The Children of Hurin

glaurungs eye.jpg
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…
turambar.jpg

Hobbit Forming

Smaug-Tolkien2.jpg
By the sound of this transcript of an Internet Q & A session with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, it looks like the Hobbit is in pretty good hands. It is not going to be a children’s movie, but that might have been a little much to expect. As for the bridge film planned for after the Hobbit connecting it to the LOTR which they filmmakers will write on their own with hints from Tolkien, we will have to see about that one.
Here are some excerpts. Yeah, I geeked out the other day and read the whole thing:
Guillermo del Toro: I hope that Mirkwood can be pretty scary but not graphic, I hope
Riddles in the dark has an element of fear and suspense and to be
deeply atmospheric but still allow the ingenious, engaging contest to
take place. And Smaug should be all shock and awe when he
unleashes his anger so, it will be pretty intense but not gorey.
Question – In the Hobbit book, we have talking trolls and the Eagles and
Smaug talks as well, however in the LOTR Trilogy, trolls did no
more than grunt, Fellbeasts screamed, and the Eagles, who were
meant to talk, just stayed silent. How much will the portayle of such
animals change in the Hobbit?
Guillermo del Toro: I think it should be done exactly as in the book- the “talking beast” motif has to exist already to allow for that great character that is
Smaug. It is far more jarring to have a linear movie and then – out of
the blue – a talking Dragon….
We’ll see about the “Tra-la-la-“ later- but the book, I believe, in
echoing the “loss of innocence” England experienced after WWI, is a
passage form innocence to a darker, more somber state- The visual /
thematic progression should reflect that in the camera style, color
palette, textural choices, etc.
Guillermo del Toro:
Smaug should not be “the Dragon in the Hobbit movie” as if it was
just “another” creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be “The
DRAGON” for all movies past and present. The shadow he cast and
the greed he comes to embody- the “need to own” casts its long
shadow and creates a thematic / dramatic continuity of sorts that
articulates the story throughout-
In that respect, Smaug the CHARACTER is as important, if not more
important, than the design. The character will emerge form the
writing- and in that the Magnificent arrogance, intelligence,
sophistication and greed of Smaug shine through-
In fact, Thorin’s greed is a thematic extension of this and Bilbo’s
“Letting go” and his noble switching of sides when the dwarves prove
to be in the wrong is its conceptual counterpart (that is a hard one to
get through, Bilbo’s heroism is a quiet, moral one) and the thematic
thread reaches its climax in the Bilbo / Thorin death bed scene.

Hobbit Forming

Smaug-Tolkien2.jpg
By the sound of this transcript of an Internet Q & A session with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, it looks like the Hobbit is in pretty good hands. It is not going to be a children’s movie, but that might have been a little much to expect. As for the bridge film planned for after the Hobbit connecting it to the LOTR which they filmmakers will write on their own with hints from Tolkien, we will have to see about that one.
Here are some excerpts. Yeah, I geeked out the other day and read the whole thing:
Guillermo del Toro: I hope that Mirkwood can be pretty scary but not graphic, I hope
Riddles in the dark has an element of fear and suspense and to be
deeply atmospheric but still allow the ingenious, engaging contest to
take place. And Smaug should be all shock and awe when he
unleashes his anger so, it will be pretty intense but not gorey.
Question – In the Hobbit book, we have talking trolls and the Eagles and
Smaug talks as well, however in the LOTR Trilogy, trolls did no
more than grunt, Fellbeasts screamed, and the Eagles, who were
meant to talk, just stayed silent. How much will the portayle of such
animals change in the Hobbit?
Guillermo del Toro: I think it should be done exactly as in the book- the “talking beast” motif has to exist already to allow for that great character that is
Smaug. It is far more jarring to have a linear movie and then – out of
the blue – a talking Dragon….
We’ll see about the “Tra-la-la-“ later- but the book, I believe, in
echoing the “loss of innocence” England experienced after WWI, is a
passage form innocence to a darker, more somber state- The visual /
thematic progression should reflect that in the camera style, color
palette, textural choices, etc.
Guillermo del Toro:
Smaug should not be “the Dragon in the Hobbit movie” as if it was
just “another” creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be “The
DRAGON” for all movies past and present. The shadow he cast and
the greed he comes to embody- the “need to own” casts its long
shadow and creates a thematic / dramatic continuity of sorts that
articulates the story throughout-
In that respect, Smaug the CHARACTER is as important, if not more
important, than the design. The character will emerge form the
writing- and in that the Magnificent arrogance, intelligence,
sophistication and greed of Smaug shine through-
In fact, Thorin’s greed is a thematic extension of this and Bilbo’s
“Letting go” and his noble switching of sides when the dwarves prove
to be in the wrong is its conceptual counterpart (that is a hard one to
get through, Bilbo’s heroism is a quiet, moral one) and the thematic
thread reaches its climax in the Bilbo / Thorin death bed scene.

Amazing

Wow, an uncontacted tribe. There are evidently 100 of them in the world, with over 50 of these in Brazil. Can you imagine their conversations at dinner that night. This all seems a bit like something out of Star Trek. And, clearly, this photo-taking is a violation of the Prime Directive, and even though Piccard meant well, he will have to be reprimanded.
Seriously, though, wow!

Amazing

Wow, an uncontacted tribe. There are evidently 100 of them in the world, with over 50 of these in Brazil. Can you imagine their conversations at dinner that night. This all seems a bit like something out of Star Trek. And, clearly, this photo-taking is a violation of the Prime Directive, and even though Piccard meant well, he will have to be reprimanded.
Seriously, though, wow!