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The Children of Hurin Hardcover – Illustrated, April 17, 2007
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The first complete book by J.R.R. Tolkien in three decades--since the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977--The Children of Húrin reunites fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, dragons and Dwarves, Eagles and Orcs. Presented for the first time as a complete, standalone story, this stirring narrative will appeal to casual fans and expert readers alike, returning them to the rich landscape and characters unique to Tolkien.
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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From Publishers Weekly
Tolkien fans are sure to treasure this tale of Middle-earth's First Age, which appeared in incomplete forms in the posthumously published The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Those earlier books, also edited by Tolkien's son, Christopher, only hinted at the depth and power of the tragic story of Túrin and Niënor, the children of Húrin, the lord of Dor-lómin, who achieved renown for having confronted Morgoth, who was the master of Sauron, the manifestation of evil in the Lord of the Rings. The lengthy and fatiguing battle against Morgoth forms the backdrop for the moving account of the life of Húrin's eldest son, Túrin, a valiant but proud warrior whose all too human frailties augur an unhappy end. Perhaps Tolkien's most three-dimensional figure, Túrin flees from the elven kingdom where he has grown into manhood, sheltered from the forces of evil, after he's unjustly judged responsible for another's death. He hides his true identity as he begins a new life as leader of a band of outlaws, a choice that has dire consequences when he crosses paths with a family member after many years of separation. Deftly balancing thrilling battles with moments of introspection, Tolkien's vivid and gripping narrative reaffirms his primacy in fantasy literature.
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Top Customer Reviews
So, why I said "I hated it"? Simple: after reading this book, I just imagined if (IF!!) Tolkien could have published more works in his lifetime, works like this one that spread things that happen in The Simarillion. Imagine a whole book about Beren and Luthien, about Eol, about the dog from Valinor, about the Valars, some books about the details of one of the battles, about the battle between Elves and Dwarfs... gosh, the options were infinite...
But it was not so... I do not see this book as a false attempt, a false job just to get cash for the state. It is a very good stand-alone book, everyone that like fantasy I think would enjoy it.
Also, the dialogues.... Here we have much more dialogue than in The Silmarillion, and, not surprisingly, they are very good. Tolkien was a master of the craft, every word counted.
Just loved this book.
Bear in mind that this book is kind of an expanded version of the tale already contained in UNFINISHED TALES, under the name "Narn I Hin Húrin" (the longest chapter in that book, by the way). The differences between the versions are clearly explained by Christopher Tolkien at the end of "The Children of Húrin".
If anyone thinks JRR only wrote happy fairytales, then they will be surprised by this ultradark tale. On the other hand, Tolkien-tropes/style are still very much present:
1) A dragon, Glaurong, terrorizes Middle Earth (reminiscent of Smaug in the Hobbit)
2) Evil villain-god Glaurong is a servant of Morgoth, once named Melkor whose lieutenant Sauron appears in LOTR; Morgoth has a large role in this book.
3) Forbidden man and elf-woman relationships, in this case Turin has a few relationships with women, and elves, but one relationship echoes that of Aragorn & Arwen from LOTR ... which echoes that of Bereth and Luthien in and Tale of Tunuviel
4) Abandoned Dwarf place: in the Hobbit and LOTR we were treated to ruined Dwarf holds (Erebor and the Mines of Moria); here we have the petty-dwarf Mim and his abandoned hold Amon Rûdh.
5) Secretive Elf places: in the Hobbit and LTOR, we had Rivendell and Lothlórien... here we are graced with Doriath and Nargothrond)
These Tolkien-tropes reinforced my take on the Hobbit and LOTR's themes; if you've read those and are entertaining reading the Silmarillion, I suggest reading Hurin first. It is easier to read than The Silmarillion and expands the milieu well.
The Children of Húrin really extends the World of the Hobbit and Return of the King. Easier to read than the Similarion, but still pretty thick. From this I learned lots of nuances (like Elrond is half-human). Would make an awesome movie (which will not happen :( ). Highly recommended.
Anyway, The Children of Hurin. This is not LOTR or The Hobbit: it's more along the lines of The Silmarillion. The story was an interesting glimpse into the world Tolkien painstakingly created around LOTR and it was fascinating to read. I dove into The Silmarillion right after finishing this story (it's really too short to be called a book) because I was in the mood for more Tolkien and wanted to see how The Children of Hurin fit in with what I remembered of The Silmarillion (which I had previously begun, but not finished). I think the style of writing (different from either LOTR or The Hobbit) provided a good transition into the heavier Silmarillion and I was able to dig in and enjoy the entire book this time around. Definitely worth reading if you're a Tolkien fan.