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Old 09-10-2013, 10:08 PM   #1
TheLostPilgrim
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Is The Children of Hurin better than the Lord of the Rings?

Discuss.
Do you feel The Children of Hurin--or any of the other stories from The Silmarillion--is better than The Lord of the Rings?

I honestly feel like while LOTR is justifiably lauded, most of the stories in The Silmarillion could eat it for breakfast if they had been turned into full length conventional narratives.
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Old 09-10-2013, 10:26 PM   #2
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The Children of Húrin is actually a good story. Is it better than LotR, I guess it depends on who you ask.
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Old 09-10-2013, 11:38 PM   #3
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Interesting suggestion...

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Originally Posted by TheLostPilgrim View Post
I honestly feel like while LOTR is justifiably lauded, most of the stories in The Silmarillion could eat it for breakfast if they had been turned into full length conventional narratives.
This is an interesting question - I think due to its comparatively shorter length, and its 'editorialized' publication, it hasn't received quite as much attention as it should. I like to think of the Children of Hurin as a nascent masterpiece - there are parts of the novel that are briefer than others, (for example the Outlaws chapters vs the Nargothrond chapters) but in general the story benefits from the terse nature of the writing.

Do I think it is 'better' than the LoTR? I certainly think it is completely different, and (for me at least) evokes not only completely different emotions, but it almost evokes a different kind of world - this isn't one where a kindly Gandalf figure encourages out protagonists to have faith in some higher power.

It's funny, on my last reading of tLoTR, the intimations of higher power and 'providential' guidance actually irritated me, and although I still enjoy reading LoTR, The Children of Hurin offers something new and different - a kind of catharsis and poignancy with relation to human suffering missing from the LoTR.

So I suppose it comes down to taste. But whatever your opinion, I think CoH deserves to be regarded as a central element in Tolkien's canon, and hopefully in time a more nuanced picture of Tolkien's creativity will be developed which also takes into account the less rosy picture of human suffering developed in the Silmarillion, and the Children of Hurin especially.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:16 AM   #4
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I like COH, probably better than LOTR, because it's a tragedy. A full-on tragedy. I like those. Mind you, I'm also quite happy with the bittersweet LOTR ending, but it's just not the same. The story just washes away gradually. But COH is so intense in terms of its mood and emotions that it's like igneous rock to LOTR's sedimentary.

I would not say the same for all of The Sil's stories, but The Sil overall also has this quality. Individually, though, I think none of its stories beat COH in this respect.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:14 PM   #5
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To me, LOTR is the better of the stories.

I had read Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion long before CoH was released, so I saw (and still consider) CoH to be mainly an amalgam of stories in the two earlier books. Maybe for that reason, CoH didn't impress me in a major way. That's not to say it's a bad book, it just didn't really add to anything in Túrin's tale as I already perceived it.

LOTR is a much more sweeping tale, and I like the "all or nothing" motif: that the Ring must somehow be destroyed for the West to survive.

By contrast, CoH is more the story of a private vendetta that admittedly has a major place in the First Age history, but lacks the high stakes tension of LOTR.
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Old 09-11-2013, 02:28 PM   #6
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If it comes to my preferences, I would basically second what Inzil said. I don't care so much for the "high stakes", but having already read everything in the Sil and mainly UT, I was not particularly swept with the tale. It has nice things, nice interesting moments or characters (I really like the part with Forweg, Andróg and co., as well as Mim), but that is still rather episodic stuff.

LotR has, also (by definition) much more characters, therefore many more more interesting characters, and therefore also more characters you can relate to. I can't seriously relate to anyone in CoH, or: I can't relate to Túrin (seriously, I am not Paul Sartre), and all the other characters are quite minor (e.g. Sador I can "like", but I can't relate to him. The closest somebody gets to being "liked" by me is probably Aerin). And even though I have a strong dislike for the main protagonists of all stories just because they are main protagonists, Frodo actually is a person one can relate to, or sympathise with. And of course the others, much more.

LotR I like exactly because it has, apart from being a masterful tale, so many elements, so many points which actually very realistically and spot-on reflect some deeper levels of inter-human relationship or existence in our world, but at the same time inspire our ways of perceiving the world in a different way. I am not going to start here on the big themes like hope or mercy, but that is essential. Also there are so many small sub-stories with similar effects, the tale of Saruman with the pride and fall, the despair of Denethor, and so on. In CoH, I find only the despair and the brave struggle against fate, which is nice and in many ways realistic, but LotR offers very similar picture in, for instance, the tale of the Rohirrim who ride to their death - or so they think, or on the grimmer note in the case of Denethor, who gives up - they all have slightly different approach than Túrin, but the theme is there; and then also, the view is limiting. Túrin's story exactly lacks the hope. I know in many ways it gives it a different perspective, but personally, I prefer the story which offers hope - and not in some "cheap" way where everyone lives happily ever after, but exactly in the very realistic sense that there is always loss, and Saruman might still afflict the Shire, but that there is hope. Which is far more inspiring and uplifting than anything else.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:00 PM   #7
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Tolkien Hmmm...

I love COH, but I'd stake my claim on the side of LOTR. I find it has a more balanced ( and a more nuanced and realistic) view on some of the many complexities of the human condition.
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Old 09-12-2013, 01:07 AM   #8
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I love COH, but I'd stake my claim on the side of LOTR. I find it has a more balanced ( and a more nuanced and realistic) view on some of the many complexities of the human condition.
This is an interesting take - I've often felt the opposite, as thought The Children of Hurin captures the senselessness of human suffering where the Lord of the Rings tends toward "sacralising" it. That is, suffering takes on a meaningful dimension - Frodo suffers because he has been "chosen" to, somehow, to take the ring to Mordor and save Middle-earth.

Turin suffers for several reasons - Morgoth's curse, his own ineptitude, his imperfect knowledge, Glaurung, etc. But even as a child, Turin suffers grief when his sister dies and he is sent away - events over which he has no control as a child. All of this suffering is gratuitous - that is, it doesn't have some 'higher purpose'. It seems to me that this 'kind' of suffering is far more relevant to our sense of how the real world actually works. For me, the story is powerful because it depicts suffering in this morally insignificant way - Turin's 'heroism' lies in his trying to overcome the strictures of the Curse of his own volition, not in the fulfillment of some divine plan.
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Old 09-12-2013, 02:23 AM   #9
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I'm not sure I consider "better" to be useful terminology, personally, because that implies some standard of measurement that just doesn't exist. If it's which I prefer I would have to say The Lord of the Rings in terms of detail alone. I think a world where the narratives of The Silmarillion were as detailed as The Lord of the Rings would be no bad thing though.

I think I would enjoy The Children of Húrin more if it included "The Wanderings of Húrin" as an epilogue to the narrative but that's purely personal preference.

I think if there was any narrative of The Silmarillion I would like to see treated with the same detail it would be The Voyage of Eärendil, because like The Lord of the Rings it deals with the end of an Age.

That being said, as a tragedy and as a part of the larger whole I find The Children of Húrin to be a very intriguing instalment for the very reason that it's not on the same scale as The Lord of the Rings - indeed a more comparable narrative might almost be The Hobbit in terms of its scope, yet radically different in tone, a testament to Professor Tolkien's masterful talents.
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Old 09-12-2013, 04:39 AM   #10
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I'm not sure I consider "better" to be useful terminology, personally, because that implies some standard of measurement that just doesn't exist. If it's which I prefer I would have to say The Lord of the Rings in terms of detail alone. I think a world where the narratives of The Silmarillion were as detailed as The Lord of the Rings would be no bad thing though.
Well , the notion that aesthetic judgments are completely arbitrary is probably wrong I think. I'm not quite sure I'd go so far as to say some kind of objective (meaning "out in nature") standard for beauty exists - although it certainly seems to be the case that humans have evolved to perceive certain qualities as beautiful non-arbitrarily.

Perhaps a case could be made that either of those two books is "better" because one or the other fulfills more of the criteria humans were 'designed' to perceive as aesthetically pleasing.

Of course, I'm not going to do that here

Doubtless The Lord of the Rings succeeds in questions of detail. By that standard it also beats Cormac McCarthy's the Road (a book similar in many surprising respects to the Children of Hurin), but neither detail nor length make a reading experience worthwhile on their own.

Robert Jordan's fantasy series spans multiple tomes and usually excruciating levels of detail, and yet I find his books far less memorable that the Silmarillion itself, let alone the Lord of the Rings. A tight, compact, exquisitely written work like The Road can leave an impact long after the covers have been shut, and so too, I think, The Children of Hurin.

It is perhaps unusual as a fantasy work because it is so short, but for me its tightness works to its advantage. The compacted levels of drama work to heighten the tension and when it is released, the pressure generates such an overwhelming catharsis.
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Old 09-12-2013, 05:17 AM   #11
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Doubtless The Lord of the Rings succeeds in questions of detail. By that standard it also beats Cormac McCarthy's the Road (a book similar in many surprising respects to the Children of Hurin), but neither detail nor length make a reading experience worthwhile on their own.

Robert Jordan's fantasy series spans multiple tomes and usually excruciating levels of detail, and yet I find his books far less memorable that the Silmarillion itself, let alone the Lord of the Rings. A tight, compact, exquisitely written work like The Road can leave an impact long after the covers have been shut, and so too, I think, The Children of Hurin.
I quite agree. I haven't read The Road but I have read McCarthy's Child of God and I wholeheartedly agree with you that a book does not have to be long (let alone a series! The Wheel of Time is a horrific offender in this regard, what a bore). Indeed some of my favourite novels (The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, etc) are quite brief. But I was purely comparing The Lord of the Rings to The Children of Húrin, not literature in general. I am not classifying "less detail" as "bad" by any margin. Personally I enjoy that particular level of detail which Professor Tolkien employs in The Lord of the Rings, which when you think about it is comparatively brief compared to most of Tolkien's successors/imitators. I think it is heavily dependent on the author. Personally The Lord of the Rings hits the spot for me, but that's just my judgement.

In this regard I believe it is purely a matter of taste. This is not some kind of attack on The Children of Húrin, which I still like a lot, but I really do not believe that one work of art can be certifiably 'better' than another - I would go mad if I did, for so much popular art (literature, films, etc) I absolutely despise. I would think myself an alien. Indeed, that would mean I was "wrong" for preferring The Lord of the Rings, which doesn't make a great deal of sense in my opinion. I don't believe aesthetic standards are completely arbitrary, but I don't think they're objective either.

Regardless, I have only read The Children of Húrin once, so perhaps it just hasn't had the opportunity to work its magic on me the way The Lord of the Rings has.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:08 AM   #12
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Pastiche

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Originally Posted by TheLostPilgrim View Post
Discuss.
Do you feel The Children of Hurin--or any of the other stories from The Silmarillion--is better than The Lord of the Rings?

I honestly feel like while LOTR is justifiably lauded, most of the stories in The Silmarillion could eat it for breakfast if they had been turned into full length conventional narratives.
The short answer is that I enjoyed LOTR far more, reread it far more, etc... That would use, however, a rather subjective definition of 'better'.

Then there is the dictionary definition of "pastiche" -- an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period. Without being derogatory, CoH and Silmarillion are not conventional narratives, they are pastiches, written in imitation of the old sagas. The whole point of The Silmarillion and other early Tolkien works was to experiment with and enjoy an older obsolete art form.

I am inclined to believe the pastiche element includes themes. In the old days, the lords and warriors caused a great deal of suffering in great part due to their wallowing in pride, anger, greed and other vices. Art imitated life. Feanor might stand as the classic example. Sauron and Melkor aren't much better. I don't particularly enjoy reading about such people. If the tales were rewritten into a modern fantasy novel format, I still wouldn't like reading about such people.

If the Mona Lisa were recreated as a summer blockbuster movie, would it be a better work?
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:39 AM   #13
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In this regard I believe it is purely a matter of taste. This is not some kind of attack on The Children of Húrin, which I still like a lot, but I really do not believe that one work of art can be certifiably 'better' than another - I would go mad if I did, for so much popular art (literature, films, etc) I absolutely despise. I would think myself an alien. Indeed, that would mean I was "wrong" for preferring The Lord of the Rings, which doesn't make a great deal of sense in my opinion. I don't believe aesthetic standards are completely arbitrary, but I don't think they're objective either.

Regardless, I have only read The Children of Húrin once, so perhaps it just hasn't had the opportunity to work its magic on me the way The Lord of the Rings has.
I agree, aesthetic taste isn't arbitrary but it isn't objective either - kinda like morality. Nor would i call you wrong for preferring one to the other. Of course, if taste were completely indiscriminate, then we couldn't have any kind of meaningful discussion about it.

But yes, you are right that the level of detail Tolkien employed in the Lord of the Rings is very effective - Brian Rosebury has a great discussion, for example, of Tolkien's use of landscape detail to illicit certain emotions and develop particular tones. In my view this is one reason why the Lord of the Rings is indeed so spectacular, and so vividly creates Middle-earth.

I guess I brought up The Road because my response to it (and also Blood Meridian) was so similar to my response to the Children of Hurin (and also another shorter fantasy work, the Broken Sword). That "novella" quality enables a certain terseness of style that suits the tragic subject matter. Both McCarthy and Tolkien in their different ways rise to the occasion and develop appropriate styles for the kinds of stories they are telling. (coming to think of it, I think Tolkien studies would be enriched by this kind of 'comparative' approach. How is TOlkien like contemporary authors like McCarthy, with whom he shares some interesting similarities).
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:48 AM   #14
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(coming to think of it, I think Tolkien studies would be enriched by this kind of 'comparative' approach. How is TOlkien like contemporary authors like McCarthy, with whom he shares some interesting similarities).
Absolutely. My present research thesis involves comparing Professor Tolkien's work to various authors of utopian and dystopian literature (Morris, Orwell etc).

I think the terseness of style is an important point, because I think in Professor Tolkien's work it's so referential to now-archaic literary forms like the saga and the romance, which I think may account for why some find The Silmarillion and even The Lord of the Rings difficult.
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Old 09-12-2013, 07:20 AM   #15
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I had read Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion long before CoH was released, so I saw (and still consider) CoH to be mainly an amalgam of stories in the two earlier books. Maybe for that reason, CoH didn't impress me in a major way. That's not to say it's a bad book, it just didn't really add to anything in Túrin's tale as I already perceived it.
That's interesting. I've read COH before UT, and the Narn in UT had a similar effect on me as COH did on you.

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LotR has, also (by definition) much more characters, therefore many more more interesting characters, and therefore also more characters you can relate to. I can't seriously relate to anyone in CoH, or: I can't relate to Túrin (seriously, I am not Paul Sartre), and all the other characters are quite minor (e.g. Sador I can "like", but I can't relate to him.
I have to admit I don't really understand what the word "relate" means, not only here but in a more general way too. Is it that you don't think you'd have done the same or felt the same? Or that you don't understand the character? Don't like the character? I think that you don't have to feel close to the character to understand him and like him, even though you might disagree with him. I like Turin, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start acting like him. I was going to lead this to something else, but I lost my thought, so I'll just stop rambling...
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Old 09-12-2013, 07:57 AM   #16
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I have to admit I don't really understand what the word "relate" means, not only here but in a more general way too. Is it that you don't think you'd have done the same or felt the same? Or that you don't understand the character? Don't like the character? I think that you don't have to feel close to the character to understand him and like him, even though you might disagree with him. I like Turin, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start acting like him. I was going to lead this to something else, but I lost my thought, so I'll just stop rambling...
This is a great point. I think the notion of 'relating' to characters tries to express a whole gamut of feelings in one concept. On the one hand there is a sense of whether or not a reader engages with the character - whether or not the character is interesting. There is also the question of how alike to the reader the character is. The more alike, the more easy it is to see oneself in the same situation. Then there is the question of whether or not a particular character exhibits likable character traits. Could we imagine having a beer with this character? I think that's what a lot of people mean when they say "relate".

There's another dimension too - a moral dimension. I think plenty of people would say that they "relate" to Frodo or Sam partly because they embody the kinds of ethical lives that we'd like to live. Not only them, but also Gandalf, Faramir, etc. They are all characters who respond to the presence of the dominating One Ring "correctly" within the moral frame of the story - that is, they either do not inhibit or actively work toward its destruction.

A character like Turin, on the other had, does not embody our sense of moral worthiness. Like the characters in Game of Thrones he exhibits impatience, petulance, annoyance, apathy and faithlessness. He is quick to anger, violent and at turns careless or self-righteous and self-pitying. He is therefore less easy to "relate" to - he grates against our moral intuitions.

At the same time, I've read elsewhere that for some readers, he is easier to relate to precisely because he exhibits these natural psychological tendencies more readily than Frodo or Sam do, who remains steadfast in their quest until it is completed (perhaps, psychologically, an unrealistic expectation for any person). Perhaps, therefore, a sense of psychological "realism" makes Turin more human and therefore more "like us".

Anyway, I am rambling, but the complexities of reader response are I would say related to the complexities of human psychology. When we say we relate or say we fail to relate to characters we are responding to a complex set of variables - likableness, moral expectations, wish fulfillment, our own moral codes, etc.
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Old 09-12-2013, 01:28 PM   #17
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I have to admit I don't really understand what the word "relate" means, not only here but in a more general way too.
I agree.

I once mentioned Tolkien in a post on a Doctor Who forum and my correspondent remarked that he found no character in Tolkien remotely believable. I didn’t follow up on this, but Pippin, for example, reminds me of several people I have known in real life, in all cases a person who is somewhat younger than those he hung around with and who tended to play the clown, probably in part because he realized that he was going to be seen as somewhat funny, and so he might as well play to that perception and was able to do it. Merry, on the contrary, is very responsible and helpful, another type that I recognize in reality.

By the way, though you are somewhat younger than most on this site, you don’t remind me of Pippin at all. You are instead awesomely intelligent and knowledgeable.

I agree with Blantyr that the Silmarillion heroes are all pastiches of traditional heroes. That may explain why I like them in a different way than I do Frodo or Aragorn because they derive from a different sort of hero to be appreciated in a different way. And that kind of hero may be appreciated in original tales, not through pastiches.

I recall as a child disliking that the ends of heroic Greek legends were usually tragic with the heroes and heroines turning into base villains: Bellerophon, Jason, Theseus, and others, these conclusions usually not told in the endings of the tales as adapted for children. But as I discovered these endings I got used to them and began to appreciate them.

As to whether The Children of Húrin, for example, is better than The Lord of the Rings, I think not, but I do not believe that I have any right to make such a judgement other than for myself, alone, for this time only (I might change my mind).

See http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/The_C...%BArin_reviews for reviews, more of them favorable than otherwise.

One’s taste may change depending on mood, and even a review which seems inane may provide insight, or not.
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Old 09-13-2013, 04:27 AM   #18
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I have to admit I don't really understand what the word "relate" means, not only here but in a more general way too. Is it that you don't think you'd have done the same or felt the same? Or that you don't understand the character? Don't like the character? I think that you don't have to feel close to the character to understand him and like him, even though you might disagree with him. I like Turin, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start acting like him. I was going to lead this to something else, but I lost my thought, so I'll just stop rambling...
I would basically say that what I imagine under "relate" is more or less a summary of what NogrodtheGreat had said (seriously, I almost wrote "Nogrod" as abbreviation, that wouldn't work. NTG? NG?).

There are several levels on which I can approach characters I "like/relate to" in fictional works. I can "like" many characters in the way that I find them, let's say, "cool". In my case, for example, to use a simple example, Sauron (especially his First-Age appearance, when he is not just "phantom menace"). Very intriguing character, but obviously, I would totally disagree with his worldview (which, from the little we know about him, would seem to be concentrated on utter power-hungry egoism). They can be also characters I simply like because they are wearing cool clothes or they are Elves or whatnot. That's actually the case of most films and similar media, because the plots can't usually (by definition, if the film has two hours, unless it's a psychological drama focused wholly on a single character) explore the characters so much that it would give you more grounds for "liking" characters, certainly not to the point which I'd call "relate".

Then there are characters I "like" and I can relate to their inner conflicts, which is sort of the thing that NTG mentioned about the Game of Thrones characters. I often like these characters the most of all. There is for example Saruman (who certainly used to be THE top LotR character for me for a long time) or for comparison, Cersei in GoT. I can relate to their weaker sides and feel empathy with them in their dilemmas, I also pity them and see the moments or things that led them the downward spiral they ended up in, the opportunities wasted (Saruman's repeated chances of redemption so close, but always refused), and so on. I feel empathy with the moments where they felt "rightfully" neglected (Cersei not being appreciated enough simply because she was a woman and being basically "sold" to a random man; with Saruman, it is actually mostly his own fault because of his own pride, e.g. feeling jealous of Gandalf and therefore instead of offering his best to cooperate, becoming focused on his own ego and demands), but I do not applaud their actions or consider them good role models or such, and there are many things they do which are outright disgusting (torture, making of Uruk-hai, warmongering).

And then there are characters who can serve as role-models in some way, because they embody something that I feel awfully lacking in real world and they express those things in the form of a story, which makes it more accessible and adaptable for a human reader or listener. Mercy. Courage to stand against the odds. Selflessness, even sometimes up to the point of practically ending dead in some Mordor. They do not need to fulfil the criteria of the first two - I don't, for instance, find Frodo "cool", because he doesn't have the Black Arrow nor is he a guy who created a new race of Orcs, but the "coolness" is after all a superficial thing (I like the Uruk-hai, but if I think about it on a deeper level, what is there about them to like?). But I can find in Frodo the qualities I appreciate and he can be sort of a "role model", especially since even in LotR, no matter how epic it is, the heroes are not superhumans (mostly) and the good does not win in shiny armour, because that's not realistic, but through doubts, even despair, and that is realistic.

Nonetheless the tale is not depressing even though the doubts and despair are present, because ultimately the good wins, even though much is lost. But that does not happen in Túrin's tale, and that's why I don't like it as much. (Similarly, but that's of course personal, I don't find Túrin neither cool, neither likeable enough, and most certainly not "relateable", because he is, as the Isengarders like to say, a fool. He is not a "proper" hero because he is arrogant and basically ruins everything he touches. The part I love, however, is when he's with the outlaws - especially in the beginning, that is the most "human" part of him and where I can even relate, because he serves as the "voice of reason" among the band of, effectively, bandits. But then he follows more the Saruman and Cersei-path: he starts walking the downward spiral, even though it isn't his own fault but he is forced by the circumstances. One could however imagine a person could have acted differently, less hot-headedly, for instance.)
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Old 09-13-2013, 10:17 AM   #19
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As for the story itself I think that TLOTR is better because, first and obviously is finished and is original, with many influences, but original. TCOH is a story less original or if you prefer very deeply influenced by the mythology. But if we speak of the narrative process I think that every or almost every tale written (or rewritten) after the completion of TLOTR, and with that narrative experience, is better. The pity is that every tale post TLOTR was left unfinished. But, as they stands now, and forgetting the hypothetical editorially revisions the professor would have done, things like the major parts of TCOH finished by the professor (not the book published), the written part of the new Tuor, and for example (and in my opinion the best) the written part of Aldarion and Erendis, are even better narrated than TLOTR.

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Old 09-16-2013, 06:00 AM   #20
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I personally prefer LotR, as the Rings of Power which can so easily ensnare Men have ensnared me.
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Old 09-26-2013, 10:34 AM   #21
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One could put the sense of the original question this way: "is this apple a better apple than that orange is an orange?" One could find that there are standards by which to judge such a comparison. Is it fresher? Is it free of blemishes? Is it sweeter? More sour, as apples and oranges go?

We lump both CoH and LotR into a category of "fantasy", which is just as apt as lumping apples and oranges together as fruit. However, differences are as important as similarities.

LotR was called by its author a Romance and a Faery Story. CoH is, by comparison, Tragedy and Myth. Neither of them is Comedy, obviously.

Both stories achieve their purposes within their categories. LotR is full of color and adventure and has a generally happy ending. It also brings the reader through escape, recovery, and consolation. And, as the author himself said was essential for Faery Story, its happy ending comes about through eucatastrophe. As such, LotR is seminal and groundbreaking. It is as long as it needs to be to tell the story to be told. By comparison, CoH is dark, bold, and cold, as one would expect northern tragic myth to be. It also succeeds within its genre. Is it long and short enough to tell the story to be told? I have read above that some readers think it is not on a par with LotR on this score.

So, to be brusque in a summation, using far too little data, but daring nonetheless, I think it fair to say that LotR succeeds as a romance/faery story better than CoH as a tragic myth. That does not say that CoH was not worth writing or reading! But if one is going to compare them, this seems at least as fair a comparison as any I've read elsewhere.
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:09 AM   #22
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I don't believe I've said this before, so I will now. I have to give LOTR credit for giving me the interest in Tolkien and fantasy to begin with. If I started out with COH, I would have abandoned the whole genre. The first time I read Turin's story in The Sil I thought I'm going to be sick with all his mess, and I put off reading COH for a long time. After a while, though, COH started winning over. It is a more "specific" book in terms of its themes and characters, which is probably the reason that it draws a smaller audience, but it's a "louder" book. If I decided to reread some Tolkien and I was given a choice between LOTR and COH, the latter would win hands down.

Once again, though, I have to give LOTR all the credit for bringing me to COH and the rest to begin with. And I guess I am too much a pro-tragedy-book person to deny a good tragedy.
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Old 09-26-2013, 03:14 PM   #23
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Rereading the whole of LOTR last year for the first time in about twenty years, I did find its style jarring. I missed the calmness - if that's the word - the smoothness and evenness of The Silmarillion (which it took me many years to grow to love as I do now).

That's The Silmarillion, though. As for the COH ... Turin simply isn't a character I can feel much for, however dreadful his tragedy. To be honest, I do struggle to understand why JRRT devoted so much time to him. Perhaps the notion of being caught up in fate and unable to overcome it ... in a rather more "conventionally" epic way than Frodo is, perhaps ... and it is interesting, in a way, for a main character to be not particularly appealing (I am referring to Turin here - just my personal opinion). Still, I would rather Tolkien had developed some of the other tales further. I know loving a book and appreciating its skill are two different things, but I read COH a few years ago and I can't say I remember much about it, or at least much that differed from versions of Turin's tale that I had already read. I do think memorability is a significant factor in determining the greatness of a piece of literature, even if we are talking about greatness as opposed to personal favourites. I consider Lord of the Flies and 1984 to be both outstanding literature and highly memorable, even though 1984 will never (for me) be a favourite book.

However, looking back, this thread is more about the quality of the stories than that of their relative styles.

No, I don't think any individual story is better than the story of LOTR. The scope of the whole Silmarillion, yes, but not any one story. Fingolfin's story moves me, as does Felagund's, and the whole tragedy of the elves is breathtaking - but no one individual's story moves me as deeply as Frodo's story does ... and that, I suppose, is for me the hallmark of a great tale.
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:33 PM   #24
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Discuss.
Do you feel The Children of Hurin--or any of the other stories from The Silmarillion--is better than The Lord of the Rings?

I honestly feel like while LOTR is justifiably lauded, most of the stories in The Silmarillion could eat it for breakfast if they had been turned into full length conventional narratives.
That depends, I guess, on how you define 'better'. I don't think that 'darker' is necessarily 'better', though TS has characters that often are more complicated, more 'grey', if you like, than those in LOTR. I think Tolkien's use of language is better in the latter, and, as a story, the scale is not comparable to Children of Hurin. To me, all of Tolkien's stories set in Middle Earth form one, large tale, and while some are perhaps more tedious or less relevant than others, whether some are 'better' than others is quite debatable.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:21 PM   #25
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Is The Children of Hurin better than the Lord of the Rings?

No, it is not.

CoH utterly lacks humor, the characters are near demi-god status akin to Greek heroes (nice for tragedies, but not so much for developing well-rounded, human roles), and most of the plot points are lifted from the Kalevala (so a bit short on originality).
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Old 11-20-2013, 09:22 PM   #26
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CoH utterly lacks humor, the characters are near demi-god status akin to Greek heroes (nice for tragedies, but not so much for developing well-rounded, human roles), and the most of the plot points are lifted from the Kalevala (so a bit short on originality).
Hey, that's exactly why I love it! Combine some good Greek tragedy with another mythology and you get the perfect mix.
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Old 11-27-2013, 01:42 PM   #27
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In some ways I prefer COH-it feels more like a story (rather than the 'Heroic Romance' of LOTR), the characters aren't the clean cut larger than live heroes of LOTR, and it seems more 'real' in some regards. The combination of tragedy, greed, violence and terror for me make for a more interesting story (not necessarily a better one) and the short length is a bonus (I haven't had the time to read lotr in ages), but I can't really quailfy COH itself as being better-I like all the versions of Turin Turambar's story, though I'm still annoyed The Wanderings of Hurin (or something similar) wasn't included-crosscutting Turin tragedy with his fathers story would have made the story even more epic and tragic in my mind.

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Old 11-28-2013, 06:06 AM   #28
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In some ways I prefer COH-it feels more like a story (rather than the 'Heroic Romance' of LOTR), the characters aren't the clean cut larger than live heroes of LOTR, and it seems more 'real' in some regards. The combination of tragedy, greed, violence and terror for me make for a more interesting story
Are you implying that heroic romances aren't 'stories' in a way that other fictions are?

I don't particularly agree with LOTR's heroes being 'clean cut larger than life'. Take, for instance, Boromir, Frodo (who submitted to the Ring's power, even if it was inevitable), Galadriel (who, despite her strength and apparent holiness was tempted by the Ring), Gollum, etc. May I ask in what regards COH seems more 'real'? A tragedy is not necessarily any more 'real' than a story with a happy or a bittersweet ending (unless you were referring to the mere fact that COH is not of the heroic romance class). Also, the qualities of COH you mentioned are all present in LOTR, and possibly not to a much lesser extent.

And yes, Beleg is awesome.
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Old 11-28-2013, 06:35 AM   #29
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In some ways I prefer COH-it feels more like a story (rather than the 'Heroic Romance' of LOTR), the characters aren't the clean cut larger than live heroes of LOTR, and it seems more 'real' in some regards. The combination of tragedy, greed, violence and terror for me make for a more interesting story (not necessarily a better one) and the short length is a bonus (I haven't had the time to read lotr in ages), but I can't really quailfy COH itself as being better-I like all the versions of Turin Turambar's story, though I'm still annoyed The Wanderings of Hurin (or something similar) wasn't included-crosscutting Turin tragedy with his fathers story would have made the story even more epic and tragic in my mind.
In my mind, the shortness it not so much of an asset. The length of the book doesn't make that much of a difference. But to read COH you need to have first read The Sil, and before reading that you should probably read LOTR. I have a friend who is gradually becoming a Tolkien fan, but he's a very slow reader. I keep reminding him not to stop after LOTR, but he's taking his time with it, so who knows when he'll get to COH. I agree that the Wanderings of Hurin should have been completed - the story doesn't feel complete without Hurin's death.

What I do like is very intense emotion in both the quality and the conciceness. LOTR is good, but the emotion is scattered over the storyline. In COH, everything is one big emotion (most of it can be summorized with one word: NOOOOOOO!!! ). You have bed moments, but you also have some good moments. Personally, I feel much more joy reading one paragraph of good stuff happening in COH than several chapters of victory in LOTR (not to say that their emotion is monotonious, but the prevailing emotion there). LOTR will in my mind still be more story-based (with emotion, no doubt, but still a story), while COH, a good story, is still an emotion.
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Old 12-11-2013, 11:41 AM   #30
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I agree with those who commented above that LoTR and CoH are very different and cannot be compared directly with one another. If I had to choose, my vote would go to LoTR.

I also agree that CoH is Christopher's interpretation of what this piece of the Silmarillion might have looked like upon completion. It is a synthesis of the various versions of this tale found in HoME. However, in my view, as the Silmarillion evolved, it seems that Tolkien's intent was to make Beren and Luthien, Hurin and Turin, and Tuor the centerpieces of the eventual completed story, almost as if they were a trilogy of sorts. This makes me appreciate CoH more, even though you can read most of it in Unfinished Tales and the Silmarillion.
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Old 12-11-2013, 02:02 PM   #31
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However, in my view, as the Silmarillion evolved, it seems that Tolkien's intent was to make Beren and Luthien, Hurin and Turin, and Tuor the centerpieces of the eventual completed story, almost as if they were a trilogy of sorts.
Hm, I like that idea. The Tale of the Children of Húrin, in all its tragedy, bookended by the other two that have their share of sorrow, but ultimately end in hope. It seems fitting.
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Old 12-11-2013, 04:01 PM   #32
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In the Introduction to Unfinished Tales, CT dates the narrative Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin to around 1951, shortly before LoTR was published. There is no specific date for the crafting of Narn i Hin Hurin given in UT, but Scull and Hammond's Companion and Guide date it to around the same time. Tolkien unfortunately never really returned to a full-blown effort to write Beren in the same manner as Tuor and Hurin. However, it seems clear that he intended, at that point, to complete a lengthy version of at least these "mannish" tales.

Whether he intended a similar treatment of the entire Silmarillion is unknown. Based upon the length of the Narn and CoH and extrapolating from the length of the Tuor fragment, these stories together, even without Beren, would likely have been longer than the entire Silmarillion as published. A full treatment of the Silmarillion, in the same style of narrative, would have likely have rivalled LoTR in length.
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Old 12-12-2013, 05:52 PM   #33
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Tolkien, I think it is fairly clear, intended the Three (or Four) Great Tales* to exist in both long, detailed forms as independent works, as well as in compressed versions within the Silmarillion proper (compare "Of the Rings and the Third Age" with TLOTR). Unfortunately, the forward progress of the Quenta Silmarillion narrative halted with Beren and Luthien, and so nothing of the 'short' versions of the later Tales was ever done in that tradition, although Turin was covered in the Grey Annals (from which most of the chapter in the published Sil derives).

It appears, as close as CT can estimate, that the Narn/CoH wasn't all written at one time, and that moreover the end of the story (Turin in Brethil) was written first.

*Beren, Turin and Tuor plus Earendil (never written at all).
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Old 12-12-2013, 08:14 PM   #34
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To me, it doesn't really make a difference what order and in what format JRRT wanted to write / wrote the books in. I'm not so concerned with the process of their creation as I am with the final product. So I can't really see how JRRT's plans or CJRT's editing really have an effect on your take on the books. It's the final product that matters at the end of the day, not the way it got there.
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