The Children of Húrin

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9780007309368: The Children of Húrin

Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts, this is the first complete, standalone Middle-earth book by J.R.R. Tolkien since The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

It is a legendary time long before The Lord of the Rings, and Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwells in the vast fortress of Angband in the North; and within the shadow of the fear of Angband, and the war waged by Morgoth against the Elves, the fates of Túrin and his sister Niënor will be tragically entwined.

Their brief and passionate lives are dominated by the elemental hatred that Morgoth bears them as the children of Húrin, the man who dared to defy him to his face. Against them Morgoth sends his most formidable servant, Glaurung, a powerful spirit in the form of a huge wingless dragon of fire, in an attempt to fulfil the curse of Morgoth, and destroy the children of Húrin.

Begun by J.R.R. Tolkien at the end of the First World War, The Children of Húrin became the dominant story in his later work on Middle-earth. But he could not bring it to a final and finished form. In this book Christopher Tolkien has constructed, after long study of the manuscripts, a coherent narrative without any editorial invention.

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Review:

"I hope that its universality and power will grant it a place in English mythology" Independent on Sunday

"The darkest of all Tolkien's tales. Alan Lee's illustrations complement the writing splendidly" Times Literary Supplement

“A masterpiece…an extraordinary book. As in The Silmarillion you feel yourself in the presence of a personal genius.” A.N. Wilson, The Telegraph

From the Publisher:

THE CHILDREN OF HÚRIN by ADAM TOLKIEN

I was brought up in France, and although my grandfather died when I was
very young, his work was always very much in evidence at home. My father,
Christopher, the third of J.R.R. Tolkien's four children, according to his
father's explicit wishes, has devoted himself to the publishing of my
grandfather's massive archive of material ever since he began work on the
"Silmarillion" papers in 1974. Ideally suited as he was through his
twenty-five years of experience as a professor of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford,
his work has always been that of the most rigorous editorial discipline. I
have always been impressed by his ability to preserve his father's original
writings as far as possible while applying the deft skill of an editor to
make his volumes readable and not simply a catalogue of unpublished texts,
something I was to learn first-hand when I undertook the daunting task of
translating the first two volumes of The History of Middle-earth for
Christian Bourgois, the French Tolkien publisher. With these books,
complete with Christopher's notes, as well as being able to discover some
otherwise completely unknown tales, readers could begin to understand the
way the author worked, and see how he would write and rewrite, often
revisiting the same stories and passages after many years, keen to refine
and improve his vast mythology, as well as to accommodate into his earlier
writing the fruits of his later invention and to create a complete and
seamless mythology, a saga spanning thousands of years.

Having spent the three years immediately following J.R.R. Tolkien's death
compiling The Silmarillion, Christopher went on to compile the book
Unfinished Tales, followed by the 12-volume The History of Middle-earth,
which was itself to take him 16 years. So when the twelfth volume, The
Peoples of Middle-earth, was published in 1997, it seemed probable that
this was to be Christopher's final book. The book's dedication to my
mother, Baillie, did seem to make it clear that this was a conclusion to a
long labour. But my father is as indefatigable as his father was, and he
had been thinking for a long while of the possibility of a better and more
complete version of one of the major tales from the Legendarium, "The
Children of Húrin", and one that would be closer to his father's vision.

He has explained a little more extensively what had been his intention with
The Children of Húrin :

`It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of The Lord of
the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days (as previously published
in varying forms in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of
Middle-earth) are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and
inaccessible in mode and manner. For this reason it has seemed to me for a
long time that there was a good case for presenting my father's long
version of the legend of the Children of Húrin as an independent work,
between its own covers, with a minimum of editorial presence, and above all
in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions, if this could be
done without distortion or invention, despite the unfinished state in which
he left some parts of it.

`When my father was a young man, during the years of the First World War
and long before there was any inkling of the tales that were to form the
narrative of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, he began the writing of a
collection of stories that he called The Book of Lost Tales. That was his
first work of imaginative literature, and a substantial one, for though it
was left unfinished there are fourteen completed tales. Among the Lost
Tales three were of much greater length, and all three are concerned with
Men as well as Elves: the stories of Beren and Lúthien, the Children of
Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin. In 1951, three years before the
publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, he told of his early intention:
"I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only
placed in the scheme, and sketched."

`It thus seems unquestionable, from my father's own words, that if he could
achieve final and finished narratives on the scale he desired, he saw the
three "Great Tales" as works sufficiently complete in themselves as not to
demand knowledge of the great body of legend known as The Silmarillion.'

Remarkably, considering that the earliest passages in The Children of Húrin
are 90 years old, Christopher's reworking of the book works brilliantly. In
a sense it is not a new book, for versions and pieces of the story will be
familiar to some readers. For example, the whole tale was condensed down
into a single chapter in The Silmarillion, as was the story of The Lord of
the Rings at the end of that book, so what you have here is the
reconstructed version, complete with familiar elements and also pieces that
have never appeared before. (It might be compared to a sort of literary
Director's Cut, the long version of the story assembled from all the best
footage available, though my father probably wouldn't welcome the
filmmaking comparison!)

We are especially delighted that HarperCollins agreed to publish the book
with illustrations, and that the artist is Alan Lee (this was a particular
request on Christopher's part). Alan was commissioned in 1990 to create the
first-ever illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings to mark Tolkien's
Centenary, and his 50 watercolour paintings were to prove more influential
than anyone could possibly have imagined, as Alan then spent five years in
New Zealand working as conceptual designer with John Howe for the Peter
Jackson trilogy. But now he is back, and has created some remarkable new
paintings and pencil drawings for the book, while Christopher has himself
redrawn the map, as indeed he did for The Lord of the Rings more than 50
years ago.

We hope that readers will be sufficiently attracted to the tragic tale of
The Children of Húrin, and will discover the `great tale' that was so
important to J.R.R. Tolkien and then the whole fascinating mythology that
lies behind The Lord of the Rings. It is a testament to my father's skill
as an editor that he has been able to construct a complete narrative
without resorting to writing anything new. The words are one hundred
percent J.R.R. Tolkien's, and for anyone who has read The Hobbit and The
Lord of the Rings, this book allows them to take a step back into a larger
world, an ancient land of heroes and vagabonds, honour and jeopardy, hope
and tragedy.

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