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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**CoH Discussion** I. The Childhood of Túrin: 1. Ancestry
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Jun 26 2007, 12:20am

Post #126 of 135 (768 views)
Your Majesty! [In reply to] Can't Post

All hail a.s!. Queen of the Smilies!

We bow before Her Royal Highness, and her great wisdom!

DoN, I'd just like to add my voice to a.s.'s (and to NEB's) in order to say that I don't think anyone is out of their league here. Everyone brings something to the discussion, like you did when you compared the style of CoH to the tone of a picture -- that was a new way of looking at it for me, and I never would have run across that idea unless different people with different experiences were offering their opinions here. I apologize to you or anyone else if my insistence on talking about sagas has made it look like I'm trying to hog all the expertise. I've just been trying to explain my preferences based on some of my reading experiences, but as I've said elsewhere in this crazy, confusing thread, I don't expect everyone to like the same things I do or to agree with me. The great thing about TORn is that there are so many different points of view here and different areas of knowledge. I feel like I'm always learning something new. And I think that some of us just like to argue. But leaving the discussions only makes this a poorer place, so please don't lurk.

(You know, these smilies are addictive, a.s.)

Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens

Jun 26 2007, 12:43am

Post #127 of 135 (758 views)
ROTHFL [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope I used the right letters...first time I used that acronym.

I just got to say I love your smilies. Where is the world did you find them.

Curious didn't make me feel any particular way...I just get felt that if I could be so easily misunderstood that someone could think I was calling 'people' ignorant, (a word I despise deeply for my own reasons), then I obviously don't know how to express myself very well.

I already know that I have trouble with debating, especially when it concerns argument, justifying position, debate, and all that sort of thing that debaters use. That is just so way over my head. I can only speak from my own experience, and suddenly that didn't feel good enough.

I didn't say I would leave...just lurk, and perhaps post from time to time. I don't see that as leaving.

And thank you so much for your encouragement. I really do love the Reading Room.

**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Jun 26 2007, 2:03am

Post #128 of 135 (812 views)
Let me rephrase. [In reply to] Can't Post

Making things difficult for people is not the way to win a mass audience, and I do believe that with The Hobbit and LotR Tolkien wanted to win a mass audience. That was obviously not his primary goal when writing The Silmarillion.

Have you read historical novels like Robert Graves', Claudius?

But since I responded to you I have realized that Tolkien's archaic style does not bother me as much as his feigned historical style.

Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 26 2007, 3:38pm

Post #129 of 135 (747 views)
Proper beginning of discussion [In reply to] Can't Post

I would say that now we reached the point when we can begin to discuss Tolkien's style. To discuss whether it will be popular or not makes no sense - this will be shown by the number of books sold. It is also clear that Tolkien knew how to write popular prose; and that in Children of Hurin he didn't attempt that.

As for artificial style and language - both Paradise Lost and Faery Queen were written in invented pseudo-archaic language (and also criticised for that). I hope we are agreed that the bare fact that the book is written in consciously selected style and language (as opposed to the instinctive language of the writer) is not, by itself, the reason to criticise it.

With that assumption it is possible to attempt the evaluation of the way Tolkien (or rather, both Tolkiens) executed that idea. Criticising eg the stringing together of sentences beginning with "And" or "But" is useless, I judge - they belong to that style. But we can always judge the execution and the overall effect.

I am, for one, not at all persuaded that this execution is quite perfect. It would be in fact very strange if it did, taking into account the history of the book.

N.E. Brigand

Jun 26 2007, 4:40pm

Post #130 of 135 (776 views)
"consciously selected style and language" [In reply to] Can't Post

 I am in general agreement with you, but I think we've already been doing that: comments on whether Tolkien's style appeals to a wide audience appeared late in this discussion, as an outgrowth of earlier remarks on specific aspects of his style that respondents here found good or bad.

Criticising e.g. the stringing together of sentences beginning with "And" or "But" is useless, I judge -- they belong to that style.

There's a slippery slope: any questionable aspect of Tolkien's "style" could be excused from criticism on the grounds that it is appropriate to some general stylistic mode.

Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Jun 26 2007, 4:47pm

Post #131 of 135 (764 views)
After all this discussion, though, [In reply to] Can't Post

I re-read the first chapter and found that I liked it. I like the archaic style, and I'm even okay with the fact that it starts with a family tree and a couple of historical detours before we get to Turin. I think the beginning of the story places it within the larger legendarium of The Silmarillion, which which many readers are now familiar. Those who don't know The Silmarillion may be confused about the details, but still get the idea that there is a larger legendarium out there into which this story fits. If I have reservations about Children of Hurin, they do not begin in the first chapter -- at least not strong reservations.

I'll see how it goes as we continue this analysis chapter by chapter, but right now I would say it isn't so much any particular chapter to which I object, but the cumulative effect of the whole book. Just as I start to get interested in Turin the child, we jump to Hurin's battle. Just as I start to get interested in Hurin and Morgoth, we jump back to Turin and Morwen. Just as I start to get interested, we jump to Doriath, and then to the outlaws, and then to Mim, and then to Beleg, and then to Nargothrond, and so on throughout the book.

The only thing holding it all together is Turin, and Morgoth's curse. Is that enough to make up for the constantly-changing cast of characters and scenery the somewhat repetitive failures of Turin? It's just one damn thing after another. But maybe that is the whole point. It's like watching the downward spiral of an addict, something which can make a good movie, if you can bring yourself to watch it.

Maybe Children of Hurin should be made into a mini-series, not a movie. It's episodic structure would lend itself to a dozen or more episodes. But is there enough tension driving the whole story forward, especially when we know from the beginning that everything Turin tries will fail? I don't know, but I like episode, er, chapter one.

Tol Eressea

Jun 26 2007, 5:35pm

Post #132 of 135 (740 views)
I'm glad you wrote that about Paradise Lost. [In reply to] Can't Post

I hadn’t realized Milton had intentionally written in such a remote, artificial style (although I did know he intentionally included the tons and tons of classical allusions which contribute to this being such a difficult work to read and understand). When I read PL in school I just assumed that the English language used to be like that, and I concluded it certainly must have changed a great deal in just a few centuries!

I found a quote on line (at http://irawrites.com/Extended%20Art%20Essays/paradiselost.htm) that I think applies equally well to Milton and to Tolkien’s works about the First Age:

“This style could be deadly to other subjects, but Milton found exactly the right subject for it. This is a work from which all commonness must be banned. It calls for 'high seriousness' as no other. Here Milton's elevated and artificial style fits. This is not the language of human beings, this poem's language, but this is not a poem pitched to man's level.

“It seems to me, in fact, that Milton has here succeeded in doing something many authors have dreamt about--- inventing their own language. But in Milton it is not an empty though perhaps spectacular tour de force, but an act of appropriateness to its subject.”


Coming up with reasons for changing my nick from GaladrielTX to Galadriel wore me out.


Jun 28 2007, 12:55am

Post #133 of 135 (724 views)
Morwen and Rian [In reply to] Can't Post

This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things:

- This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things.
- That these are harsh times.
- That one gentle of heart does fit, making the harsh times really seem harsh.
- That not only does laughter (Lalaith) die young, so does song (Rîan) and therefore joy and hope does too.
- This family is doomed to sorrow, loss and hard times.
- That Morwen is the more likely to outlive them all as a reflection of the hardness of what the world has fallen to.

Exactly, although I think the point would have been better made had CT chosen to include more of Rían's story. Rían, gentle lover of flowers and music, does not survive her loss, whereas stern, and presumably less likable, Morwen outlives both her children and at least lives to see her husband once more. Gentleness and joy do not prevail in these times or in this story. Rían's story is a foreshadowing of the great bitterness to come, and the fact that she and Morwen are cousins creates a parallel between them and brings out the contrast between their different fates.

I think it would be unfair of Tolkien not to give us some foreshadowing of tragedy in this book. To imply that the story might have a happy ending, and then let it end the way it does, would be unreasonably sad.

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If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.


Jun 28 2007, 4:01am

Post #134 of 135 (720 views)
late as usual [In reply to] Can't Post

Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?
Confusing yes! For a first time reader, I would say definitely. I am familiar with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and Book of Lost Tales so all the names don’t throw me. A few people have brought up other ways the story could have started. N.E.B and dna on separate occasions have quoted from the Dírhaval material from The War of the Jewels HOME 11, for example. But, Christopher was not going to alter anything if he could help it so we get the UT Narn instead. A missed opportunity for CT, IMHO.

How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?
He has a vitality and charisma that occasional flares up into overt passion. I did like dna’s philological take on the names, however.

Isn’t it kind of comic to imagine Húrin as the shortest among his kin, while younger brother Huor is the tallest of all the Edain? Why does Tolkien create this visual image? Will you carry it with you as the brothers interact together later in the story? Should Alan Lee have drawn a picture of these two young men?
A picture might have been nice but would not really contribute to the story. I didn’t really think about the height difference until it was pointed out to me. The difference is probably partially genetic. You have some mixing of genes going on between the House of Hador and the House of Haleth. “His people (house of Hador Goldenhead) were of great strength and stature, ready in mind, bold and steadfast, quick to anger and to laughter…” “Like to them (House of Bëor) were the woodland folk of Haleth but they were of lesser stature, and less eager for lore. They used few words, and did not love great concourse of men; and many among them delighted in solitude,…” The Sil Chapter 17 “Of the coming of men into the west.” Bolding mine. So even if he was vertically challenged, Húrin still managed to be accounted one of the greatest warriors of the Edain.

Ditto for Morwen. Isn’t she taller than her husband? Is the story telling us that she is “stern of mood and proud” because she is “saddened” by her family’s exile? Or was she always like that?
I don’t really picture Morwen being taller than Húrin. Morwen is not a likeable character to me. The “sorrows of her house” are not an excuse for being cold and unfeeling. I think she is embittered rather than just sad. Was she always like that? Probably not as stern as she was as an adult but she more than likely was a serious child.

We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?
It fits the mood of the tale. As Nienna Sorrowing pointed out, “All things come to grief in Arda.”

Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?
It was part of the original Narn material and since CT wasn’t going to cut anything, so it was retained. Another “delicate” female character who succumbs to grief. Crazy I will give Morwen some credit, she did not just give up and die. It does make the point that the world of the First Age was very harsh and some were not built to handle it.

As far as the “style of writing” discussion, the high-sounding language doesn’t bother me. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and folk tales over the years. Admittedly, it took a little while for me to get used to it. But, some of Tolkien’s best writing has rhythm of language that I find very appealing. CoH is not a novel in the usual sense, IMHO, it is a long tale that has been packaged into a novel-like format, a novella if you will.

I am starting to read saga material. I am participating in the Beowulf discussion in the OT section, I have selections from the Norse sagas, Celtic mythology and I have a copy of the Welsh Mabinogion on the way.

Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens

Jun 28 2007, 5:47am

Post #135 of 135 (1015 views)
yes, I ageree [In reply to] Can't Post

I would love have more of Rian's story included.

I noticed that everythime even a slight joyful statement is made it is ether coupled with, or immediately followed by a hint of tragedy or sorrow.

thanks for your comments

**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta

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