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Children of Hurin

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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.

Without, I confess, ever stopping to consider it for long (though I have been somewhat discomfited by some related aspects) I'd always taken it as being purity of the royal blood line more than a racial thing. Blood line was a big deal over this side of the water once upon a time. (Oh, didn't some Brown bloke write something about an ancient blood line?)

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Hmm... I'd like to bring this discussion back on topic, and try to shed a little informed light on the subject.

At the "One Ring Celebration" in Pasadena in 2005, I argued that "Narn i Hin Hurin," the title of the tale fragments from which CT's book is derived, deserved to published in a separate volume. Why? Because the tale, as available in its present form, has two fragments published in separate places: half in Sil, half in Unfinished Tales. It is this latter half which no one on this board seems to have read; and it is precisely this half, when read contiguously with the portion in Sil, that elevates the tale to the status of great tragic literature.

Contrary to much popular opinion, no one (CT included) really knows the form in which Tolkien would have preferred Sil be published. The form we got in 1978 (and I was at the bookstore when it opened to get my first edition) is merely CT's best guess at one permutation that reflects some measure of inner consistency, based on a limited selection of roughly "finished" narratives.

One version of NIHH was written in metered verse; two other fragments were narrative, but were of differing lengths and level of detail (these were the two published in separate volumes by CT). Yet there is no doubt in my mind the conjoined tale ought to be read by anyone who is a fan of LOTR. It might, perhaps, remove the tarnish of Sil's underserved reputation as dreary, abstruse, and depressing. (The Sil is not, after all, the whole story any more than the OT is the whole story of The Bible.) And it puts the tragic elements of LOTR in the proper perspective, putting the lie to any reading of LOTR that is purely romantic.

Now, I'm personally no fan of CT nor of the decisions he's made in publishing his father's papers; but I do find accusations of gold-digging with regard to this project asinine. CT needs mine no more gold from his father's estate than a pigeon needs more poop. Prior to this time, CT's efforts have been as a documentarian; The Children of Hurin will mark his first effort at bringing more of his father's work to light as art; and judgment should be withheld until the book is published.

Are there not critics amongst us, after all, rather than mere preemptive shapers of public opinion?

One strange footnote... The only finished manuscript which Tolkien clearly identified for inclusion in the Sil was the "Debate of Finrod and Andreth;" yet CT buried it at the back of Vol X, Morgoth's Ring. That, with "On Fairy Stories" and "Leaf by Niggle" (both available in The Tolkien Reader) are required reading for anyone really wanting to understand Tolkien's mythology.

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Thank you Greg. Fascinating!

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Thanks Greg. You have at a stroke diminished by reluctance to bother with Children of Hurin, and prompted me to go back to Silmarillion again and to finally read Leaf by Niggle and some of the other bits and pieces. Goodness knows when, of course!

Nardis: good point about the blood of the Numenoreans running true. Tolkien and Lewis were both very much of their time in this respect. It seems problematic to us now living in our multicultural worlds, but I don't think it would have struck very many - if any - in the same way then.

There's also a theological aspect to this I've realised, having just consulted Colin Duriez's Tolkien and Middle-Earth Handbook. These men are descendants of the faithful remnant who escaped Numenor when Iluvatar destroyed it because the Numenoreans had broken the Valar's restriction on them that they must not set foot on 'immortal' lands. So I'm thinking that JRRT's comment about the blood running true functions as a metaphor for their steadfast faithfulness to Iluvatar and the Valar.

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Thanks for setting us straight, Greg. We really are just fans here, so don't be too hard on our ingnorance.

Because the tale, as available in its present form, has two fragments published in separate places: half in Sil, half in Unfinished Tales. It is this latter half which no one on this board seems to have read; and it is precisely this half, when read contiguously with the portion in Sil, that elevates the tale to the status of great tragic literature.

And what makes you think that no one here has read this? I admit that my comment simplifying NIHH to "lots of bad things happen" is simplistic but, having read fragments from both TS and The Unfinished Tales, I agree that the tale is a wonderful element of Tolkien's mythology, and that it adds a richness to one's understanding of TLOTRs. I'm just curious as to how CT will present the material. Will it be simply a concatenation of the two existing published fragments that you mention? This, in my opinion, would actually be the best case. I'm not interested in anything that CT adds himself.

Are there not critics amongst us, after all, rather than mere preemptive shapers of public opinion?

Huh?

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Thanks for setting us straight, Greg. We really are just fans here, so don't be too hard on our ingnorance.

I hope I'm not coming off as too hard. And I certainly wouldn't suggest that every LOTR or Tolkien fan needs to become an "expert." Yet NIHH, HOME, etc., are topics that get very very complicated. Just trying to get some facts cleared up.

And what makes you think that no one here has read this?

Just the fact that no one has mentioned Unfinished Tales. Sil and The Book of Lost Tales were mentioned, but not UT, and that's a pretty significant omission when one discusses NIHH. (And I did say "seem." That's an observational assessment, not an assertion of fact.)

Will it be simply a concatenation of the two existing published fragments that you mention? This, in my opinion, would actually be the best case. I'm not interested in anything that CT adds himself.

I agree entirely; and I doubt that CT, at his advanced age, is going to try to make his debut as a writer of serious fiction. So expect that his editorial input will be to smooth out the differences in tone (and mythological inconsistencies) between the two fragments. (Plus probably throwing in some additional material that never found its way into either Sil or UT.)

Are there not critics amongst us, after all, rather than mere preemptive shapers of public opinion?

Huh?

The job of the critic is to assess what's actually written, what the author was trying to do, and what the author accomplished. And some of our critics seem to be forgetting that, slamming CT's work on COH without ever having read it. That bothers me.

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As for "today's multicultural world," hey - the world's always been multicultural, it's just that the West is finally catching on to it. ;)

Quite so. Rephrase to 'a world increasingly characterised by extraordinarily multicultural societies'. Better?

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The job of the critic is to assess what's actually written, what the author was trying to do, and what the author accomplished. And some of our critics seem to be forgetting that, slamming CT's work on COH without ever having read it. That bothers me.

Of course, not everyone posting here is a critic; I'm a consumer. As such, I prejudge thousands of choices. Its Houghton's job to convince me that I need to buy and read this. I will; but still feel like I can express concerns and opinions as a likely consumer.

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hmm... i'll stick with my thought that it would be great to see these fragments put together in a truly readable form. as things are now, you have to keep flipping from book to book to... In other words, it's very frustrating, especially for people like me, who enjoy JRRT's work as it was published during his lifetime.

I agree entirely, and with your point that CT's work with his father's MSS to date has been targeted not at readers but at scholars and hard-core fans. So COH is a huge step in the right direction, theoretically, as far as acessability goes.

I also agree with Buckeye that it's the publisher's job to sell the book, and that without judgment calls we'd either have to buy everything on the market or none of it. But those sorts of conclusions are more of the "I think I'll give this one a pass for thus and such a reason" rather than of the "This is a complete waste of everyone's time and utter tripe, even though I haven't actually read it" type. It's the latter I was griping about.

But here's a relevant question, I suppose: When you read comments about an upcoming release from someone you know to be a critic, does that influence you at all? And do you make a distinction between a critic's "private" comments and the same critic's "published" opinion? Further, how do you perceive the comments of critics who participate on these forums -- as private, or public? (Granted, these questions are entirely off topic. Sorry about that.)

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originally posted by Tony Watkins

Quite so. Rephrase to 'a world increasingly characterised by extraordinarily multicultural societies'. Better?

you know, I was joking while making the point, hence the ;) But yes, it's better! :D

Sorry i did realise. I hoped that my verbose precision would appear to be sufficiently tongue-in-cheek to not bother with an emoticon. But of course it doesn't. :)

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Hi Greg, thanks for clearing up your intentions. I was initially a little put off by your tone, but I now understand what you were getting at with regards to critics/consumers/etc. And I certainly understand your desire to further folks' appreciation of Tolkien's less well-known works. From my point of view, the disscusion that takes place on this board tends to be from the point of view of the moderately well-informed consumer. There are some real critics here, yes, and many of us do have areas of real expertise, but mostly we're just chatting, shooting the virtual breeze, hoping, expressing disappointment, and whatnot.

I do have a rather detailed question for Greg, Anders, or whoever has experience with Tolkien's extended work. I think it relates just enough to COH to warrent not starting a new thread. :)

Somewhere (in the Unfinished Tales, I think), there is mentioned a prophecy of Mandos concerning the End of the World. I've always been terribly fascinated with this snippet because it's the only place I've know of where Tolkien looks forward in time, past the Fourth Age. If Middle Earth is really meant to act as a sort of pre-history to our world, then such a prophecy is very interesting because it, in a sense, involves us, the readers.

I'm trying to remember the details of the prophecy. I believe it is actually Turin (the son of Hurin) who defeats the Great Enemy in the last battle. Can someone remind me of the details and speculate what role this prophecy might play in COH?

Edited by Jeff Kolb

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I think a whole separate thread could be started from your questions above, BTW.

Yes, I imagine that's true.

As for these endless "scholarly" editions of JRRT's writing, who (these days) buys them besides libraries?

Mostly nobody. Even cheapskate Tolkien "scholars" like me check them out from the library when we need to refer to them, which isn't all that often. I profited handsomely by auctioning off the volumes I did have, which were very fine first editions; and I did purchase a personal copy of Volume X (Morgoth's Ring) simply because I wanted the freedom to annotate that one pretty heavily.

My vision for a separate release of NIHH, several years ago, was a handsome leatherbound volume that would feel delightful in the hand -- a book to be treasured both as an exciting read and a classic "book." We'll see in what kind of binding COH ends up...

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Hi Greg, thanks for clearing up your intentions. I was initially a little put off by your tone, but I now understand what you were getting at with regards to critics/consumers/etc.

Yes, I understand. Given the mixed constituency on these boards, I'm often at a loss who to "write to." So when I choose to comment on a topic, I always make sure to hang around and finish the conversation if need be, presuming there's a good chance that SOMEONE will misread what I have to say.

Somewhere (in the Unfinished Tales, I think), there is mentioned a prophecy of Mandos concerning the End of the World.

I don't recollect Turin's name being connected with that; and is it the "Remaking of Arda" to which you refer? That's mentioned in more than one place, at least twice in Sil and also in UT. (References are also scattered throughout HOME.)

If you're really interested in that topic, "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" in Morgoth's Ring (Vol. X of HOME) is illuminating. In that "tale," and the accompanying commentary, Tolkien introduces an explicit messianic prophecy -- Eru enters Arda as a man and redeems it through incarnation, and well in advance (and separate from) the Remaking. Quite stunning really; and Tolkien intended this clear, cogent, polished, finished, typed MS to be included in a published version of Sil. The text was written somewhere betweeen 1958 and 1962. And the big question is: Why did CT bury this in the nethers of Vol X rather than putting it in Sil where it belonged? I discuss that text very thoroughly in my book Tolkien in Perspective.

When I've lectured on that text and its significance at Tolkien conventions, I have sometimes been savaged by fans who cling desperately to the Ian McKellan "there are no churches in Hobbiton" view. While the Remaking of Arda and the Last Battle resemble the Norse conception of Ragnarok more than anything from the Christian Revelation, the Debate clearly introduces a specifically Christian element -- and that really bugs a lot of people. Clearly, though, it was important to Tolkien, as it represents the only completely original addition to his mythology subsequent to the publication of LOTR. The way I read it, Tolkien felt that soomething was missing, and pretty directly set about doing something about it.

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If you're really interested in that topic, "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" in Morgoth's Ring (Vol. X of HOME) is illuminating. In that "tale," and the accompanying commentary, Tolkien introduces an explicit messianic prophecy -- Eru enters Arda as a man and redeems it through incarnation, and well in advance (and separate from) the Remaking. Quite stunning really; and Tolkien intended this clear, cogent, polished, finished, typed MS to be included in a published version of Sil. The text was written somewhere betweeen 1958 and 1962. And the big question is: Why did CT bury this in the nethers of Vol X rather than putting it in Sil where it belonged? I discuss that text very thoroughly in my book Tolkien in Perspective.

When I've lectured on that text and its significance at Tolkien conventions, I have sometimes been savaged by fans who cling desperately to the Ian McKellan "there are no churches in Hobbiton" view. While the Remaking of Arda and the Last Battle resemble the Norse conception of Ragnarok more than anything from the Christian Revelation, the Debate clearly introduces a specifically Christian element -- and that really bugs a lot of people. Clearly, though, it was important to Tolkien, as it represents the only completely original addition to his mythology subsequent to the publication of LOTR. The way I read it, Tolkien felt that soomething was missing, and pretty directly set about doing something about it.

I had no idea about this. This is what comes of getting too busy to keep on reading and staying too busy to go back to it! Glad you're posting on this Greg - really appreciating your insights.

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If you're really interested in that topic, "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" in Morgoth's Ring (Vol. X of HOME) is illuminating. In that "tale," and the accompanying commentary, Tolkien introduces an explicit messianic prophecy -- Eru enters Arda as a man and redeems it through incarnation, and well in advance (and separate from) the Remaking. Quite stunning really; and Tolkien intended this clear, cogent, polished, finished, typed MS to be included in a published version of Sil. The text was written somewhere betweeen 1958 and 1962. And the big question is: Why did CT bury this in the nethers of Vol X rather than putting it in Sil where it belonged? I discuss that text very thoroughly in my book Tolkien in Perspective.

The "Debate" is an awesome piece. I read it in my Tolkien class at Seminary (The Tolkien class was in the New Testament department, and was a discussion of the characteristics of apocalyptic literature. My prof's contention was that apocalyptic is about someone who goes "there and back again" and comes back with changed insight into their present circumstances. It was a VERY helpful lens through which to view the NT). It is a profound and interesting piece. And for all his acting brilliance, Ian McKellen does not in any way understand the depths of Tolkien! :)

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If you're really interested in that topic, "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" in Morgoth's Ring (Vol. X of HOME) is illuminating.

I must go and read this. Speaking of Morgoth's Ring, I've been impressed with how easy it is to find cheap used copies of CTs books.

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Speaking of Morgoth's Ring, I've been impressed with how easy it is to find cheap used copies of CTs books.

I suspect that the vast majority of buyers purchase on the basis of someone else's recommendation, and then they find that up to half of each volume of HOME comprises CT's manuscript notes and bridging material. Reading HOME is not (for the most part) like reading narrative; and so most readers just say, "Well, been there, done that." And who really wants to know that Aragorn was originally a Hobbit named "Trotter"?

And then the Debate jumps off the page, ten volumes in...

The "Debate" is an awesome piece. I read it in my Tolkien class at Seminary (The Tolkien class was in the New Testament department, and was a discussion of the characteristics of apocalyptic literature. My prof's contention was that apocalyptic is about someone who goes "there and back again" and comes back with changed insight into their present circumstances.

It's really exciting to hear that the Debate was discussed in seminary education! Who was the prof, and what school?

That definition of apocalyptic certainly fits Ezekiel's experience, and John's; but I imagine there must be a caveat: that the "there" is visionary and otherworldly (otherwise "Jack and the Beanstalk" would be apocalyptic). And how does that definition jive with Tolkien's myth being set entirely in the past, in the context of concrete (if invented) history? (Not arguing here, BTW; I'm genuinely intrigued.)

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Yes, one of the arcane bits of backstory that one gets from HOME is that Aragorn did not originally figure into the story. (Tolkien commented in one of his letters that he had no idea where the Hobbits were going when they left the Shire, and he wasn't kidding.) Instead, the Fellowship (and Frodo was originally just one of the companions to the Ringbearer, not the Ringbearer himself) was guided from Bree onward by a frontiersman Hobbit nicknamed "Trotter," a distant cousin of Bilbo's.

About the only section of Book 1 in FOTR that was not heavily revised was the Bombadil episode.

HOME actually ruins LOTR for a lot of fans because they are forced to confront the fact that LOTR did not spring fully conceived from Tolkien's mind -- and a lot of the early ideas were exceedingly lame.

For writers (and readers) interested in the process of shaping and developing an epic masterwork, though, HOME is truly fascinating. And it's the kind of thing that would only be possible with a writer like Tolkien, who worked out everything on paper and saved every scrap of every revision. Such a thing would hardly be possible in the digital age -- nor would it be possible with a writer like fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis, who worked everything out in his head and usually dashed off books in a single draft (and rarely proofread his galleys, which is evidenced by the many typos which remain scattered throughout even contemporary reprints).

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Yes, one of the arcane bits of backstory that one gets from HOME is that Aragorn did not originally figure into the story. (Tolkien commented in one of his letters that he had no idea where the Hobbits were going when they left the Shire, and he wasn't kidding.) Instead, the Fellowship (and Frodo was originally just one of the companions to the Ringbearer, not the Ringbearer himself) was guided from Bree onward by a frontiersman Hobbit nicknamed "Trotter," a distant cousin of Bilbo's.

Fascinating.

About the only section of Book 1 in FOTR that was not heavily revised was the Bombadil episode.

I don't think I'm surprised at this. It always feels to me somewhat different, even disconnected from the rest, although I love it and would argue for its importance.

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The "Debate" is an awesome piece. I read it in my Tolkien class at Seminary (The Tolkien class was in the New Testament department, and was a discussion of the characteristics of apocalyptic literature. My prof's contention was that apocalyptic is about someone who goes "there and back again" and comes back with changed insight into their present circumstances.

It's really exciting to hear that the Debate was discussed in seminary education! Who was the prof, and what school?

That definition of apocalyptic certainly fits Ezekiel's experience, and John's; but I imagine there must be a caveat: that the "there" is visionary and otherworldly (otherwise "Jack and the Beanstalk" would be apocalyptic). And how does that definition jive with Tolkien's myth being set entirely in the past, in the context of concrete (if invented) history? (Not arguing here, BTW; I'm genuinely intrigued.)

It was Dr. Sean McDonough, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. McDonough is an expert in the book of Revelation, and brought a lot of insight to the topic. He's also a rabid Tolkien fan. The course was called, "Tolkien's Apocalyptic Imagination."

And who really wants to know that Aragorn was originally a Hobbit named "Trotter"?

What???

With wooden feet.

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It was Dr. Sean McDonough, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

I've heard good things about other staff at G-C, too. And none of them have wooden feet! :P

(Actually, as I recall, Trotter wore wooden shoes.)

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Sorry i did realise. I hoped that my verbose precision would appear to be sufficiently tongue-in-cheek to not bother with an emoticon. But of course it doesn't. :)

Tony, I've been trying to think of a suitably witty reply to your post, but haven't come up with anything so far - just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed it. :)

:D

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It was Dr. Sean McDonough, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

I've heard good things about other staff at G-C, too. And none of them have wooden feet! :P

(Actually, as I recall, Trotter wore wooden shoes.)

I loved my profs at GCTS. Tops on my list would be Dr. Gordon Hugenberger (OT - also the Senior Pastor at Boston's Historic Park Street Church) and Dr. Colin Nicholl (NT), but a close second would be Dr. Sean McDonnough (NT), Dr. David Wells (Theology - I got to learn from DAVID WELLS!) and Dr. Jeffrey Arthurs (Preaching). I was blown away by the preaching of Dr. Haddon Robinson, though I never had him for a class, and I was deeply impacted by Drs. Gary Pratico and Edward Keazirian, teaching Hebrew and Greek, respectively. Dr. Ken Swetland (Ministry) also made a strong impression on me.

It was a good three years, surrounded by great profs and passionate students.

Some of us had cold feet, but I didn't know anyone with wooden feet, no. Long shanks, yes.

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