The Children of Húrin

The New Book "The Children of Húrin" Edited by Christopher Tolkien
Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:12 pm

:lol: I don't think it will convince anyone!

I'm really, really enjoying this book - for some reason the cold bleak style appeals to me. Maybe I'm just into gloom at the moment. The more I read the more I can see how sparing Tolkien is with his words in this, but how every single word is made to count. I think it's superbly written - but in a completely different way to LoTR. In it's own way it works just as well as a piece of storytelling.

But Turin is impossible to like, let alone love. His constant pig-headedness against Thingol and his foster home against all reason is maddening. Is Turin's difficult personality, with all his worst points honed by his circumstances, the real reason he's doomed? All Morgoth's designs would be undone if Turin had been different. Bad luck does seem to engineer things against him but his real fate is written in how he deals with the fall out, which is very, very badly!

I think there is a whole essay in here :D .
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Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:11 pm

That's why I have such a hard time with Tolkien's choice of Turin to be Morgoth's "executioner" at the End of Arda. If you haven't read The Lost Road and Other Writings, here is what the Professor envisioned, but never completed for publication:

Thus spake Mandos in prophecy, when the Gods sat in judgement in Valinor, and the rumour of his words was whispered among all the Elves of the West. When the world is old and the Powers grow weary, then Morgoth, seeing that the guard sleepeth, shall come back through the Door of Night out of the Timeless Void; and he shall destroy the Sun and Moon. But Earendel shall descend upon him as a white and searing flame and drive him from the airs. Then shall the Last Battle be gathered on the fields of Valinor. In that day Tulkas shall strive with Morgoth, and on his right hand shall be Fionwe, and on his left Turin Turambar, son of Hurin, coming from the halls of Mandos; and the black sword of Turin shall deal unto Morgoth his death and final end; and so shall the children of Hurin and all Men be avenged.

Thereafter shall Earth be broken and re-made, and the Silmarils shall be recovered out of Air and Earth and Sea; for Earendel shall descend and surrender that flame which he hath had in keeping. Then Feanor shall take the Three Jewels and bear them to Yavanna Palurien; and she will break them and with their fire rekindle the Two Trees, and a great light shall come forth. And the Mountains of Valinor shall be levelled, so that the Light shall go out over all the world. In that light the Gods will grow young again, and the Elves awake and all their dead arise, and the purpose of Iluvatar be fulfilled concerning them. But of Men in that day the prophecy of Mandos doth not speak, and no Man it names, save Turin only, and to him a place is given among the sons of the Valar.


Morgoth did specifically curse the House of Hurin and actively work for its undoing, but as Iolanthe mentioned above, so many of Turin's woes were actually caused by his own pride and willfullness and bad judgment. I have such a hard time seeing how Turin can be worthy of being given a place "among the sons of the Valar."

For me, the more logical candidate for Turin's role in the Last Battle is Elrond. As Half-Elven, he would symbolically avenge the evils of Morgoth against both Elves and Men. And I feel that of all of Tolkien's characters, Elrond is by far the most aggrieved. During the course of his life, he suffered the loss of virtually every family member and foster-father he ever knew due to evil initiated by Morgoth's theft of the Silmarils and the evil of his chief lieutenant Sauron -- Earendil, Elwing, Elros, Maglor, Gil-Galad, Celebrian, Arwen, and potentially Elladan and Elrohir as well, since Tolkien does not tell us about their final decision. And unlike Turin, Elrond led an extraordinarily exemplary life, making wise and difficult decisions, and sacrificing his personal happiness for the good of all.

Then again, the role of "executioner of Morgoth" does seem ill-suited to the temperament of Elrond, the chief healer of Middle-earth, and a better fit for the rash and bloody-minded Turin. I just wish that afterwards, Turin would be sent beyond the circles of the world with the rest of his kin, rather than be granted a place among the sons of the Valar. Just doesn't seem appropriate to me. Turin, of all people, and not Aragorn?

Your thoughts?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:39 pm

Lots of good points there. I've always wondered why Turin, alone of men, goes to the Halls of Mandos, then lives with the Sons of the Valar instead of sharing the fate of Men (weren't the 'sons' one of Tolkien's dropped ideas?).

He doesn't seem worthy to me either - ungrateful, pig-headed, rash, too single minded to really see or understand what's going on around him. As you've said, it does make him a good executioner. But.... do we want Morgoth to die at his hands or at the hands of a more worthy hero? But then, does Morgoth deserve a more worthy hero? An Elrond or an Aragorn? Maybe Turin's grim, headstrong will is more fitting. Maybe being kept in the Halls of Mandos isn't an honour but recognition that he is the perfect tool to give retribution. Fate turning back on the one who gave the original curse. But I'd rather see Hurin do it really :-k.

Maybe when Tolkien wrote about the last days he saw Turin as evolving differently - was it written before the Unfinished Tales version? Maybe he started out a hero in the manner of Kullervo, but Tolkien wanted to make him more sympathetic and somehow couldn't. Characters take on a life of their own and sometimes even their creators can't go against them and bend their character and destiny to their will.
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:38 pm

And nasty Feanor plays a role, too! Let's think like theologians and see this as a tale of redemption: Turin and Feanor get one last chance to play a role in setting things right?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:23 pm

Merry, I actually have a much easier time understanding Feanor than I do Turin. Feanor was a brilliant, creative, free-thinker, and Melkor knew just how to manipulate him by insinuating that the Valar were treating the Eldar like children, keeping them in a gilded prison in Valinor so that Middle-earth could instead be taken over by Men. Just the right poison to ensnare a willful, freedom-loving spirit like Feanor.

Also, Feanor had poured so much of his creativity and soul into The Silmarils. They were the pinnacle of his achievements, and he knew he would never be able to duplicate that singular effort. After the loss of the Two Trees, he had to have felt that the Valar brought this upon themselves by foolishly releasing Melkor from bondage in Mandos. Now these irresponsible beings were asking him to destroy his own creations in order to restore the Two Trees.

Not only that, but in the next moment he learns that his beloved father Finwe had been slaughtered by Melkor in order to obtain the Jewels at a time when Feanor had been called before the Valar to answer for drawing his sword against his brother. He blamed the Valar for Finwe's death and the theft of the Silmarils, deeming that they had brought this disaster upon the Noldor by being less than watchful over the evil Melkor.

At this point, Feanor basically goes mad, and the rest of his sorry tale proceeds from that madness -- The Oath, the Exile, the First Kinslaying, the abandonment of Fingolfin and his people, the crazy attack on Angband that resulted in his unrepentant death. Just one mad piece of folly after another.

I'm not saying I condone Feanor's actions. Far from it! But I understand him and pity him much more readily than I do Turin. Creative geniuses are prone to madness, and Feanor has many positive qualities that Turin completely lacks. There is no creativity in Turin, only destruction.

In the end, after spending many, many ages in the Halls of Mandos, Feanor is given the opportunity to do what he should have done to begin with -- relinquish the Silmarils for the benefit of all. Perhaps Tolkien's intention is that Feanor at last learns humility during his time in Mandos, and I think that is just.

Turin as Executioner makes some sense; his sword, originally made by Eol, had a malicious spirit, and would be the appropriate means for Morgoth's execution. Perhaps Turin learned something during his time in the Halls as well. Though, I agree with Iolanthe that Hurin would have been a better candidate, especially given that Morgoth forced Hurin to witness Turin's sorry plight.

But giving Turin a place among the sons of the Valar afterwards? That just doesn't seem right. He should fulfill his role and then go beyond the circles of the world to be reunited with his family.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:49 pm

Interesting retelling of the tale, Lindariel! Can we blame Feanor's actions on madness? That would make him less than responsible for them. Yet, in one of the letters, Tolkien calls the Oath the 'original sin' of the elvish race and 'blasphemous'. I find his actions more problematic than those of Turin.

My point, though, was that Tolkien was thinking of a way to make these persons, a man and an elf, fallen yet of heroic stature, one last chance, "at the end of all things", to redeem themselves and their stories by taking part in the last acts of salvation in his mythology. It's interesting that Morgoth does not get such a chance.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:41 pm

I do not have the depth of knowledge displayed here concerning these characters from Tolkien's early ME sagas and I am finding this discussion so very informative. Wonderful insights.

Please continue and give us more. :D
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:01 pm

I've been reading the Chapter Turin in Nargothrond and it seems some idea that Turin would eventually bring retribution to Morgoth is allowed to come into this story. This is poor Finduilas to Gwindor:

If any of us three be faithless, it is I: but not in will. But what of your doom and rumours of Angband? What of death and destruction? The Adanedhel [Turin] is mighty in the tale of the World, and his stature shall reach yet to Morgoth in some far day to come.

I get the impression here that Turin always had a greater destiny: 'mighty in the tale of the World', one that his pride, bad luck and Morgoth's curse thwarts. But in the end the will of Iluvatar is greater than all three and he fulfills that destiny.

As an aside, I just have to say how much I like the drawing of Turin seen in the eye of Glaurung - looking just like the dragon's pupil unless you look close. If you look really close you can make out the dwarven helmet on his head!
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:18 pm

As is often said here, ya gotta love Tolkien! All his little hints and interweavings and details--good reading, Iolanthe. I also find it interesting that you are starting to warm to this tale more. Maybe I should attempt a second reading before the summer is over.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:01 pm

Merry wrote:My point, though, was that Tolkien was thinking of a way to make these persons, a man and an elf, fallen yet of heroic stature, one last chance, "at the end of all things", to redeem themselves and their stories by taking part in the last acts of salvation in his mythology. It's interesting that Morgoth does not get such a chance.


Oh, I definitely agree that Tolkien's intention was to give Feanor an opportunity to redeem himself. However, I see Feanor's duties at the End of Arda as being far more redemptive than Turin's. I agree with Iolanthe that Turin seems to be used as a tool, a means to an end, rather than taking part in a redemptive act. In fact, his is an act of vengeance, not redemption.

Mostly, I just don't agree with Tolkien's choice for Turin's ultimate fate. What has Turin done to deserve the distinction of being named one of the "sons of the Valar?" Wouldn't he be happier to be rejoined with his family beyond the circles of the world after having spent all those Ages in the Halls of Mandos? Isn't that a more fitting "reward"?

Perhaps the Professor had problems with this, and other issues, as well, and it may be why this tale of Namo's prophecy for the End of Arda was not included in the published version of The Silmarillion.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Thu Jun 28, 2007 12:27 am

Yeah, it is sort of hard to prove anything when we're using these non-canonical sources. I can just hear JRRT kind of snorting and rolling his eyes that we're trying to make sense of his notes. 8)

I can see what you mean when you say that Turin killing Morgoth is vengeance and not redemption. But it might be seen as a kind of saving-the-world action in a non-Christian or pre-Christian world, couldn't it? And if 'beyond the circles of the world', the Valar and elves and humans and everybody get together, as Aragorn hoped, maybe Turin could be happy then. But it is kind of hard imagining Turin happy, isn't it? :cry:
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:57 pm

Hee, Merry! And Hee, again! Turin does seem to court misery, doesn't he?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:24 pm

Yes, definitely, hee!

This sort of fits in with my musings today (as I was cleaning out the garage!). I was thinking of Iolanthe liking CoH, enjoying the spare language and general gloom. (Hey, doing okay over there, Iolanthe?) And I was thinking of JRRT as a young man writing this tale.

I don't know about most academics, but the ones I know, including me, felt that they were at the height of their technical skills right out of grad school. Maybe at the time of the writing of the Turin tales, his reading of the old sources and the connections he was making as a linguist were really blossoming. (That makes it all the more grievous if CT changed crucial language to appeal to a modern audience, as Beren says.)

But while I was a better academic in my twenties, I might be a better thinker now. I think I see more of the big picture of life (while my grasp of the details seems to be diminishing, unfortunately!). Tolkien lived a lot of life in the years between Turin and Frodo. Presumably his 'big picture' included a way to live through the losses of his youth and to become a loving husband and parent, a good friend, a devoted teacher, a faithful person.

In particular, the concepts of eucatastrophe and of the greatness of the small, everyday person and action seems to be absent in the tale of Turin and present in LOTR. To me, they make a huge difference. Not that he turned into a Pollyanna--Frodo's way was not easy and his redemption a matter of debate--but the new tale has hope.

Any other huge differences?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Fri Jun 29, 2007 2:10 pm

Excellent thoughts to ponder, Merry!

I think there are other issues to consider as well. As we know, The Professor was attempting in these tales to create an English mythology of the world that includes references and themes from all of the major mythologies and fairy tales of Europe. Turin's tale hearkens back to the various ancient Norse mythologies (and the iterations of that mythology reflected in the Volsunga sagas, the Niebelungenlied, and eventually Wagner's Ring Cycle) and the Finnish Kalevala.

These pre-Christian cultures had a fatalistic outlook on life, and this is rather admirably reflected in Turin. From Turin's point of view, his fate is pre-determined. He is cursed, and everything he does -- whether he rails against it, flees from it, laughs in the face of it, or tries to work against it -- only serves to push him inexorably toward destruction. No wonder he is harsh, reckless, arrogant, etc.

Turin's culture is a much earlier culture than the cultures we experience in LOTR. Ages have passed since Turin's fateful encounter with Glaurung and Nienor and Turin's subsequent suicides. The culture of Men has changed and grown and developed significantly. Certainly, Aragorn does not share Turin's fatalistic outlook on life.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that through these characters Tolkien is showing us how cultural philosophies (strongly resembling those of early Europe) have evolved in his pre-historic Middle-earth.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Fri Jun 29, 2007 3:29 pm

Yes! I can see that difference, too, Lindariel. I wonder if, in addition, Tolkien himself had a more fatalistic view on life as a younger man. The stupidity of WWI and the deaths of his friends might have contributed to that view. But he seemed to work out certain areas of freedom as he matured.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.


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