getting a few jabs about "Oh noes, it's too hard!" but the truth is I'm not stupid. I'm no genius but I do love good literature and can work through stuff that is not considered lower shelf. Probably one of my favorite books of all time is Anna Karenina. But I enjoy fluff no
    • That's exactly what the review said.
  • I really enjoyed it. There's not a whole lot of material out there about the First Age aside from the Silmarillion. Though it does overwhelm the reader with proper names and places, I found myself flipping back to the map to remember where places were.

    But all in all, I enjoyed it.
  • If you can follow it, or take the time to read it very carefully (like you need to do with most of Tolkein's works) it isn't a half bad book.

    The point tha talways drove me nuts though was Turin. Was it just me, or did it seem like whenever the narrator wasn't looking Turin was jacking up on HGH and steroids. His mannerisms put roid-rage to shame.
  • by WeirdJohn (1170585) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:59PM (#22731996)
    What many fail to notice is that the language used in the Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin is very similar to that in The Tale of Arwen and Aragorn (found in the Appendices to The Return of the King).

    Tolkien was not an author of fantasy stories most of the time - he was a Professor of Languages at one of the oldest Universities in the world. He was one of the authorities on Dark Age Germanic, Scandinavian and Celtic Languages and History. He was also one of the main contributors to The Oxford Dictionary, which will probably turn out to be his greatest literary accomplishment in a hundred years or two.

    The fact is that people will either enjoy the archaic language forms used by Tolkien, or they will hate it. It is a great story (if somewhat depressing), but is not, nor is it intended to be, a story about Hobbits, nor is it a gentle read like Farmer Giles of Ham. Personally I enjoy fiction that forces me to slow down and 'enjoy the scenery', rather than race through to the conclusion, but then I enjoy Russion Science Fiction for the same reasons.
    • by Shadowmist (57488)
      As I understand it, The saga of the family of Hurin was inspired by the Greek tales of the House of Atreus, a set of Greek tragedies. (something that Frank Herbet would eventually attach to be the root of his Atreides family in Dune)
  • "Hurin wedded Morwen, the daught of Baradund son of Gregolas of the House of Beor, and she was thus of close kin to Beren One-hand. Morwen was dark-haired and tall, and for the light of her glance and the beauty of her face men called her Eledhwen, the elfen-fair; but she was somewhat stern of mood and proud. The sorrows of the house of Beor saddened her heart; for she came as an exile to Dorlomin from Dorthonion after the ruin of the Bragollach."

    First it should be Bregolas of the House of Beor, and not Gregolas. Morwen is the granddaughter of Bregolas, a Lord of the House of Beor. Beren is Bregolas' nephew, thus making Morwen and Beren first-cousins once-removed. Because of her beauty she is also called Edhelwen.

    Dor-lómin is the land that she was exiled to. She was originally from Dorthonion, a region that overrun by Morgoth during the Dagor Bragollach (Battle of the Southern Flame).

    Interestingly her relationship with Beren makes her Elrond's second cousins twice removed and also first cousin three times removed.

  • The story that provides the backdrop for The Children of Hurin has always been one of my all-times favorite tales. The style is different, but more epic in scope, and more heroic in nature than his earlier published works, which, ironically, take place thousands of years (and two ages) later in the same world as does this one. That said, I also got this when it was first released, and read it quickly, and was unable to identify any significant changes or additions to what had been published in The Silmarill
  • Tolkien deliberately wrote in an "antiquated" manner in order to make the stories seem authentically old, as he was inventing an ancient history. He also had no intention of publishing his works, as far as I can recall. The Hobbit was a sidebar in the Great Story, and LOTR was requested by Allen & Unwin as "more about Hobbits" (obviously only the first and last few chapters fulfill this).

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The only problem I had was identifying Turin through his numerous name ch

  • by reidconti (219106) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @05:05PM (#22732706)
    I know I'm going to get modded down for this...

    and I'm not complaining about this item being posted, because I don't expect all articles to interest me (and it clearly is news for nerds)...

    But seriously, why are nerds so caught up in weird fantasy stories? Whenever religion comes up, Slashdotters decry the made up fairy tales of the bible (or whatever holy book), calling all followers ignorant morons. Yet they fall all over themselves to hear about some elf boy's magical adventures in Neverland Ranch.. er, wait, Middle Earth. My bad.

    Double standard? Is it because readers of fantasy books understand that it's fantasy, where readers of holy books take them too literally?

    • How is enjoying a fantasy story a double standard as compared to not believing in a religion. Are you that logically challenged?
  • I'm a long-time fan of Tolkein's - JRRT to be precise, but I have a great appreciation for what Christopher has accomplished for the rest of us.

    I first read as many did, "The Hobbit", as a.... young teen perhaps, and though it was actually a tougher read than LOTR, it was definitely enjoyable. LOTR of course got me through high school, much to the consternation of my teachers who regularly tried to catch me up when they knew I'd been reading in class, only to fail when I was able to replay their question

  • I read The Children of Hurin soon after it was released. As the reviewer and others have commented, it's not an easy read. I was deeply disappointed in the book because I found it extremely dark, depressing and pointless. The main characters are doomed by the curse. As I recall, everyone dies. I finished the book and regretted reading it. The only high point were the lovely illustrations. I used to work with a guy who was a big fan of dark Russian novels, especially the work of Dostoevsky (Crime and

  • I am a Spanish speaker. I really enjoyed LoTR books in Spanish, therefore, when in Canada, I tried the Silmarilion in English... Better not! While my English is acceptable (296/300 in my ToEFL, much worse 3 years after the fact), I could not get past the ancient english.

    From then on I read every Tolkien book (silmarilion, unfinished tales, lost tales) in Good Spanish translations and enjoyed each and every one. The trick is that they use FORMAL Spanish to translate the ancient english, instead of ussing ANC

"A car is just a big purse on wheels." -- Johanna Reynolds