Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Children of Húrin, J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

Like The Simarillion, this was an unfinished work J.R.R.'s son Christopher completed. Unlike The Simarillion, this is a legitimate novel. Tolkien evidently attempted several iterations of the story. So Christopher had several partial manuscripts (some going as far back as 1916) at his disposal. In one iteration, the master approached the story as a lay (or long poem). While it's impossible to know precisely where the master's prose end and his son's begin, the result is a riveting tale with a clear protagonist, though damned, and reads deliciously well. I was surprised to discover it follows the hero cycle faithfully, though it strays often in its results: Túrin heeds nearly no one and consequently digs a deeper hole for himself as the story progresses. I'm reminded of a Game of Thrones fan who wrote that, to its detriment, The Lord of the Rings (probably the movie versions) lacked the betrayals, gore, and perversions Thrones offered. That critic might want to read Children. The prose and pacing is certainly superior to Thrones, and the other issues, like the incest, are rendered in ways that minimize the dreaded gag-reflex such a subject tends to trigger. Lean prose, fast paced scenes, exquisitely well written, but dark and tragic. Included are additional maps of Middle-earth, genealogies, and other notes. Five out of five stars. R

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Old Greek Stories, by James Baldwin (1895)

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