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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Who were the Children of Húrin?
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MerlinEngine
Registered User

Oct 21 2013, 9:52pm

Post #1 of 32 (622 views)
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Who were the Children of Húrin? Can't Post

Dear fellow Tolkien fans,

I have come here in hope that your extensive knowledge and experience with the works of Tolkien will provide some closure to a problem that I have been pondering about for a long time: Who were the Children of Húrin? Or better, who does the phrase 'the children of Húrin' refer to? While contemplating a couple possibilities that it refers to the human race or the entire possible descendants of Húrin, I think it makes most sense if we understand it literally. I shall entertain this last possibility: it certainly refers to Turin and Niënor, both of whom have an important role in the narrative. However, Urwen was just as much a child of Húrin as they were, but she has a minor (symbolically important) role in the story. Most summaries and reviews of the book suggest that it is a story about Turin and Niënor, while omitting or barely mentioning Urwen (depending on the length of the meta text), thus suggesting that she is not one of the children of Húrin from the title. Therefore, I would like to know if you have any knowledge of John Ronald or Christopher ever having explained who the title refers to. What is your opinion?

Before you make any conclusions, allow me to explain where I am coming from (figuratively and literally). I am from Slovenia (a small country in Central Europe) and my mother tongue is Slovene. Slovene has a very odd and unusual grammatical category of number. Like English (and most other languages) we know singular and plural but unlike most Indo-European languages we also know dual number. This means that we use different expressions for talking about one subject (singular), two subjects (dual) and three or more subjects (plural). Here is an example relevant to the topic: the Slovene translation of The Two Towers is simply 'Stolpa' - there is no need to add the cardinal number 'dva' (two) as it is perfectly clear from the form of the word (the inflectional morpheme -a) that the number of the towers is two.

I think you can see what that has to do with The Children of Húrin. The translator of the book, Branko Gradi¹nik (who also translated the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in the previous decade, as well as having written an encyclopaedia of all names from the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings - the man has to be given credit for his work) has chosen to use dual in the title: 'Húrinova Otroka' (literal translation: The Two Children of Húrin). This has always bothered me, because there were three children, as short as the life of Urwen may have been. Mr Gradi¹nik's explanation on the use of dual is that Urwen is barely mentioned and most of the story covers the lives of the other two children. While this may be true, would you not agree that had Urwen not died at a young age, Turin's life would have been different, for we all know how much he loved his little sister? Having said that, does that not make the Children of Húrin the story of the lives of Turin and Niënor AND the story of the tragic death of Urwen?

I would greatly appreciate an input of anyone who speaks another language which uses dual and into which the story has been translated. I am interested in what the translators have chosen to do in these cases.

Best regards,
MerlinEngine


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 21 2013, 10:23pm

Post #2 of 32 (415 views)
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Non-expert opinion [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome, Merlin! And thanks for the information about how Slovene handles dual number. I personally find linguistics fascinating and appreciate the information.

My own opinion is non-expert, so I'm sure someone will weigh in with more knowledge than I have. It's my perspective that the title reflects Hurin's two children who survived to adulthood since it's primarily about them. I agree with you that his third child played a significant role in shaping the story, but when I think of of Hurin's children, I just think of Turin and Nienor, so I consider it as 2. Maybe we should vote on it in the Pollantir.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 1:42pm

Post #3 of 32 (374 views)
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Hello, Welcome to the Reading Room!! Hope you stick around!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, In my opinion, when I think of 'The Children of Hurin', I immediately connect with Nienor/Nienel and Turin/Turumbar/Neithan (People in ME have a lot of names!!). Your point about Urwen/Lalaith is quite valid, and true--She WAS a child of Hurin. However, I do think that he small part becomes marginalized in our minds. We never know her, so we might not care much for, more so than the children who die every day. She is one more nameless tragedy for many, albeit with a name. Beyond this, there is little to mourn. If we knew more about her, perhaps we would be more sympathetic to her plight, but as it is, she seems so one-dimensional, that she becomes part of the set and staging, rather than a principal, or even minor, actor.

Technically, you are right, there are three children, but in most minds, only two will be remembered, thus the translator's decision. This little nugget that you recall, might just be one of the little facts that the more well-read fans are acquainted with. You have a bit of knowledge that is uncommon, and that is no small thing! This little tidbit could be a great conversation starter for you, and definitely earns you some geek creds with me!!


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 2:09pm

Post #4 of 32 (357 views)
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mae govannen : ) [In reply to] Can't Post

 
mae govannen, merlinengine. : )

what an interesting insight into language as applied to lotr. i have a background in linguistics myself, so things of this nature are always extremely interesting to me.

question for you... in english...

"the two towers"

and

"two towers"

have the same, general meaning, but may have a slightly different "flavor" by including the article ("the"). the "the" can impart a special significance, an immediacy, etc.

in slovene, would there be a difference of "flavor" in any way between

"stolpa"

and

"["the" in slovene ] stolpa"

?


regarding your question... yes, urwen was a third child, and she predated nienor. but the bulk of the tale is about the lives of turin and nienor, what they touched and by what they were touched.

i think the death of urwen had a definite effect on turin, but that whole family was under the curse of morgoth. i think, whether or not urwen died (and she probably had the easiest, happiest fate of the entire family) there was much suffering in store for that family.

a core question of mine is... was turin's bad fate more the result of his choices or was it more directly caused by morgoth's curse?


.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Elthir
Gondor

Oct 22 2013, 2:59pm

Post #5 of 32 (338 views)
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Dual [In reply to] Can't Post

In theory the title is Narn i Chîn Húrin with hîn 'children'. It seems that Grey-elven duals had become obsolete...


Quote

'The S. duals of nouns or pronouns early became obsolete, except in written works. A case occurs in Orgalathad 'Day of the Two Trees', but since these S. nouns all derived from Quenya names of the 6-day week, brought from Valinor, it may be due to an attempt to imitate Q. duals, such as ciriat 2 ships.'

JRRT, letter 347, 1972




... although that said, the Narn would be a written work, in any case. I'm not a trained linguist and in no position to say more here... or possibly to have said this much!


In the 'Noldorin' of the Etymologies [at least] there was a dual form noted: hent 'eyes' [two]. Drat, I said more.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Oct 22 2013, 3:03pm)


sador
Half-elven


Oct 22 2013, 3:15pm

Post #6 of 32 (333 views)
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If the dual expressions universal, or just for pairs? [In reply to] Can't Post

In Hebrew (and I think in other Semitic languages as well), there is a dual expression - but only for objects which come in pairs. Two separate objects are still denoted by the regular plural form.

However, regarding your question - I would say that at no point did Hurin ever have more than two children. Moreover, I can see Nienor (which means mourning, and Niniel means tear-maiden) as both a continuation and an antithesis to Urwen, who was called Lalaith (laughter). I won't call her a reincarnation - but it is the theme of the book, in which Hurin and Morwen begin with laughter, and are forced and twisted into mourning.
It is similar to the many different names Turin takes unto himself, when attempting to escape his fate. And both Lalaith and Niniel are Turin's two true loves (laughter in an innocent, childish way; and Niniel in the most tragic way) - in fact, both are named by him.

So at least as far as the title is concerned, I think "The Children of Hurin" is correctly translated in the dual form. It could even be "Turin and his sister" - for despite there being two separate people, as far as he was concerned they were pretty much one and the same. And I am sure that Turin fell for Niniel in part because he saw in her the beauty of his dead sister, which never blossomed to womanhood - not knowing that a sister of his has indeed returned to him.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 4:26pm

Post #7 of 32 (319 views)
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I am away from my books.... [In reply to] Can't Post

But was Urwen/Lalaith actually under Morgoth's curse? Did the cursing happen before, or after her death?

Just curious...


sador
Half-elven


Oct 22 2013, 4:27pm

Post #8 of 32 (323 views)
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After. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 4:45pm

Post #9 of 32 (335 views)
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Much thanks!! [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought so!!! So perhaps the Narn is about the Curse's effects on the offspring, rather than the kids themselves? But we do not want to applaud him for his success, so we fixate on Turin and Nienor?

In other words, Morgoth made them famous by messing with their lives.CrazyWink


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 22 2013, 6:50pm

Post #10 of 32 (309 views)
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Now I wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

if there is a curse of Morgoth on the Children of Kardashian. It would explain the seedy tabloid stories.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 22 2013, 6:56pm

Post #11 of 32 (315 views)
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Bwahaha!!! [In reply to] Can't Post

That's funny!!!

Reminds me of the title of address in Avengers:

*Thor to Agent Coulson*

'Son of Coul,...'


MerlinEngine
Registered User

Oct 24 2013, 12:06pm

Post #12 of 32 (287 views)
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Good to know [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for the warm welcome.

I am glad to hear that you all agree upon there being only two children in the title. This seems to be the rational explanation. I would like to think that the title includes all three children, but I know excluding Urwen makes more sense. Luckily, Mr Gradi¹nik is a great translator and he chose the correct grammatical form (which is probably not something I would have done).

@ Maciliel: There are no articles in Slovenian. Strange language, isn't it?



CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 24 2013, 2:18pm

Post #13 of 32 (267 views)
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Articles--phooey [In reply to] Can't Post

Slovenian is an enlightened language to skip articles. I've encountered various languages in my travels where people don't have articles, and everything still makes perfect sense. I've come to think they're a dumb idea that should be jettisoned. If I say "I am going to store, I am reading book, I have dog" no one needs the articles to understand me completely. You will soon see me doing a one-man protest on youtube: "Ban All the Articles."


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 24 2013, 2:28pm

Post #14 of 32 (261 views)
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linguistics and meaning [In reply to] Can't Post

 
i'm fascinated by language. so much so that i studied linguistics and was accepted to a great linguistics phd program at a university. +love+ language. all languages. they've fascinated me since i could speak. since i could read. discovering tolkien as a child was like christmas -- all the etymology, the meaning. wow.

i enjoy the articles we have in english. there are so many things that allow for nuance in language, and articles are one of them. the difference between "i have a ring" and "i have the ring," for example. ; )


.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Elthir
Gondor

Oct 24 2013, 5:41pm

Post #15 of 32 (263 views)
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Two or three [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure you can include me in 'all agree', at least in the sense that the translator has chosen the correct plural marker.

Why employ the dual in the first place? One could argue that it makes sense given something about the story, but if the plural 'three or more' is employed it 'matches' the English [well in a sense, meaning it is not a dual] and the Elvish too. And again I'm no linguist, but it looks like [to me] that Sindarin could employ a dual form for a written work...

... but if so, we don't have it here, as far as I know.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Oct 24 2013, 5:46pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 25 2013, 6:04pm

Post #16 of 32 (214 views)
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The linguistics and a meaning. Now I understand you. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 25 2013, 6:05pm

Post #17 of 32 (214 views)
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cheeky ice cream monkey // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 25 2013, 6:12pm

Post #18 of 32 (222 views)
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Am I [In reply to] Can't Post

"the" cheeky ice cream monkey, or merely "a" cheeky ice cream monkey?

Of course, if we didn't bother with articles, I wouldn't need to ask question.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 25 2013, 6:29pm

Post #19 of 32 (214 views)
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i think... [In reply to] Can't Post

 
you are +a+ cheeky ice cream monkey who is also (in this context) +the+ cheeky ice cream monkey.

without an article, you could also be interpreted as symbolic for all cheeky ice cream monkeys.


.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 25 2013, 7:45pm

Post #20 of 32 (205 views)
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Articles --> Climate change [In reply to] Can't Post

Articles add unnecessarily to length of written documents. The longer a document, the harder it is to remember, which makes it more necessary to print it off. Printing it off kills trees and increases global warming, so when ocean is at your front door, you can thank your love of articles for global calamity.

Everything boils down to apocalypse.

Please think of environment before using articles.


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 26 2013, 1:11am

Post #21 of 32 (206 views)
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Hmmm - a world without articles? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Articles add unnecessarily to length of written documents. The longer a document, the harder it is to remember, which makes it more necessary to print it off. Printing it off kills trees and increases global warming, so when ocean is at your front door, you can thank your love of articles for global calamity.

Everything boils down to apocalypse.

Please think of environment before using articles.




Do you mean all of them? Articles of incorporation? Articles in The NY Post? Articles of clothing?

Just trying to get a sense of where you are going with this, and, self-servingly, if it translates to naked Thorin somehow. (But NOT featured in the Post. Which we can all live without.)

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!





Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Oct 26 2013, 1:35am

Post #22 of 32 (203 views)
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*sits down next to Brethil and waits patiently, quietly for CG's reply*// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 26 2013, 1:45am

Post #23 of 32 (201 views)
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I all political crusades, one must make concessions to gain allies. [In reply to] Can't Post

Therefore, yes, I hereby grant you naked Thorin, with no articles of clothing. It's for good of world. Enjoy. Since world is melting, chocolate is melting too, so enjoy melted chocolate on your dwarf.


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 26 2013, 3:10am

Post #24 of 32 (198 views)
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Oh Hooray! I like concessions! [In reply to] Can't Post

Will enjoy Dwarf article free. Smile

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!





Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Oct 26 2013, 4:56am

Post #25 of 32 (193 views)
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speaking of language and the apocalypse [In reply to] Can't Post

 

i will note (with irony), you removed perhaps three articles from your post, in your effort to avert the apocalypse -- yet you were extravagant with the use of prepositions (about twice as many). it's like saying you're not going to use plastic bags, while you're still driving a first-generation humvee.

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo

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