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The Children of Hurin Hardcover – Illustrated, April 17, 2007
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Adam Tolkien on The Children of Húrin
How did a lifetime of stories become The Children of Húrin? In an essay on the making of the book, Adam Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (and French translator of his History of Middle-earth), explains that the Húrin legends made up the third "Great Tale" of his grandfather's Middle-earth writing, and he describes how his father, Christopher Tolkien, painstakingly collected the pieces of the legend into a complete story told only in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien. "For anyone who has read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings," he writes, The Children of Húrin "allows them to take a step back into a larger world, an ancient land of heroes and vagabonds, honour and jeopardy, hope and tragedy."
A Look Inside the Book
This first edition of The Children of Húrin is illustrated by Alan Lee, who was already well-known for his Tolkien illustrations in previous editions (see our Tolkien Store for more) as well as his classic collaboration with Brian Froud, Faeries, and his Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Black Ships Before Troy, before his Oscar-winning work as conceptual designer for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy brought him even greater acclaim. Here's a quick glimpse of two of Lee's interior illustrations for The Children of Húrin. (Click on each to see larger images.)
Questions for Alan Lee
We had the chance to ask Alan Lee a few questions about his illustrative collaboration with the world imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien:
Amazon.com: How much of a treat was it to get first crack at depicting entirely new characters rather than ones who had been interpreted many times before? Was there one who particularly captured your imagination?
Lee: Although it was a great honor to illustrate The Children of Húrin, the characters and the main elements of the story line are familiar to those who have read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and these narratives have inspired quite a few illustrators. Ted Nasmith has illustrated The Silmarillion and touched on some of the same characters and landscapes. This was the first time that I ventured into the First Age; while working on The Lord of the Rings books and films--and The Hobbit--I've had to refer back to events in Middle-earth history but not really depict them.
I'm drawn to characters who bear similarities to the protagonists in myths and legends; these correspondences add layers and shades of meaning, and most of the characters in this story have those archetypal qualities. However, I prefer not to get too close to the characters because the author is delineating them much more carefully than I can, and I'm wary of interfering with the pictures that the text is creating in the reader's mind.
Amazon.com: The Húrin story has been described as darker than some of Tolkien's other work. What mood did you try to set with your illustrations?
Lee: It is a tragic story, but the darkness is offset by the light and beauty of Tolkien's elegiac writing. In the illustrations I tried to show some of the fragile beauty of the landscapes and create an atmosphere that would enhance the sense of foreboding and impending loss. I try to get the setting to tell its part in the story, as evidence of what happened there in the past and as a hint at what is going to occur. My usual scarred and broken trees came in handy.
Amazon.com: You were a conceptual designer (and won an Oscar) for Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, which I think we can safely say had a bit of success. How does designing for the screen compare to designing for the page?
Lee: They both have their share of joys and frustrations. It was great to be part of a huge film collaboration and play a small part in something quite magical and monumental; I will always treasure that experience. Film is attractive because I enjoy sketching and coming up with ideas more than producing highly finished artwork, and it's great having several hundred other people lending a hand! But books--as long as they don't get moldy from being left in an empty studio for six years--have their own special quality. I hope that I can continue doing both.
Amazon.com: Of all fiction genres, fantasy seems to have the strongest tradition of illustration. Why do you think that is? Who are some of your favorite illustrators?
Lee: A lot of excellent illustrators are working at the moment--especially in fantasy and children's books. It is exciting also to see graphic artists such as Dave McKean, in his film Mirrormask, moving between different media. I also greatly admire the more traditional work of Gennady Spirin and Roberto Innocenti. Kinuko Craft, John Jude Palencar, John Howe, Charles Vess, Brian Froud ... I'll stop there, as the list would get too long. But--in a fit of pride and justified nepotism--I'll add my daughter, Virginia Lee, to the list. Her first illustrated children's book, The Frog Bride [coming out in the U.K. in September], will be lovely.
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Top Customer Reviews
To address the questions that most people have:
* This is an easier read than The Silmarillion.
* It is a greatly expanded version of Chapter XXI of The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar", BUT...
* Reading The Silmarillion is not necessary.
* It is told in a narrative voice.
* The narrative voice is archaic.
* The so-called archaic voice falls somewhere in between The Silmarillion and LOTR in style.
* Húrin is a great hero amongst men.
* His son, Túrin, is whom this story is chiefly about. His daughter Nienor makes a late, but significant, appearance. Significant enough for this book to be called The Children of Húrin.
* You will recognize a few names from LOTR, but don't look for furry-footed Hobbits. A Balrog makes a brief appearance, as does a dragon.
* Unlike some posthumous publications of Tolkien's, there is only one footnote in the entire narrative, and it doesn't interrupt the flow of the story. It's inclusion wasn't necessary, but the information was nice to know.
* There is an Index of Names at the back of the book to help the reader keep track of who is who.
* As always, a well detailed map is included.
* Read the Introduction. Christopher Tolkien does a wonderful job preparing the reader who hasn't read The Silmarillion for what is to follow.
I can't emphasize the last point enough. One reviewer noted that you wouldn't know who Melkor was, and that this was detrimental to the reading of The Children of Húrin. Not so! Melkor (known later to Elves and Men as Morgoth, which translates to "Dark Foe" in Sindarin) is discussed in the Introduction.Read more ›
Naturally, an event such as a publication of a new novel by a long deceased major author is bound to excite different reactions from different quarters. Depending on where you stand in Tolkien fandom will largely define your reactions to the story.
First, just a few quick facts about the novel.
*CoH can be read independently of Tolkien's other works, due largely in part to C. Tolkien's excellent introduction, explaining the background and context in which these events occur in Tolkien's imagined cosmos. Having an overall general knowledge of Tolkien's legendarium is certainly helpful, but fortunately it is not a pre-requisite as the story is strong enough to stand independently.
*CoH is much darker than the Hobbit cycle. It is a very tragic story on a Shakespearian level, and altogether not suitable for children, featuring incest and murder as prominent plot features.
*The plot revolves around the Dark Lord Morgoth's curse on Turin and Nienor, who are the Children of Hurin, for Hurin's defiance against Morgoth. Morgoth is Tolkien's equivalent of Satan, and who Sauron is but a servant too.
*CoH is easier to read than THE SILMARILLION, though CoH still employs in places the archaic style found in that book.Read more ›
One of JRR Tolkien's greatest achievements was the world of Middle Earth itself, which contained endless layers of history and backstory that informed the origin and actions of its characters. What can be easy to miss in reading LOTR is that Middle Earth is a desolate shadow of what it used to be, before time and the mistakes of foolish pride wore down the greatness of Elves and Men to almost nothing. This book takes place in a part of Middle Earth that was later destroyed, to be remembered only in the sad songs and anecdotes that pop up here and there in the background of LOTR. This and the book's maps may initially confuse fans of LOTR, but the journey into unfamiliar territory is more than worth it: "The Children of Hurin" is great all by itself, but will do a lot to help you understand the world of LOTR in general. Fans who have trouble with the drier, historical tone of the "Silmarillion" might be better served with this fleshed-out piece of its story. If you have ever wondered why the Elves are such a small, sad, and reclusive bunch in LOTR, you'll see a bit of the answer here, and did you know the great Sauron was once just a servant of the true and original Dark Enemy?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and have read and re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you will certainly want to read The Children of Hurin. Read morePublished 6 hours ago by Paul Mastin
See the LOTR trilogy first to whet your interest. Then read The Hobbit, then "The LOTR" (Lord of the Rings), then "The Silmarillion", and then this work. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Sonny MD
I chose this book to be my introduction into the "Lord Of The Rings". Whether you're a fan of that book series or movie trilogy, I do highly reccomend you check out this... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Jacobe Wendell
Fantastic elaboration on the mysterious middle earth depicted in the lord of the rings series.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I am enjoying reading this book. Takes me back to the adventures of Thorin and Froto.Published 1 month ago by Jan Elliott