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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Turin Turambar: hero or villain

HeWhoArisesinMight
Rivendell

Mar 22 2014, 11:27pm

Post #1 of 17 (334 views)
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Turin Turambar: hero or villain Can't Post

Of all of Tolkien's tales, the most tragic, and IMO the most brilliant, is the Children of Hurin. I recently had the chance to read latest book Children of Hurin and it is much more detailed than the chapter in the Sil. Anyway, after reading the book, I started to view Turin (and in some ways Hurin) in a different light.... Was he a tragic hero or villain? To me, the evidence weighs every so slightly as a hero (he did kill Glaurung and many orcs and servants of the Enemy), however, everyone who came into his life was ensnared in his shadow. Consider:
  • Beleg, who greatly loved Turin, was slain at Turin's hands.
  • Finduilas was left to die by Turin as he went to find his mother and sister (ok this could be considered a Catch 22 given the deceits of Glaurung)
  • Gwindor and Brandir both fell into shame because of Turin and Turin unjustly killed Brandir
  • Gwindor is killed in a war that is directly caused by Turin
  • Turin's folly led to destuction of Naragothrond and death of Orodreth
  • Turin's return to Dor-Lomin led to the (implied) suicide of his kinswomen Aerin after his intrusion into Brodda's hall (was Brodda's death unjust, too?)
  • Turin's disrespect and haughty attitude to King Thingol and Melian, who through great pains fostered Turin
  • Turin's tie with the Outlaws and their evil deeds (which he did repent of)
  • His marriage and conceiving a child with his sister (which he cannot be blamed for, I guess, since he was ignorant to her identity)
  • On the positive side, he did kill the great dragon Glaurung.


When you add up the ledger, it seems Turin was a pretty bad guy. All of his counsels were ill and led to death and destruction (Naragothrond, Brethil, and Aerin's homestead). He mistreated those that loved him or tried to help him (Thingol and Melian, Nellas, Beleg, Mablung, Gwindor, Brandir even Androg the outlaw and Mim the petty dwarf), and all good that he did turned to naught.

Can we lay all of this on Morgoth's curse on Hurin and his offspring or did Turin play a role in his own doom? It is hard to judge him because incases where he did try to to good, it turned to ill... Dorlas urged him to defend Brethil but in doing so, he scorned Brandir. Gwindor urged him to find Finduilas and save her, but it would come at the cost of finding out about his mother and sister.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but the Children of Hurin is fascinating and his tragic tale to me is the greatest of the Eldar Days...


BlackFox
Valinor


Mar 22 2014, 11:46pm

Post #2 of 17 (187 views)
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I think the term "antihero" would describe Turin well. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



(This post was edited by BlackFox on Mar 22 2014, 11:46pm)


elaen32
Gondor


Mar 23 2014, 12:25am

Post #3 of 17 (187 views)
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Welcome to the Reading Room! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not able to go into a detailed answer right now, but thought you would be interested to know that we will start a chapter by chapter discussion of CoH in just over a month. Should be fun!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 April. Happy writing!



Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 1:36am

Post #4 of 17 (185 views)
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Hero or Villain? [In reply to] Can't Post

Turin did a lot of good, and he did a lot of bad. What were his intentions? Does the good outweigh the bad?

Not my place to judge. Only Eru gets to make that call.

To me, he was an impressive and gifted man who dared much and made mistakes. I could only hope to be half so courageous, and to pray for better outcomes than his misfortunes.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


HeWhoArisesinMight
Rivendell


Mar 23 2014, 3:07am

Post #5 of 17 (168 views)
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COH discussion [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm not able to go into a detailed answer right now, but thought you would be interested to know that we will start a chapter by chapter discussion of CoH in just over a month. Should be fun!Smile


Cool, I look forward to the discussion!


DaughterofLaketown
Gondor


Mar 23 2014, 3:51am

Post #6 of 17 (173 views)
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Neither [In reply to] Can't Post

 And that why I love him. He was just human and he made mistakes. Tolkien was giving to interpretations to his story, that we control our fate ourselves or it is decided for us. Turin learned it is a mixture of both.


Cillendor
Lorien


Mar 23 2014, 6:10am

Post #7 of 17 (166 views)
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To me, he isn't a hero or a villian. [In reply to] Can't Post

He's an eight-year-old child whose father (his hero) vanished after a battle, presumably dead, and whose mother (his emotional stronghold) sent him away to live with strangers, hoping to protect him.

Throughout his entire short life, Túrin tries and fails to be a good man, but his purposes always go afoul. Curse of Morgoth aside, he learned manhood from people who were a kindred apart and could never properly teach a Mannish boy how to be a mature Man.

He is arrogant and wrathful, but every once in a while you can see his tender, childlike nature come out, such as when he shows mercy to Mîm. And more than anything, he just wants to have a normal life and escape the conflict around him, but even then, fate has other plans.

People of both kindreds are drawn to him. Having grown up in such strange circumstances, he has learned to be very charming and cunning, because these things can mask one's internal uncertainty. But there is a genuine element to this as well, because he has made a few close friends despite his manipulative ways.

He is also very impatient. This makes sense, especially since he is a Man and he was raised by Elves. Perhaps were he raised by Men, he'd learn to temper his innate urgency that comes from being mortal. But I think his mortal urgency was even stronger than most Men's because he was surrounded by immortal Elves most of his life. He even forgot his childhood friend because she remained a child and he did not. It is said that Men couldn't go to the Undying Lands because the pure light of the Valar would be so overpowering, their lives would wither away faster than usual. Maybe Elves can have this effect on Men as well, though not as significantly.

All in all, I think that Túrin's life is the story of a desperate child trying to behave like a grown-up, perhaps even filling the shoes of his father, but having no idea how to do so.

What is most amazing out of all of this is how Tuor, who'd been raised in similar circumstances (though separated from his family before he was old enough to remember them) ended up being so different. Honestly, Tuor seems to be all that Túrin wanted to be in life. His heroism is more transparent.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 9:29am

Post #8 of 17 (157 views)
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tragic hero of villian? - why, both! [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the things which makes Tolkien a favourite author of mine is that he can write such complex characters, stepping away from the 'pure good' versus 'pure evil' limitation of much fantasy.

So, as you say, Turin achieves great things: but he leaves a trail of collateral damage. Easy enough to think of real-life figures like that. He's tragic in the sense that he's driven by his faults as much as by his virtues. Then there's also the issue (which Tolkien characteristically keeps unsettled) over how much this is all a fate from which poor Turin can't escape, and how much the hot-headed lunk-head is the cause of his own problems. Oh, and how much it is a factor that he feels he is under a special sort of doom: both as something he resists and defies, and as an excuse and reason for his misfortunes.

Welcome to the Fellowship of the Room. Do join in the CoH read through when it starts up! Currently we are finishing up Unfinished Tales so do join that too if you wish. Wink

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 9:38am

Post #9 of 17 (165 views)
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ive justcposted .'both', but i ALSO agree with 'neither' (and for the same reasons!) :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2014, 7:21pm

Post #10 of 17 (143 views)
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That is a very interesting and HUGE topic and I love dicussing it!! [In reply to] Can't Post

However time constraints disallow me from putting a synthesis of the vast corpus of words I've written, but I do recall that Brethil led a fantastic chapter analysis where we discussed the character in great detail. Here are the links if you'd like to browse.

Interestingly enough, it was this discussion chain that got me to de-lurk and join the RR!! Happy times!!!

Thread #1 Pride and Turin
Thread #2 Prophecy, Premonition, and Turin
Thread #3 Dragons, Vala, and Turin
Thread #4 Doriath, Dwarves, Doomed Women and Turin
Thread #5 Broken Swords and a mention of Turin

It's a lot, but its all good!!

Love the SN by the way!!!

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


elaen32
Gondor


Mar 23 2014, 7:34pm

Post #11 of 17 (126 views)
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Again, we agree NoWiz [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote: "Oh, and how much it is a factor that he feels he is under a special sort of doom: both as something he resists and defies, and as an excuse and reason for his misfortunes"
I have often wondered how much of Turin's misfortune was related to a deep subconscious awareness of the supposed "curse" which led to his "living up to" the prophecy, so that it becomes "self-fulfilling" We can see this in certain societies in real life eg in some African communities, a "curse" or "prophecy" by the local "Witch Doctor" can cause the recipient to give up and sometimes even die as a result. The power of suggestion can be very strong- even more so when it comes from THE Evil Dark Lord himself!


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 April. Happy writing!



HeWhoArisesinMight
Rivendell


Mar 24 2014, 12:34am

Post #12 of 17 (111 views)
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Nurture vs. Nature [In reply to] Can't Post

Cillendor,
Your post is very good. In COH, you can see a great deal of foreshadowing in Turin's childhood how he will turn out as an adult. He is impulsive and moody as a child, yet shows sympathy to Labadal. Tolkien makes it clear that while Labadal is somewhat of an epithet toward Sador, for Turin, it is a name of love. That example shows that although Turin is capable of sympathy, he doesn't exactly know how to show it, and Sador seems to understand this.

This brings us to the question of whether Turin was shaped more by his nature or his upbringing. However, I don't know whether one would consider a curse laid on one by the most powerful being is Arda is "nature" or "nurture." It is interesting that Turin chose "Turambar" as his final name... he wanted to master his fate, which means he knew he was accursed, but in the end fate mastered him.


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 24 2014, 12:42am

Post #13 of 17 (123 views)
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VERY glad those discussions brought you into the RR Rem! [In reply to] Can't Post

(And thanks for the kind words.)Angelic

Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





IdrilLalaith
Rivendell

Mar 25 2014, 4:51am

Post #14 of 17 (90 views)
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Really interesting comparison to Tuor [In reply to] Can't Post

As others have said, I think calling Túrin either a hero or a villain is oversimplifying things. He definitely had a lot of horrible things happen to him, particularly because of Glaurung.

But then he also made a lot of poor decisions. He defied Thingol, who had basically been a father to him. He refused to return with Beleg and basically turned Beleg into an outlaw. He hurt Gwindor in numerous ways. He defied and reviled Brandir. He was passionate and refused slow down to think about consequences to himself or to others (particularly the latter).

Does that make him less-than-perfect? Definitely. Does it make him a villain? No, although killing Brandir at the end was a pretty evil thing to do. (Did he ever swear fealty to Brandir at any point? Probably not, but I can't remember. That would make the act even worse.)


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2014, 1:54pm

Post #15 of 17 (122 views)
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Cousins, comparisons, curses, and c(k)illing....(It works!!) [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, we did reference that familial comparison in our last Silmarillion read-through. It was a quite illuminating discussion, and I'll refer you to the links up-thread if you are interested in reading it.

In summary, we compared the upbringings: Prince vs. Thrall, Pride vs. Humility, and other aspects. We also discussed the possible involvement of Ulmo in both cases, directly with Tuor and indirectly (maybe rejected?) with Turin. They both had a link to the water, and water in general, is a very powerful image in the Legendarium.

He did seem to bring destruction to anyone close to him, a toxic personality, if you will. Maybe he realised it and hated it, but misunderstood the cause? We theorised that perhaps he blamed external circumstances and Morgoth more than the true cause--himself and pride.

'The doom lies in yourself, not in your name
'. -Gwindor

Ah, Brandir... in my first read-through, I was very much attached to Turin, too much attached. I was used to the usual heroes that we root for, and want to emulate. Turin is a different character. A fate-drive/stricken hero, tragic, like the Finnish Kullervo it was based upon. Brandir, I came to see, was more noble really. He might have been selfish and petty in the matter of Turin, and jealous of his battle prowess and the admiration of Nienor, but he was forgivable for those comparatively minor vices, in my eyes.

The whole story is different in tone and complexity, and we got so much good discussion out of it. Again I refer you to the links up-thread. If you have time, I think you'll enjoy them!!!

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Morthoron
Gondor


Mar 30 2014, 12:04am

Post #16 of 17 (63 views)
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The short answer is, yes.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



dik-dik
Lorien


Mar 31 2014, 8:02am

Post #17 of 17 (83 views)
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IMO: a hero with deep character flaws. [In reply to] Can't Post

I personally never liked Túrin, though I pity him somewhat. He has a 'Potterish' quality that I don't care for. Hard to say if his traits are his own fault, or some long-distance mind-influencing by Morgoth. But he strikes me as having arrogance, sense of entitlement, volatileness and stubbornness exceeding his actual status, and so do his mother and sister. No matter who's to blame for his behaviour, he does a poor job as king under the mountain, er, I mean, exiled lord of Dor-Lómin. :P The behaviour that was among my least favorite displays by him, and is missing in your list, was how he treated the envoys from Círdan.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


(This post was edited by dik-dik on Mar 31 2014, 8:04am)

 
 

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