‘The Children of Húrin’ is one of the oldest narratives in Tolkien’s legendarium, being also one of the three Great Tales of the First Age – along with ‘Beren and Lúthien’ and ‘The Fall of Gondolin’.
First published as a single book in 2007, Christopher Tolkien provides us with the full tale without any fragmentations to the narrative or accompanying footnotes. It is a fact though, that some readers were not encouraged by the publication – the reason being that almost three quarters of the text could be found scattered in various other sources, amongst these ‘The Silmarillion’ and ‘Unfinished Tales’.
Nevertheless, to me it proved to be an opportunity to re-read one of the great stories of the First Age from a fresh perspective – enclosed entirely within the covers of one book; accessing a flowing narrative without any interruptions, whilst enjoying Alan Lee’s accompanying artwork.
If you’ve read the story in ‘The Silmarillion’ and/or ‘Unfinished Tales’, you will find it an easy task to read through the text.
Naturally, it is only fitting that a short appendix is also provided by Christopher Tolkien in an attempt to explain the nature of the story and the history of its evolution.
So enjoy vigorously!
– Reading order revised …
I’d just like to point out an issue on the reading order of this book, in relation to the ‘The Silmarillion’ and ‘Unfinished Tales’.
Considering the nature of the story’s structure, it is actually possible to read ‘The Children of Húrin’ without any prior knowledge of any events in ‘The Silmarillion’. Actually, I would urge readers to go through this book first and then tackle ‘The Silmarillion’ later on. The writing style is very similar but as a flow to the story, it would be better to introduce yourself to the ‘grander’ work by starting out with just one story that is still stituated within the framework of ‘The Silmarillion’.
By reducing the amount of characters, locations and pretty much a number of other complex issues, ‘The Children of Húrin’ can be considered as a perfect introduction to the atmosphere, style and reading experience of ‘The Silmarillion’.
Furthermore, it is entirely up to anyone’s choice whether they’d rather read Túrin’s story as a whole and then tackle the fragmentary narrative in ‘Unfinished Tales’ or the other way round. Either way, you’ll be faced with the same story …
However, if you’d rather go through ‘Unfinished Tales’ first, but still don’t want to “spoil” this particular story, you can always skip the relevant chapter and then come back to it after you’ve fully read ‘The Children of Húrin’.
And with that last paragraph, comes the end of my ‘Approaching Tolkien’ series. I’ll be reviewing each of the books in further detail in the future, exposing much of the content of the stories and analyzing particular details.
But for now, I’ll let these posts simmer for a while …
In the meantime, I’ll be tackling a slightly different topic in the next post.
(Illustrations and artwork by Alan Lee)