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Children of Hurin Discussion, Part 1
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Pallando
Lorien


Jun 11 2007, 10:24pm

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Children of Hurin Discussion, Part 1 Can't Post



Kaz Latven: Children of Hurin







INTRODUCTION


Welcome to the first day of week number one in the discussion of Tolkien's CHILDREN of HURIN.

We will try to maintain the following schedule this week:


MONDAY: The Preface
TUESDAY  \
WEDNESDAY> The Introduction I, II, & III
THURSDAY /
FRIDAY: Notes on Pronunciation and Open Discussion



The daily format will be similar to other topics the group has had, which will include notes on key points of the chapter followed by questions for further discussion.

RESOURCES

I have included some maps as reference material for those who may not have such or find those available inadequate. These maps are in PDF format.  The PDF Reader, has become fairly stan-
dard in the world of computer documents and now comes with most new computers. If you don't have one click here (www.adobe.com) and then click on the "Get Adobe Reader" button to download the Reader (if you want to access the maps).


The links to the two maps are here.  

The first is all of Beleriand
(1MB), the land where the entire First Age takes place. It is essentially the area covered by the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin (1MB); and the second is a
zoomed portion of just Turin's haunts (500kB), that is, his travels in the book so they can be documented.

These are "modified" maps by Karen Fonstead (single-use permission requested). As noted they are in Adobe Acrobat format and if you have the Adobe Reader on your system, the map will just load by itself when selected by clicking the underlined text above.  While the map is open on your system, it may be convenient to save it in a familiar place like your Desktop or print it out. They are in color.

Also, any opinions added by this writer are annotated with [Ed.]

THE CHILDREN OF HURIN: The Preface


There has been a lot written about Hurin and his family, of the House of Hador from the area of Dor-Lomin in northwest Beleriand. Hurin was a vassal of Fingon, one of the High Kings of the Noldor.

Much has been written about Hurin and his son Turin, both in the Silmarillion, and in just about every HoME volume.
It's safe to say that these are the First Age men about whom Tolkien (J & C) have written the most .

Christopher Tolkien, JRR Tolkien's son, has assembled THE CHILDREN OF HURIN because, in his words,

"It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their
repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner. For this reason, it has seemed to me that there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."


Christopher Tolkien goes on to discuss the children of Hurin and his wife Morwen: Turin and Nienor, and posits that this legend could show readers a scene set in an
"unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.


[Ed. Note:] Only one of the High Elves remain who was alive during both Hurin's time in the First Age and also at the end of the Third Age and the time of Fellowship. 
This was Galadriel, who might know Hurin but surely knew of him. Galadriel was then of Doriath, where Hurin's son Turin was raised from about seven years old, and is sure to have known of the King's foster son, but there is no proof of this or the converse.

We also learn in the Preface that the senior Tolkien spent spare time during the Great War (probably during his convalescence-Ed.) writing a collection of stories,
some unfinished, some fourteen completed, and collected them in the Book of Lost Tales in which Hurin is known as "Urin" and whose name was probably changed to Hurin for
reasons or potential ambiguity and confusion.  But it in The Book of Lost Tales, which became "HoME #1", we are introduced to the Valar, Elves and Men as the Children of Iluvatar and Melkor-Morgoth; and Balrogs, Orcs and Beleriand, the first Middle-earth as we knew it; and Valinor, land of the Gods beyond the Western ocean. And this place was first called the Great Lands (afterwards Middle-earth), between the eastern and western seas.

And among the Lost Tales are the familiar Tale of Tinuviel(1917) Turimbar and the
Foaloke
(Turin and the Dragon - 1919) and The Fall of Gondolin (1916-7) all of which can be found in either the Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales. Tolkien wanted to create a 'legendarium' "from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story". It is seen that this desire was part of his conception of what became the Silmarillion. But significantly, of all the stories here that Tolkien felt were complete and independent and most linked to the general history played in the Silmarillion, he felt that most important were The Children of Hurin and The Fall of Gondolin.

Christopher Tolkien finishes with the notion that

"It would be contrary to the conception of this book to burden its reading with an abundance of notes...that are seldom of real importance, but that in some cases it may be important and these will be more elaborated in the Introduction" to follow.


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION


1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort
used to create an independent work?


3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story".

Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?

4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?

Reference Map of 1st Age

Map of Hurin's area





Pallando


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


drogo
Lorien


Jun 11 2007, 10:56pm

Post #2 of 72 (6067 views)
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I'll bite first [In reply to] Can't Post

 
1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?


I think CJRT's statements here pretty accurate in that many LOTR and Hobbit readers have been very put off by the very different (and non-hobbity) narrative style of the Silmarillion (not even counting the 12 volumes of HoME and the Unfinished Tales). Now this book does pose some problems for those who have read the two chief sources of the Turin legend already (I have heard some grumblings from those who will refuse to read the book period, much less buy it), but they are buried in other volumes and the Sil fear factor (ditto for UT) might turn away many potential readers. Extracting the Turin story and presenting it as an independent "novel" could bring in new readers. I know of at least one who is now tackling the Sil (using my CD audiobook version) after having made it through CoH.


2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort
used to create an independent work?


The problem with some of the narratives like The Fall of Gondolin (which has been privately published by a gentleman in the UK Tolkien Society, though he printed less than 100 copies in the finest leather binding, so it's a collector's Holy Grail) and even ones like Beren and Luthien is that they exist in different versions that are not easily reconciled into a seamless narrative apart from the published versions we have. The army of Balrogs makes the Fall of Gondolin from the BoLT II too alien to mesh with the later account from the Quenta Silmarillion, etc., that CJRT published in 1977. The Lay of Leithian is in verse, and the BoLT version of Beren has him an Elf, so those accounts really can't be integrated into a prose version to expand the Sil chapter. There could be unpublished material, true, but the prose versions of CoH (and verse version too) at least could be pieced together into a book-length narrative that would have the integrity to stand on its own. i admit that Turin in not my favorite story in the Sil legends by a long shot, but I can understand why it is the Great Tale CJRT most wanted to see published on its own.


3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story".

Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?


That's the big question of Tolkien's whole enterprise. Sufice it to say for now that I think having smaller (heroic) narratives such as Turin's story (like those of Achilles or Odysseus or Sigurd or Beowuf) that fit into a larger network of legend and mythic history does create the illusion of a cultural heritage. What makes Tolkien so unique is how much depth he gives his legendarium as one man. For me, this is not the mythology for England, to use that infamous phrase, but a mythology that is sui generis but yet one that all of us can claim as our own. But that's for a whole other thread.



4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?


This is a very Mannish tale, so it does not give readers a sense of the Noldor at their height, or of the Valar fighting Melkor on the primordial Arda. Still, it is a more accessible First Age tale for those who are new to the whole saga, and maybe a bit more LOTR-like in that respect.


Pallando
Lorien


Jun 11 2007, 11:18pm

Post #3 of 72 (5971 views)
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Sorry for the delay... [In reply to] Can't Post

I won't whine and say "But it was ready this morning.", tho I just did.

I realistically gotta blame myself for not going through an HTML practice run before clipping it in. So my bad.

But not to bore the world or PO the good hard-working folks at TORn, I want to have closure on why this hit the east coast at 7pm.

Truth be told, I had to re-code a hundred or more lines of HTML in-situ, that is, in the little box they give you for basic editing... Preview Post and fix a line..Preview Post and fix a line, etc. and that took a few hours at least. You should have seen it as a fresh paste!!

And can someone please update this HTML interpreter to at least a 1.2 spec or better 2.0.

Well, that's the story. Sorry.

P


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


Pallando
Lorien


Jun 11 2007, 11:29pm

Post #4 of 72 (5967 views)
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Thanks Drogo... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm a bit burned out for my first attempt at this (see my post nearby) to reply in detail just now, but I appreciate your efforts - and hey - they were great answers too.

Back to ya' later.

P


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


drogo
Lorien


Jun 11 2007, 11:39pm

Post #5 of 72 (5935 views)
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No problem [In reply to] Can't Post

Great first discussion thread--we're pretty laid back here (well, except for squire Tongue, but he has Hildebrandt hobbits tracking him down to get revenge). The non-narrative bits are always a little tricky, but we're pretty good at discussing away, and you're doing fine.

Thanks for the maps--those always help (I wish CJRT had drawn a more detailed map for the book, but oh well).


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 11 2007, 11:44pm

Post #6 of 72 (5987 views)
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1. What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

Nearly all of my friends have not read LOTR, for two reasons: The genre doesn’t interest them, and they find the writing too difficult for it to be an enjoyable read. I’d say the latter is what Christopher is referring to when he talks about LOTR and the Silmarillion having a reputation for being ‘inaccessible’.

One reason many readers love LOTR is because of Tolkien’s background in philology. That reputation might also give potential readers pause for thought. “Is this going to a pointy-head version of fantasy? ‘Cause I like my reading light and fun.”

2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work...

I suppose Christopher is limited by how many stories are complete, rather than having huge gaps in them. All we can do is trust that he’s made the right decision because none of us knows what other information is in Tolkien’s notes.

3. Does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?

Intriguing question!

I think it’s part of human nature to want to ‘belong’, whether it’s to other people or to a country. Having stories that link you to your ancestors and to earlier times on the land you stand on, adds to your own identity. So I’ll go with ‘yes’ to your question.

4. Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age?

I think CoH is an incomplete Middle-earth and doesn’t stand up well without the background of The Silmarillion. Whereas hints of The Sil in LOTR’s text give LOTR wonderful depth, CoH is cast adrift with precious few links to the greater story in its text. If readers don’t know the background to this story, I believe they won’t find it easy to connect with either the characters or the book.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 12 2007, 2:17am

Post #7 of 72 (5943 views)
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expanding the edit box [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I won't whine and say "But it was ready this morning.", tho I just did.


A wizard is never late! It's not as though the discussions are scheduled to begin at a set time; don't worry about it.


In Reply To
Truth be told, I had to re-code a hundred or more lines of HTML in-situ, that is, in the little box they give you for basic editing


There's a way to enlarge that little box. Go to User Profile, then to Display Settings. Toward the bottom of the page you'll see:
Textbox width (in characters)
Textbox height (in characters)
Change the numbers to whatever suits you. I have mine set for 100 and 25. It's a big improvement over old TORn, where the box was tiny and couldn't be changed.

Sorry you had to struggle with the formatting, but your work did pay off; your post looks great.





None such shall return again.



Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 12 2007, 3:25am

Post #8 of 72 (5953 views)
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thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner."

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner" and do you feel that this notion is valid?


The Sil can be a hard slog, even for LotR fans who want to like it. Same goes for Unfinished Tales. I think Christopher's assessment is right on the money, and his aim in releasing Children of Hurin is to offer a more approachable entryway into the First Age. A single, complete story is easier to digest than an entire mythology.



In Reply To
2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort used to create an independent work?


Christopher wasn't so much creating as patching together; it's my impression that he didn't have much choice, that the holes are just too large in the other stories. Though CoH doesn't feel quite finished -- I wish JRRT could have been the one to assemble and polish it -- I do think it's close enough to have been worth publishing.


In Reply To
4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age? If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?


Well, it's only one little sliver of the age, and a pretty grim one at that. Perhaps a typical First Age story should be more Elf-centric? Still, CoH does show us a fair number of Elves along with the Men (not to mention the glimpses of Dwarves, and Morgoth). It's reasonably representative, I'd say.





None such shall return again.



Pallando
Lorien


Jun 12 2007, 3:44am

Post #9 of 72 (5908 views)
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Thanks, Wynnie!! I'll try it. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
I won't whine and say "But it was ready this morning.", tho I just did.


A wizard is never late! It's not as though the discussions are scheduled to begin at a set time; don't worry about it.


In Reply To
Truth be told, I had to re-code a hundred or more lines of HTML in-situ, that is, in the little box they give you for basic editing


There's a way to enlarge that little box. Go to User Profile, then to Display Settings. Toward the bottom of the page you'll see:
Textbox width (in characters)
Textbox height (in characters)
Change the numbers to whatever suits you. I have mine set for 100 and 25. It's a big improvement over old TORn, where the box was tiny and couldn't be changed.

Sorry you had to struggle with the formatting, but your work did pay off; your post looks great.



__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


elentari3018
Rohan


Jun 12 2007, 3:56am

Post #10 of 72 (5905 views)
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interesting points... [In reply to] Can't Post

I know some people who can't even get through LoTR even though it's no that hard to get into compared with Sil and UT.. I think you're right in saying that people go with the "fun and light" stuff frequently.


Quote
CoH is cast adrift with precious few links to the greater story in its text. If readers don’t know the background to this story, I believe they won’t find it easy to connect with either the characters or the book.


I definitely agree with that-- i reread Sil before reading CoH and that definitely helped a lot in refreshing my memory on a lot of characters and made me appreciate reading CoH a lot more. i reread bits of UT after reading CoH and saw a lot of overlaps and was curious about that but i was glad to see CT elaborate on writing the book in the Appendices. :)

"By Elbereth and Luthien the fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!" ~Frodo

"And then Gandalf arose and bid all men rise, and they rose, and he said: 'Here is a last hail ere the feast endeth. Last but not least. For I name now those who shall not be forgotten and without whose valour nought else that was done would have availed; and I name before you all Frodo of the Shire and Samwise his servant. And the bards and the minstrels should give them new names: Bronwe athan Harthad and Harthad Uluithiad , Endurance beyond Hope and Hope Unquenchable.." ~Gandalf, The End of the Third Age , from The History of Middle Earth series


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 12 2007, 4:13am

Post #11 of 72 (5939 views)
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"Perhaps a typical First Age story should be more Elf-centric?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Did Tolkien write any First Age stories (after the Lost Tales) that can be told from beginning to end and yet don't involve men? (Might that relate to mortality?) The "Silmarillion" material is largely a chronicle with each incident tied up in the whole --chapters not discrete stories-- with the exception of the "Great Tales" where more than Elves are concerned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Thanks to everyone who participated in our sixteen-week discussion of Tolkien-inspired artwork! New posts on this subject are welcome at any time.


elentari3018
Rohan


Jun 12 2007, 4:15am

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Thanks for the maps! [In reply to] Can't Post

Pallando-- you did a great job in writing up this post with complete references to maps and all. I congratulate you for a job well done. :) I like your q's too---


Quote

1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?




Yes I think that a true Middle-earth fan would indulge in Sil and CoH but not those who are light-hearted or just love LotR and hobbits. I mean there's also the content to think about for CoH and Sil are both darker than LotR and The Hobbit but i think if you really have patience for Tolkien, you would read everything by him and not just the ones directly related to the movies.
I know that certain people love Tolkien and LotR but can't get into CoH or Sil because of either language or perhaps really just the fact that there are no hobbits and that it's too dark. It's respectable and i don't begrudge them but i think it's just interesting to read and i like darker stories so find the tale of Turin very compelling.

It's "inaccessible" also probably because of its language and the fact that it has almost no relation to the Third Age where most LotR fans are interested in. I must admit, i have the Tolkien love running high in me but Peter Jackson's movies did influence my love greatly and LotR introduced me to the wonderful world of ME. So i would suspect casual movie fans wouldn't get into CoH or be as excited as me. (which isn't a bad thing at all but i'm just stating my opinion on difference in interest levels...)


Quote
2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort
used to create an independent work?


I'm not sure-- i just know that the Tale of Turin is Tolkien's oldest tale which was started in the early 1920 / 30s? and probably one that Tolkien cared a lot about. Probably there' snot enough material for The Fall of Gondolin to be published as a stand-alone tale? I would love to see Gondolin as an independent work too... I think it's good cause to have it published as a separate tale...though there are overlaps with UT, i like the fact that there are no footnotes to deal with. :p


Quote
3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story".

Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?

A legendarium isn't NECESSARY to validate a culture but it definitely helps. You see many established cultures have a lot of myths and tales to talk about further enhancing culture and knowledge and generally gives a well-roundedness to a people.


Quote
4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?


It's definitely a tragic showing...and one with no hope ... I rather like Beren and Luthien to be representative story but then again, the First Age did end in tragedy rather than hope like the Third Age did...
It would be nice to have a tale about the times of peace in the First Age too and not just the conflicts. I know there was a siege of Angband for a long time ...i am rather curious on the improvements that the elves and men did at that time and how they ruled at that time as well.
But i think this tale is pretty representative of the helplessness that the elves had against Morgoth. Men getting involved and seeing the friendships between Hurin and Turgon and Thingol keeping Turin in Doriath were interesting to see and it's always good to see relationships like that.

--
my two cents...for whatever its' worth. :)


"By Elbereth and Luthien the fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!" ~Frodo

"And then Gandalf arose and bid all men rise, and they rose, and he said: 'Here is a last hail ere the feast endeth. Last but not least. For I name now those who shall not be forgotten and without whose valour nought else that was done would have availed; and I name before you all Frodo of the Shire and Samwise his servant. And the bards and the minstrels should give them new names: Bronwe athan Harthad and Harthad Uluithiad , Endurance beyond Hope and Hope Unquenchable.." ~Gandalf, The End of the Third Age , from The History of Middle Earth series


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 12 2007, 5:44am

Post #13 of 72 (5896 views)
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"Great Tales". [In reply to] Can't Post

An excellent beginning! Thanks for starting us off in such fine fashion.


Quote
1. Christopher Tolkien said "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 ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner." Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?



Absolutely: there are far more readers of LotR than The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales or The History of Middle-earth, and a good number of those who start one or more of the latter books give up before reading far. The "heigh style" of the "Silmarillion" material is very different from the tone of LotR.


Quote
2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of The Children of Húrin as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..." Do you think The Children of Húrin fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, The Fall of Gondolin as the effort used to create an independent work?



In "On the Construction of 'The Silmarillion'" (from the collection, Tolkien's "Legendarium": Essays on "The History of Middle-earth"), Charles Noad proposes that The Silmarillion, if completed in Tolkien's lifetime, would have contained the following:


Quote
Quenta Silmarillion

Concerning the Powers
- Ainulindalë
- Valaquenta

The Great Tales
- The Lay of Leithian
- Narn i Chin Húrin
- The Fall of Gondolin
- Eärendil the Wanderer

The Later Tales
- Akallabêth
- Of the Rings of Power

Appendices
- The Tale of Years
- Of the Laws and Customs among the Eldar
- Dangweth Pengoloð
- Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth
- Quendi and Eldar



Túrin's story is by far the most fully developed of the "Great Tales" --the Narn version from UT runs to about 100 pages-- and Túrin has more character than near-nonentities Beren and Tuor. Eärendil's tale, apart from annalistic versions, is little more than a sketch. There are many versions of the story of Beren and Lúthien, but nothing in prose much longer than what we find in The Silmarillion. And as others have noted, the only full version of Gondolin's fall is in the very different style of the Lost Tales.


Quote
3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story". Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?



The English plainly don't need a fully-developed mythology, having survived quite well without one. Which doesn't bear on Tolkien's desire to create one. Verlyn Flieger has noted that others besides Tolkien have noted its absence in England: see E.M. Forster's question in Howards End, for instance.


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4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship. Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?



As one reviewer of The Children of Húrin has noted, life in the First Age seems to have been pretty grim. Of course, there was a long period of peace and growing prosperity: the three centuries of the Siege of Angband that ended with the Battle of Sudden Flame, not long before Túrin's birth. Tolkien doesn't write much about that time, mostly just setting up for the flurry of action that closes the Age. This tale does present a great number of settings and people, including all three Hidden Kingdoms and the evil stronghold of Angband. (Though Gondolin is all but undescribed here.)

A couple tangential notes:


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Only one of the High Elves remain who was alive during both Húrin's time in the First Age and also at the end of the Third Age and the time of Fellowship. This was Galadriel...



Jason Fisher wrote the same thing in his J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia entry on "Galadriel", which I read just this morning. Is there a source for this claim? I find it unlikely. Gildor, for instance, describes his party as "Exiles" who will eventually "return over the Great Sea". Glorfindel, whether reincarnated or not, is described by Gandalf as having "dwelt in the Blessed Realm", and also as being one of several Elves in Rivendel "from beyond the furthest seas". (And Celeborn, in Tolkien's last conception, though unpublished in his lifetime, was a Telerin elf from Valinor.)


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But in The Book of Lost Tales, which became "HoME #1"...



The Lost Tales are presented in volumes 1 and 2 of The History of Middle-earth, with the stories of Tinúviel, Turambar and Gondolin appearing the second book.

I look forward to the rest of your week!

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 12 2007, 5:55am

Post #14 of 72 (5898 views)
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Old shadows and new. [In reply to] Can't Post


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I'm not sure -- I just know that the Tale of Túrin is Tolkien's oldest tale which was started in the early 1920 / 30s? and probably one that Tolkien cared a lot about.



No later than 1919, says Christopher Tolkien.



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I rather like Beren and Lúthien to be the representative story but then again, the First Age did end in tragedy rather than hope like the Third Age did...



Well, the First Age ended with the first Dark Lord being thrust from the world, but only after much suffering, it's true. And Tolkien was not particularly hopeful about the long-term prospects of Middle-earth after the Ring's destruction, and wrote that orcish cults and new shadows would arise only a few generations later.

But the stories of Beren and Lúthien and of Túrin did get the most attention of his First Age tales over the years; clearly, as you say, he cared a great deal about them. I find the latter a bit more unified. Do you prefer the former for any reasons other than its more hopeful end?

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


Pallando
Lorien


Jun 12 2007, 6:37am

Post #15 of 72 (5879 views)
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Good response... [In reply to] Can't Post

... especially for Q4. I also think a more representative story would be Elf-centric.

Thanks Wynnie,

P:


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


Pallando
Lorien


Jun 12 2007, 6:47am

Post #16 of 72 (5881 views)
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Thanks for the reply, Elentari... [In reply to] Can't Post

... I especially agree with your first answer regarding the denseness of the Sil. I had that same block too, but for the heck of it, I bought the complete CDs of the Sil.

To me the difference was like a sharp stick in the eye and finding a far green country under a swift sunrise! I'm not exaggerating.

If anyone can't get thru the Sil, and has that real desire to understand it, rent or buy the CDs. It'll change your Tolkien life.

P


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Jun 12 2007, 7:56am

Post #17 of 72 (5871 views)
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De gustibus... [In reply to] Can't Post

I had no trouble at all the first time I read the Sil. I loved it. Sure, it's different, and the language is rather archaic, but that's part of the fun. I think its difficulties are exaggerated.

Of course, I used to read the King James Bible for entertainment, so I'm probably atiypical.

I really think a lot of the impenetrability of the Sil is apocryphal, notwithstanding Smeagirl's list of difficulties (Túna is a real problem).




Son of Elizabeth in Frodo's tree
March, 2007


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 12 2007, 8:28am

Post #18 of 72 (5887 views)
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I think you are an exception. [In reply to] Can't Post

Smeagirl's list got a lot of sympathetic responses. In my experience most people need to read The Sil twice in order to enjoy it, or else listen to it instead of read it. I had the same experience with the King James Bible; I enjoyed listening to it, but could never have gotten through some of the books if I had been reading it.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 12 2007, 9:50am

Post #19 of 72 (5883 views)
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Regarding the maps, [In reply to] Can't Post

as in LotR, Tolkien uses his mountain ranges like walls, and his forests (I contend) have abrupt borders, contiguous with the territory of the forest dwellers. As in LotR, we hear nothing about great herd of animals roaming the land, and little about cultivation either. In other words, this is not realistic wilderness, but a highly territorial map with mountains, rivers, and forests marking unnaturally-sharp borders between the territories.

Although Christopher Tolkien attempts to tie Children of Hurin to LotR by noting two references to Turin in LotR, we really don't hear much about Turin in LotR beyond a couple of references to his name. This contrasts with a great deal we hear about Beren and Earendil. We don't hear much about Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin either, as I recall, nor do we hear much about the history of the elves in the First Age. I think LotR focuses on Beren and Earendil because those are hopeful tales, whereas the stories of Turin and Tuor and most of the elves in the First Age are mostly about downfall and loss.

And in fact Turin's story doesn't relate much to the story of the Silmarils. Turin's road is a dead end. He leaves no progeny, and accomplishes little beyond the death of Glaurung. He does bring about the downfall of Nargothrond. Hurin then helps bring about the downfall of Doriath and Gondolin, but we don't hear about that in this book. That may be another reason why Turin's story can stand alone better than other First Age tales -- it really is a self-contained story, almost incidental to the history of the First Age.

Although Children of Hurin is presented without obvious gaps, except at the very end, I think there are a number of places in which it is not a fully-fleshed-out story, but rather a summary of what happens between episodes in the story. Still, at least Christopher Tolkein does not have to interrupt with notes or make up something to tie the episodes together. I have not read The Fall of Gondolin, but from what I understand it was never updated to fit in with later versions of The Silmarillion. As drogo said, the army of Balrogs in the Fall of Gondolin was later winnowed down dramatically. And even more so than Turin's tale, the Fall of Gondolin is just the first half of a story that ends not with Tuor but with Earendil, and that story was never fleshed out. We don't even really know what happened to Tuor in the end; he may have reached Valinor before his son, by some accounts.

Of course no one really needs a legendarium, much less one invented out of whole cloth. But Tolkien sorely felt the lack in England. I think he resented the imported Norman stories of King Arthur, in which the Saxons were the enemy. And he was not much for Celtic tales, apparently. The whole field of philology was invented as part of Romantic Nationalism, it seems, after the Napoleonic Wars made French tales, and the French language, less popular in Germany and England. Tolkien also had a personal connection with the Saxons, or so he believed, through his mother's family, which claimed descent from the Saxons.

Furthermore J.R.R. Tolkien had another reason for inventing a legendarium. J.R.R. Tolkien wanted a context for his invented languages. I think he realized that language without stories is dead. That may be why Tolkien's invented languages, and the Star Trek language of Klingon, are more popular than Esperanto.

Thanks for the great post. I'm sorry you had trouble posting. It looks like a great schedule.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 12 2007, 1:01pm

Post #20 of 72 (5886 views)
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By Elf-centric [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't mean Elves-only.

The First Age was more an age of Elves than of Men, no? The Elves were the leaders, the ones with the greater power and knowledge and influence; any Men who played prominent roles had close ties to them in one way or another. Though it's certainly true that many of the turning points in Middle-earth history involved interactions between the two races.





None such shall return again.



Istar Indigo
Bree

Jun 12 2007, 1:06pm

Post #21 of 72 (5888 views)
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As a college instructor [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

I would have to say, I completely agree with this assessment. Many young readers of tolkien are not familiar with First Age material and hear from peers that The Silmarillion is inaccessible in comparison to LotR. I'm not sure what some of you would do, but I tell many not to begin at the beginning, but to see UT and Sil as collections of romances historically organized but not necessarily demanding a chronological reading.
Great maps by the way!


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 12 2007, 2:30pm

Post #22 of 72 (5863 views)
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That's exactly the suggestion [In reply to] Can't Post

made here, and I seconded it here. But another suggestion was to listen to The Silmarillion instead of reading it.


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 12 2007, 3:54pm

Post #23 of 72 (5882 views)
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Fall of Gondolin [In reply to] Can't Post

The Fall of Gondolin would have to be written again. Christopher T. certainly could do it, but he seems rather unwilling to add even a word of his own.

There is the fairly complete story in the Lost Tales, and the beginning of new version in the Unfinished Tales. The problem is, both are written in completely different style, and the earlier would have to be completely rewritten. There are also minor technical difficulties with the development of Elvish tongue, but there is enough of Tolkien linguists to solve them.

Problem of many weak Balrogs is solved, in fact, by Tolkien himself. In Lost Tales they are simply big brutes. Although they do have whips of fire, elves are able to catch them and use them against their owners. They form the bodyguard of Gothmog, who is a child of Melko, a being incomparably greater than they.

In the later versions of Silmarilion, the guard of Gothmog is formed of trolls. It seems obvious that trolls would substitute for Balrogs in the battle of Gondlin. It is also quite probable, although by no means certain, that Glorfindel would kill only a troll.

Dragons pose a greater problem. In the Lost Tales, dragons are metal tanks in fanciful shape; their role in the battle would have to be changed - orcs are unlikely to ride inside the later dragons!


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 12 2007, 4:30pm

Post #24 of 72 (5865 views)
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How about the life of Feanor? [In reply to] Can't Post

Ending perhaps not with Feanor's death, but with Fingon's rescue of Maedhros and the temporary reconciliation of the Noldor. It's a long story, but completely discrete from those involving men. It also ends with a sort of cliffhanger, since Feanor's death resolves nothing, but that leaves us waiting for coming attractions! It's the story of the Fall of the Noldor, as Tolkien calls it.

Oh, but I guess technically that's not a First Age story at all, but a pre-First Age story. Is that what you meant? In that case, nevermind.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 12 2007, 4:41pm

Post #25 of 72 (5847 views)
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That might work. [In reply to] Can't Post

"First Age" seems to refer sometimes only to the First Age of the Sun, and sometimes to include also the earlier times. I had thought of Fëanor's story, but wasn't sure about the ending: and you suggest two possible endings. Another story within The Silmarillion is the tale of Aredhel and Eol, a sort of dark Beren and Lúthien, but it seems more like set-up for the Fall of Gondolin. In any case, J.R.R. Tolkien himself only conceived of four separate "Great Tales", so that Christopher Tolkien had only those choices to work with when deciding what to produce as a stand-alone work. And of those tales only Túrin's story, as far as we know, even approached a cohesive whole.

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

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