The Children of Hurin is a book by J.R.R Tolkien, released posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien, that tells the tragic tale of Turin and his sister. Cursed with everlasting misfortune, Turin experiences one fell tragedy after another, until the bitter end. The book is also the first complete story released since the Silmarillion in 1977.
The Children of Hurin is not a story for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the author of whimsical tales like the Hobbit, or tales of hope and courage like the Lord of the Rings, is also the same author of this tragedy of Biblical proportions.
The book introduces Hurin, a mighty man of valor who is imprisoned and cursed by Morgoth, the dark lord of this time period. The curse is that evil fortune will follow Hurin’s children around for all their lives. These children are Turin and Nienor. They grow up among the elves and Turin actually becomes a mighty man himself. But as the curse takes hold, he has one misfortune after another, as does his sister. Turin grows up not really knowing much about his sister, which is unfortunate because at one point they meet, and she has been bewitched by a dragon and knows nothing about him, or just about anything.
Unfortunately, they fall in love, not knowing their relation to each other. At the end, Turin slays the dragon and falls unconscious, then his Nienor shows up and the dragon in his death throws releases her spell of forgetfulness. Knowing that she had been in love with her brother and that she has an unborn child of incest, she throws herself off a cliff. Turin then awakes and he’s told about his relation to Nienor and what happened to her, and he too takes his life. Hurin is later released by Morgoth and visits the graves of his children, where he meets his wife who dies in his arms.
It’s a disturbing tragedy, and not one to be read lightly by fans of Middle-Earth. It’s hard to find ways to justify any positive mention of this book. It, like all of Tolkien’s work is still well written. The prose is incredible, and the story moving. As a tragedy, it’s a masterpiece, much like ancient Greek tragedies like Oedipus. But even as a tragedy, it’s almost disturbing to think of this story as part of the same universe as the hopeful Hobbits from a humble origin having the courage to save all of Middle-earth.
I do recommend this book for completionists of Tolkien’s work. But for most, I don’t think it’s really a necessary story. It will likely depress you. A shorter version of the story is available in the Silmarillion. Perhaps it’s better to stick with that. There’s a lot of tragedy in that too, but it is countered with more hopeful circumstances.