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The Children of Húrin

‘There are tales of Middle-earth from times long before The Lord of the Rings … In that remote time Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in the vast fortress of Angband, the Hells of Iron, in the North; and the tragedy of Túrin and his sister Niënor unfolded within the shadow of the fear of Angband and the war waged by Morgoth against the lands and secret cities of the Elves…’

Christopher Tolkien, introduction to The Children of Húrin

J.R.R. Tolkien started imagining the world and mythology of Middle-earth as early as 1916, and never ceased working on the stories and legends pertaining to this world until his death in 1973. Out of this gigantic and constantly revised legendarium one tale in particular was published, like a window onto a moving landscape, The Lord of the Rings.

The author wished for his third son, Christopher Tolkien, to become his literary executor after his death, and Christopher’s first task was to organize the huge volume of papers that J.R.R. Tolkien had created during his lifetime; the first published work on the subject to appear was The Silmarillion in 1977.

This work is an outline of the story and mythology of Middle-earth in condensed form and, as such, gave tantalizing but very brief accounts of the creation of Middle-earth, the birth of Elves and of Men, and many individual tales of which not least was that of The Children of Húrin and the tragic life of Túrin Turambar.

Christopher Tolkien then pursued his study of his father’s papers and developed in detail the history of the author’s writings and the evolution of the mythical and legendary conceptions in the course of his lifetime, in Unfinished Tales (1980), and the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983-1996). These works contain many unpublished writings by J.R.R. Tolkien, but almost always as fragmented or incomplete versions.

Three ‘Great Tales’ were to be of most considerable importance to J.R.R. Tolkien in his creation of Middle-earth: Beren and Lúthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and The Children of Húrin. As was to be expected, these tales exist in many unfinished and heavily reworked forms. As a culmination of thirty years’ work on his father’s papers, and having already published such fragmentary and condensed forms of the tale of Túrin as part of the development of his ‘History of Middle-earth’, Christopher Tolkien has succeeded in assembling the multiple variants, unfinished pieces, and outlines of the tale to produce a standalone and complete version, entirely in the author’s original words. The work therefore is accessible both as a new and complete version of the text for the Tolkien adept, and as an entirely new tale from Middle-earth for the Tolkien reader who is not overly familiar with the great tales and mythology that are the roots of The Lord of the Rings.

The Children of Húrin takes the reader back to a time long before The Lord of the Rings, in an area of Middle-earth that was to be drowned thousands of years before the story of the Ring, when the great enemy was still the fallen Vala, Morgoth, and Sauron only his lieutenant. This heroic romance is the tale of the Man, Húrin, who dared to defy Morgoth’s force of evil, and his family’s tragic destiny, as it follows his son Túrin Turambar’s travails through the lost world of Beleriand.

The book was published in 2007, it is illustrated with colour plates by Alan Lee, and contains a map drawn by Christopher Tolkien of Beleriand, as well as editorial notes on the text in appendices.