-the setting of the Evenstar.
In the blog post before this one I quoted Guillermo del Toro as saying that Smaug must be “the dragon.” Well, Glaurung from the Children of Hurin might have a thing or two to say about that. Even though he hasn’t wings like Smaug, his destructive power is awesome, and his dark malevolence even more subtle and wicked.
I read The Children of Hurin last weekend and…wow! If you have read The Silmarillion before you will already know the contours of the story of Hurin and his children, specifically Turin Tarambur, though I did not remember it from my reading and went back and re-read that chapter. Nonetheless, the tale is wonderfully filled out here, put together by Tolkien’s son, Christopher, from existing manuscripts. Christopher Tolkien also edited The Silmarillion.
In The Silmarillion, every thing that one encounters in the LOTR trilogy is bigger and badder. And the good is bigger and purer as well, as well as, sadly, the heights from which some of the good Fall. And, perhaps shockingly, this includes grievious Falls even by many elves.
This sense of a story being played out on a larger canvas, intensified to greater degrees of pathos and tragedy, is even stronger in The Children of Hurin, as the story of Turin is fleshed out with more detail and dialog and descriptions of landscapes, external and internal. And, oh my, the curses and predictions and choices and outcomes are every bit as tragic as a Greek tragedy, and I do emphasize Greek tragedy, because there is very little hope of redemption presented, though there are whispers.
All in all, despite the severely bleak backdrop…no, perhaps because of the severely bleak backdrop, the story is very satisfying. One really gets invested in hoping that Turin can avoid his fate…and then being torn to see it inexorably creep towards him. And, reader beware, some of the more distrubing elements of Greek tragedy (think Oedipus…well, kind of) are also present here, though, in no way valorized.
It all makes the victory and peace won in the LOTR seem all the sweeter, even though not even that story is the final reckoning. Tolkien meant his mythology to be a mythology for England, for our world. And we know the dear and ultimate cost that was paid to heal the wounds from the cacophony of evil that Melkor sang into the world.
P.S. A note on easier reading: If you cannot keep track of the the people and place names as you read, don’t worry about and plow on, though I do recommend having a quick look at the map before reading. Things will become clearer as you go along. And, after reading, perhaps at the end of a chapter or even the end of the book, look at the geneologies in the appendix and the map for greater clarity. The story is worth this mental bother. You must either geek out (I have not done this at least) and memorize the family trees of elves and men and dwarves or be content to follow the something like the procedure I outline above. Do not try to construct family trees in your mind as you go, or it will drive you crazy. Unless you are Rainman.
P.S.S. Here is a little hope for you below [Spoiler Alert!}, in a fantastic painting by John Howe…