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Children of Hurin

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Story here.

Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on The Children of Hurin, an epic tale his father began in 1918 and later abandoned. Excerpts of The Children of Hurin, which includes the elves and dwarves of Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings and other works, have been published before.

Very cool, but I'm a bit skeptical since Chris Tolkein's work on The Silmarillion" did not do much to translate that work from dense and unedited to rich and readable.

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You think the Silmarillion is dense and unedited? ...try one of the other ten or so volumes (volua?) of his father's work that C. Tolkien has released. I suspect The Children of Hurin will be somewhere between the two styles. He presumably doesn't have enough material for another continuous narrative like The Silmarillion. In fact, the Silmarillion contains the story of the children of Hurin (short version: lots of bad things happen). JRR was noted for writing many different versions of the same story, however, so maybe there are some interesting plot shifts that will show up in this publication. I suspect, given the big announcement, that CT is including more commentary or better material arrangement so as to make this one more readable.

Edited by Jeff Kolb

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:onfire222:

[WARNING: Venting Spleen Ahead]

I love Tolkien's work probably as much as anyone on this list--and certainly more than "the man on the street"--but enough already! The man's dead. D-E-A-D.

I've long had generally negative thoughts about the volua that CT has put out. JRRT was a notoriously picky writer who didn't want anything published that was not exactly the way he wanted it. That he left pages and pages of unfinished work is no shock, but it's just that unfinished, and JRRT wouldn't have wanted it. Sure, The Silmarillion has some good stuff in it--the creation myth is beautiful--and I won't argue with folks who defend it. But the tomes that follow are certainly not something that JRRT would have wanted.

Furthermore, when have ANY of these started by great writer/posthumously finished by relatives or adoring fan collaborations been anything but mediocre? The Dune books are awful. The "lost" Sayers novel...I can't even go there. That sequel to Gone With The Wind? Egads, the whole thing makes me queasy.

I must now go and make stroganoff to clear my mind.

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:onfire222:

[WARNING: Venting Spleen Ahead]

I love Tolkien's work probably as much as anyone on this list--and certainly more than "the man on the street"--but enough already! The man's dead. D-E-A-D.

I've long had generally negative thoughts about the volua that CT has put out. JRRT was a notoriously picky writer who didn't want anything published that was not exactly the way he wanted it. That he left pages and pages of unfinished work is no shock, but it's just that unfinished, and JRRT wouldn't have wanted it. Sure, The Silmarillion has some good stuff in it--the creation myth is beautiful--and I won't argue with folks who defend it. But the tomes that follow are certainly not something that JRRT would have wanted.

Furthermore, when have ANY of these started by great writer/posthumously finished by relatives or adoring fan collaborations been anything but mediocre? The Dune books are awful. The "lost" Sayers novel...I can't even go there. That sequel to Gone With The Wind? Egads, the whole thing makes me queasy.

I must now go and make stroganoff to clear my mind.

I entirely agree. It almost sullies the entire oevre. I remember the first time I read The Silmarillion I was so abjectly disappointed. Marvellous ideas, but it didn't feel like the Tolkien writing I knew and loved. I can't imagine I'll even bother reading this latest thing from CT.

But maybe Peter Jackson is excited, thinking that he can weave all this material into the endless backstory he seems to want to shoehorn into his film of The Hobbit. Or make more films!

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As I understand it, The Silmarillion was essentially complete when JRR died. All that remained for his son to do was put the pieces together and publish it. While I agree that is feels rather different from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, it's important to remember that it was intended by JRR to be a different sort of work. In fact, much of it predated the LOTR material in Tolkien's mind. The Silmarillion contains the essence of the sub-creative "world-building" that so fascinated Tolkien.

And seriously, were folks really that disappointed by the writing in The Silmarillion? Sure it's dense. But I find the it stylistcally gorgeous! My biggest complain is the depressed hole that it leaves me in...

OK, I'll stop defending it. I've know plenty of wonderful people who had no stomach for it.

One other note: in today's BBC news quiz, the new book was mentioned. I'm really quite surprised at how big of a deal they're making. I really can't imagine that there's much new material of worth. Alternate plot lines and fragments of new ideas (which make up the rest of CT's publications) can only go so far, especially if they want to sell more than 1000 copies.

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Anders   

As I understand it, The Silmarillion was essentially complete when JRR died. All that remained for his son to do was put the pieces together and publish it. While I agree that is feels rather different from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, it's important to remember that it was intended by JRR to be a different sort of work. In fact, much of it predated the LOTR material in Tolkien's mind. The Silmarillion contains the essence of the sub-creative "world-building" that so fascinated Tolkien.

And seriously, were folks really that disappointed by the writing in The Silmarillion? Sure it's dense. But I find the it stylistcally gorgeous! My biggest complain is the depressed hole that it leaves me in...

OK, I'll stop defending it. I've know plenty of wonderful people who had no stomach for it.

AFAIK, Jeff is correct in his historical notes on the completeness of The Silmarillion. I don't believe that Christopher had as much to do with it as you guys are suggesting.

The Silmarillion is self-consciously an emulation of the kinds of Norse myth that Tolkien, and his collegues such as E. V. Gordon, studied and loved so much. And in that emulation, it reaches the level of (and perhaps surpasses in pure imagination and artfulness) the myths that it owes its existence too.

Perhaps it just should not be shelved in the "novel" section of your local B&N...

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As I understand it, The Silmarillion was essentially complete when JRR died. All that remained for his son to do was put the pieces together and publish it. While I agree that is feels rather different from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, it's important to remember that it was intended by JRR to be a different sort of work. In fact, much of it predated the LOTR material in Tolkien's mind. The Silmarillion contains the essence of the sub-creative "world-building" that so fascinated Tolkien.

And seriously, were folks really that disappointed by the writing in The Silmarillion? Sure it's dense. But I find the it stylistcally gorgeous! My biggest complain is the depressed hole that it leaves me in...

Yes, you're right. My point wasn't clear at all. I came to love it once I got over the initial disappointment. I was too young for it. And the more CT's influence is felt, the further away it gets from what I was first blown away by in LOTR.

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And seriously, were folks really that disappointed by the writing in The Silmarillion? Sure it's dense. But I find the it stylistcally gorgeous! My biggest complain is the depressed hole that it leaves me in...

Yes, and no. It is a book I've read three times. I work my way through it slowly, savoring it. Only when I'm done, and its back on the shelf, do I realize I remember nothing of the story save for the creation myth at the beginning (Iluvator weaving in Melkor's dischord to complete a richer harmony). Turin, Tuor, Huor, the Kinslaying, Feanor and Morgoth--I just have a hard time remembering what the heck they were all doing and why they were doing it.

In the LOTR, there are passages even now I could almost recite from memory; that's how well the book stayed with me.

How much is that of Tolkein's stylistic choices? How much is it of Christopher prepping an unfinished manuscript for print? I'd love to see the Children of Hurin take on more of Fellowship's lyricism; I expect it to be more like the Silmarillion. Not unreadable, but not engrossing, either.

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This is maybe a little off topic, but Philip Pullman tells about his one meeting with Prof Tolkien, who had been a student in Exeter College, Oxford. He and a friend were invited to dinner with him by, if I remember rightly, the Master of Exeter when they were students. Tolkien turned to Pullman and asked something like, 'Do you enjoy Anglo Saxon?' to which Pullman replied that he didn't. So Tolkien turned to the friend and asked, 'Have you read my book?' to which the friend replied that he hadn't. And that was all he said to them.

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Anders   

I expect it to be more like the Silmarillion. Not unreadable, but not engrossing, either.

Perhaps I can turn this around and ask if perhaps your dislike of The Silmarillion is that you "expect it to be more like The Lord of the Rings. The earlier work is a romance; it's a single story set in an established world. The Silmarillion is myth; it's the sagas in the form that the characters IN Middle Earth would read them. I think that's a distinction to be kept in mind.

This is maybe a little off topic, but Philip Pullman tells about his one meeting with Prof Tolkien, who had been a student in Exeter College, Oxford. He and a friend were invited to dinner with him by, if I remember rightly, the Master of Exeter when they were students. Tolkien turned to Pullman and asked something like, 'Do you enjoy Anglo Saxon?' to which Pullman replied that he didn't. So Tolkien turned to the friend and asked, 'Have you read my book?' to which the friend replied that he hadn't. And that was all he said to them.

Brilliant anecdote! I love it. :lol:

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Like Buckeye, my retention of most of the stories in TS is nil. And that's part of my disappointment - Tolkien's dry storytelling in the appendices to LOTR is far more engrossing, to me, at least.

Yes, I absolutely loved the appendices too. Breathtaking.

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..Tolkien's dry storytelling in the appendices to LOTR is far more engrossing, to me, at least.

Not more engrossing, for me :), but I agree that the Appendicies are breathtaking. Probably my single most favourite scene in Jackson's films is the shot with Elessar's dead body at rest and Arwen hovering nearby. And then they have Elrond narrating the story. One of the best scenes, and it's not even in the book proper! I cry every time it see it.

But, back on topic, I feel that this sub-plot (and much of the material found in the Appendicies) is more in the vein of the stories found in TS, both in content and in style. TLOTR is in classic epic style, where most everyone goes home at the end with some semblance of peace. That's of course a huge simplification, but it generally holds. The narrative is focused on the personal-journey arcs of the individual characters, from the departure from home, to their eventual return. The few glimpses of a bleaker future (the departure of the Elves, etc) add a wonderful depth and resonance to the story, but are more of a deviation stylistically. In the stories from the Appendicies, however, as well as those in TS, there's very little 'going home', at least not without great cost. If fact, much of Tolkien's larger world is full of themes like the loss of home and the diminishing of that which is great and beautiful.

If the stories in the Appendicies do it for you, and you haven't tried The Silmarillion in awhile (or ever), I recommend it to you.

Arg...here I am wasting 15 minutes defending the Silmarillion again!

Sorry... ::blushing::, you don't have to like it...

(...but you should! )

I did pick up The Book of the Lost Tales (Vol 1) last night and read a bit. Three different version of a poem about an early prototype of the Elves' original home. Wow.

Edited by Jeff Kolb

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I expect it to be more like the Silmarillion. Not unreadable, but not engrossing, either.

Perhaps I can turn this around and ask if perhaps your dislike of The Silmarillion is that you "expect it to be more like The Lord of the Rings. The earlier work is a romance; it's a single story set in an established world. The Silmarillion is myth; it's the sagas in the form that the characters IN Middle Earth would read them. I think that's a distinction to be kept in mind.

Indeed. My expectations are irrelevant here, I think, but I would say the Silmarillion and LOTR differ in the same manner as Eckhert's That Dark and Bloody River and The Frontiersman differ. For me, reading the first is more like study, the second is like reading.

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Anders   

For me, reading the first is more like study, the second is like reading.

I will grant this. Perhaps because I've approached Tolkien at times as study, and studied a great deal of Icelandic and Old English, I'm more favorably inclined to the old Silmarillion.

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And Tolkien stuck by some of his own archaic (Victorian) passages in LOTR. There's a sentence somewhere where something is compared to an "elf-maid clad in living flowers." I swallowed that one whole when I was younger, but it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb now.

Increasingly so as he progressed through the trilogy I think. The early material seems quite 'Hobbitish' - it's a familiar context and the language is quite restrained. I imagine Tolkien started writing it with the same young readership in mind. But particularly once he's reached Rivendell, his passion of the elves takes over and the language becomes grander. And as the emotional state goes higher and higher during the book, so the language goes further down this track. I was particularly struck last time I read it by some of the language used after the encounter at the gates of Mordor (a word that now always has McKellen's intonation and rolled Rs in my mind).

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I think you'r onto something there, Tony - and when he tries to add a "common touch" in Return of the King, it's all off, annoying and forced (to me, at least). Meaning the woman in Minas Tirith who goes on and on about Aragorn.

oh yes, forgotten about her.

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But how about this:

Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars.

It's beautiful and poetic but I think 'a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea' belongs in 'proper' poetry!

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Has anyone read "Leaf by Niggle"? It's one of my all-time favorite pieces, and it's by Tolkien.

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Has anyone read "Leaf by Niggle"? It's one of my all-time favorite pieces, and it's by Tolkien.

One of those things that I've intended to read so many times but never got around to.

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I think "swan-prowed" is one of his many nods to Anglo-Saxon poetry... Far more readable, to me, than his Victorianisms. ;)

Yes of course. This was an example from a randomly chosen page towards the end of RTK to see if my sense of the grandeur of the language towards the end was right.

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I think "swan-prowed" is one of his many nods to Anglo-Saxon poetry... Far more readable, to me, than his Victorianisms. ;)

Yes of course. This was an example from a randomly chosen page towards the end of RTK to see if my sense of the grandeur of the language towards the end was right.

If memory serves, there's two tonal shifts in LOTR.

One, after the chapter "Shadow of the Past" from a more pleasant and hobbit-ish prose to a darker and more urgent narrative (even with goofy Tom Bombadil, there's a sense of mourning and of menace). Two, after the breaking of the fellowship, a more archaic and formal prose is used whenever Aragorn is concerned, as he moves from Strider to "Aragorn", the king. This is most easily seen in ROTK, but also employed in Helm's Deep and in the encounter with Saruman.

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If memory serves, there's two tonal shifts in LOTR.

One, after the chapter "Shadow of the Past" from a more pleasant and hobbit-ish prose to a darker and more urgent narrative (even with goofy Tom Bombadil, there's a sense of mourning and of menace). Two, after the breaking of the fellowship, a more archaic and formal prose is used whenever Aragorn is concerned, as he moves from Strider to "Aragorn", the king. This is most easily seen in ROTK, but also employed in Helm's Deep and in the encounter with Saruman.

That's a very good observation. I'm going to have to read it again!

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If memory serves, there's two tonal shifts in LOTR.

One, after the chapter "Shadow of the Past" from a more pleasant and hobbit-ish prose to a darker and more urgent narrative (even with goofy Tom Bombadil, there's a sense of mourning and of menace). Two, after the breaking of the fellowship, a more archaic and formal prose is used whenever Aragorn is concerned, as he moves from Strider to "Aragorn", the king. This is most easily seen in ROTK, but also employed in Helm's Deep and in the encounter with Saruman.

That's a very good observation. I'm going to have to read it again!

Its not an original one. I think Tolkein himself mentions it in his foreward to the revised edition (USA publisher Ballatine Books) that sits on my shelf at home. I work in corporate America though, so I'll still take the credit for it. ;)

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Interesting point, nardis, about "purity of blood" and whatnot. I remember reading those articles at Salon and being surprised that I'd never noticed it before. I'm not quite sure how to deal with it. It's another case of feeling that a particular element should bother me more than it actually does bother me. I'm leaving it at that.

Oh, and that sort of "troubling fixation with racial purity", to paraphrase the author of that Salon article, shows up even more strongly in TS and the other First-Age works.

Edited by Jeff Kolb

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