The Tale of the Children of Húrin
J. R. R. Tolkien (HarperCollins, 2007; C. Tolkien, ed.)
313 pp. First reading.
Fair warning, friend: You may rue reading these my words, for they speak of things long hidden, and may despoil for you the tale ere you come to it yourself. Yet ever I have been cautious, for in truth I show little more than is shown in the book’s chapter titles.
In those days, John Ronald Reuel made his tale of the One Ring, and brought to light many things that had passed from all remembrance. Wearied from his labours, yet he was ever eager to tell of the world long-past, for he was a lore-master of great fame and skill, and those who knew his tongue and could understand his words marvelled at his knowledge of things passed away. And he took up the tale of Húrin called Thalion, Lord of Dor-lómin, and of his children Túrin and Niënor, and of the evil that befell them in the First Age by the will of Morgoth.
But the labour was long, and it came to pass that ere he finished his work, John set it aside. And in the course of time he fell ill, and died, leaving the work unfinished and in pieces. Yet his papers passed to Christopher his son, and he took them in hand, for he too had deep knowledge of the things of that time, and by long study he drew out and set in order the lay his father had made. And though the tale be the work of both father and son, yet ever the glory cleaves to the father, for the son did nought but weave with the materials his father had made. And he set forth the tale, as the records show, “without any editorial invention”.
The tale tells of Húrin son of Hareth of the House of Hador. And Húrin’s brother Huor was grandfather to the father of Elrond of Rivendell. And the boy Húrin and his brother came to Gondolin, the hidden city of the Elves. And Morgoth, the dark lord, gathering strength in the northern wastes of Angband, desired to possess and destroy the city, yet he knew not where it was. Then Húrin grew to a man, and when Men and Elves went out against Morgoth at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, called Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Húrin was taken. And when he would not yield to the will of Morgoth, nor reveal to him the place of the hidden city, Morgoth was wroth, and lay a curse upon Húrin and his children, saying, “Upon all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair.” And though he was true to neither Man nor Elf, yet he was true to this his word, and his curse upon the children of Húrin was a fell doom, thought at that time they marked it not, and knew it not.
Now Túrin son of Húrin was but a boy at that time. And he left his mother, who was with child, and came into the keeping of the Elves of Doriath. And he grew tall and strong, and won fame as a warrior in battle, and was beloved of Thingol the King of the Elves. But the malice of Morgoth was great and reached even into that place. And it chanced that Túrin was driven out of the company of the Elves, and was made an outlaw among outlaws in the woods of Brethil, and came to the city of Nargothrond, and was called The Black Sword, for he wielded Gurthang with great skill and courage.
Then Morgoth sent forth Glaurung the Dragon to work his will, and he laid waste the city of Nargothrond, and few escaped, yet Túrin was among them, and he was called Turambar, Master of Doom, for he escaped death to meet a worse fate. For his sister Niënor was also grown, and the eye of Morgoth marked them both, and ever the curse pursued them, and though Túrin smote Glaurung at Cabed-en-Aras, and on the river Teiglin slew the Great Worm, yet the power of the will of Morgoth overcame them all, and in darkness he wrought fell destruction for the House of Húrin. And his doom was strong, and none could withstand it.
And so the tale of the children of Húrin came to an end. And it was a tale of woes and of great sorrow. Yet in the telling it is sweet, and the skill of the talesmith is strong. And we in after-times know that the triumph of Morgoth was not complete, as it then seemed to be.