This is the recently released posthumous work by J.R.R. Tolkien who also wrote Lord of the Rings. The Children of Hurin is an elaboration of one of the stories told in the Simarillion about Huron Thalion.
For background purposes I will cover a small portion of the Simarillion. In Middle Earth there were two races- the Elves and men. Elves woke first in Middle Earth. Men woke later. There were three tribes of men: the Haleth, Beor, and Marach. Hurin who was of the house of Marach. Hurin was captured by Morgoth in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears or Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Morgoth placed a curse on Hurin and all his house for refusing to reveal the location of Gondolin. He was taken to a high mountain and given the ability to see all that befell his children- Turin and Neinor.
Hurin was married to Morwen of the House of Beor. They had three chilren: Turin, Lalaith, who died at three, and Neinor, a daughter born after Hurin was captured. This story focuses primarily on Turin, who is the anti-hero.
An anti-hero is a character who will perform acts daring “heroic” acts by using underhanded means rather than the heroic ideals of courage and integrity.
After Hurin’s capture, Morwen decided to sent Turin to Doriath to be protected by the Elven King Thingol and his Queen Melian. Thingol adopted Turin as his foster son and raised him to be a fine Elfen warrior under the tutelage of Beleg. Despite all Thingol and Melian did for Turin, he was always restless to go back to his home in Dor-lómin and free his people from the Easterlings. Turin grew to become a proud,auster man. He left Doriath under a cloud as he was responsible for the death of Saeros, one of Thingol’s counsellors. After fleeing Doriath, he travelled the wild and became part of a band of thieves. After Turin’s innocence in the death of Saeros was shown, Beleg was given permission by Thingol to find Turin and give him the heirloom of his house- namely the Dragon Helm.
After receiving the Dragon Helm, Turin became the scourge of Orc and for a while the land was free of evil. However the “curse” took hold and Turin was betrayed by one of his followers. His band of men save Beleg were killed and Turin was captured and tortured by the Orcs. He was eventually rescued by Beleg, but Turin being in somewhat of a stupor killed Beleg mistaking him for an Orc.
Turin fled to Nargothrond where he became known as the Black Sword. There a female elf named Finduilas fell in love with him; but he did not return her love as she was promised to another, Gwindor. Once again however, Turin’s arrogance got the better of him. He convinced the leader of Nargothrond to abandon the secrecy of the town and construct a bridge before the gates. Despite receiving a warning from Ulmo telling the Nargothrondians to destroy the bridge, Turin left it standing. Morgoth sent the dragon Glaurung to destroy Nargothrond. The evil forces were able to enter the gates by way of the bridge Turin foolishly left standing. As a result Nargothrond was destroyed. As he lay dying Gwindor told Turing that he must rescue Finduilas lest his “Doom” fall upon him. As a result Turin rushed outside the gates to fight the Dragon and rescue Finduilas, but ended up under Glaurung’s spell. The dragon deceived Turin into believeing that his mother and sister (Morwen and Neinor) were in danger in Dor-Lomin when they were in fact safe in Doriath.
As a result, Turin forsook Finduilas and rushed back to Dor-lomin. He found his home destroyed and his mother and sister gone. In anger he killed the Easterling who ruled Dor-Lomin. As a result he doomed his Aunt Aerin, who was the Easterling’s wife, to death. As he left the town, his Aerin killed herself by buring down her house while she remained in it. Turin tried to track down Finduilas only to find out that she had been killed already. He collapsed on her grave and was taken to Brethil.
Mean while news of Nargothrond’s destruction reached Morwen and Neinor in Doriath. Morwen rashly decided to try to find her son, and Neinor followed. Thingol sent a company of Elves to protect them. However the company was sent upon by Glaurung the dragon. Morwen fled never to be found again by the company. Neinor ended up meeting the dragon. Glaurung ended up putting her under a spell by which she forgot who she was. When the Elves found her, they tried to lead back to Doriath but they were set upon by Orcs and Neinor fled into the forest.
Turin changed his name to Turambar and gave up wielding the sword. Eventually Turin found Neinor on Finduilas’ grave. Since she did not know her name Turin called her Niniel. They fell in love and ended up marrying. Shortly after Niniel conceived a child. Glaurung attacked Brethil, forcing Turin to pick up his sword. Turin managed to deal the dragon a death blow but was greviously injured in the process and lost consciouness. Niniel being impatient for news of Turin followed him and found him lying next to the dragon. As she called Turin’s name, the dragon in his last breath removed the enchantment, and Niniel remembered that not only was she Neinor, she married her brother and was carrying his child. In desparation she throw herself over a cliff into the river. Turin regained consciouness later on and discovering what happened to Niniel/Neinor threw himself on his sword and was buried.
At the end of the story, Morgoth let Hurin go. He ended up at Turin’s burial site and there met Morwen who was believed lost. Husband and wife embraced and Morwen died soon after.
I liked the book over all. I found it a much better, easier read than the Simarillion because the pace was slower. The plot was fleshed out more. It’s definitely in the Shakespearean tragedy mode because everyone dies at the end. Tolkien was kind enough to put a family tree in the appendix so that one can understand the relationship between the characters of the First Age and the characters of the Third Age namely Lord of the Rings. This is a book for those who love epics.