Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tolkien at his gloomiest best

At one point in The Children of Húrin, Túrin is furious with someone for having revealed his true name and therefore exposing him to the curse of Morgoth. To which he is told that his doom does not lie in his name, but in himself. And that just about sums up the story of the tormented life of Túrin, son of Húrin. When Húrin defies Morgoth after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Morgoth curses Húrin and his family to eternal doom (or something like that). But even without Morgoth's help, Túrin would have done just fine by himself.

Unlike the sharply polarized characters in The Lord of The Rings, the latest from the Tolkien stable offers us a hero who is more flawed than most. He is proud, headstrong, hot headed and ungrateful. Upon his exile from Doriath, he takes up with a band of outlaws and hardly protests when they go about looting the villages of men. He brings trouble wherever he goes, thanks to his rashness. He also routinely steals the lady loves of his supporters and usurps their authority without so much as a by-your-leave. And to top it all, he marries the one woman that he most certainly shouldn't. His primary redeeming feature seems to be his valour that usually gets him promoted to functional head of the place, which he promptly brings to destruction through his own confusion. And his mother and his sister are equally pig headed. When they finally meet their doom, one feels not pity, but relief that they cannot cause any more misery to themselves or to others.

The Elves, who are such goody-two-shoes in LOTR, are well, more human. The High Elves in The Children of Húrin would rather hide than act against the enemy. They do have more powers since we are early on in the history of Middle Earth, but fail to exercise most of it. In a way, their inaction causes more harm to the doomed Túrin than anything else.

A great read, providing more insight into the genius that was Tolkien. This is the guy who created a whole fictional universe, so vast that most of it is still unfinished. I've read LOTR some 6 times now, and my only problem is that things are too black and white in it. (Though I still love Aragorn, noble and valiant and all that!) In Children of Húrin, Tolkien satisfies my appetite for gray. Amazing book.

1 comment:

The Wicked Messenger said...

Very nice review, havent finished the book yet, but I'll definately will after reading this ;).