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Old 04-22-2007, 06:41 AM   #1
davem
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Turin the Hopeless?

From John Garth's review of Children of Hurin in The Sunday Telegraph:

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But The Children of Hurin is no academic excercise, partly because it also breathes the dank air of the 20th Century, with its muddied motives, its opression & slaughter. Cruelty & brutality are explicit. Bitterness ousts charity & hope. this is far from the black-&-white moral landscape that critics too often decry in Tolkien's works. The enchanted world is being killed by a thousand cuts; the rivers are poisi=oned & their divine spirit sent into retreat. As befits a story by a Somme veteran, over-confidence leads to the disastrous Battle of Unnumbered Tears. For survivors, the consequences of heroism are worse. The chieftan Hurin is captured by the forces of the Satnic Morgoth, who forces him to watch with superhuman vision as a curse inexorably pursues his distant family; & particularly his heir, Turin.

As a boy, Turin poses immense questions of fate & death, but no-one in this benighted world knows the answers. If The Lord of the Rings is an expression of faith in a God who turns events to good, The Children of Hurin expresses a visceral sense of evil undermining everything of worth. Evil, here, delights in irony. ...

In what is now effectively Tolkien's last Middle-earth work, I think we hear the authentic voice of the war veteran, entirely open-eyed about the horrors of the human condition but a staunch dissident against the view that endevour is futile.
Now, LotR, & to an extent TH, end in hope of a kind (as Garth points out in the bolded section above). CoH ends in despair. In LotR & TH we have a constant sense that there as 'forces' of good behind events, guiding the protagonists towards ultimate victory. In CoH we have none of that. The Valar, & Eru himself, may as well not exist. Morgoth is the ultimate 'divine' power & does basically what he wants. What 'echoes' throughout CoH is not the compassionate guidance of Eru, but the mocking laughter of Morgoth.

Greg Wright, in his book 'Tolkien in Perspective', suggested that the Athrabeth should be appended to all editions of LotR in order to emphasis the 'Christianity' of the work. This makes me wonder.

Should LotR be 'appended' to CoH, to emphasise the underlying 'hope' of Tolkien's work? CoH as a stand alone work, is bleak, hopeless & ends in despair. Anyone who didn't know LotR & CoH were by the same person would hardly guess that to be the case. Yet CoH is the work that Tolkien put the greatest amount of time & effort into in his later years. It was the one (even above Beren & Luthien & The Fall of Gondolin) that he desired to bring to completion.

Is Garth right? Is this work a reflection of Tolkien the Somme veteran, while LotR, it could be argued, is the work of Tolkien the Catholic? LotR presents the orthodox Catholic view, that God is watching over us all, & that while there may be suffering & loss, in the end God will bring good out of evil, & that, in the end, 'All shall be well, & all shall be well, & all manner of thing shall be well'. CoH seems to present a vision of a world where God won't - where he doesn't actually care enough to bother.

So, what do we make of this situation of CoH being Tolkien's 'final' work on Middle-earth? This is the latest vision we have of Tolkien's world, dark, unremitingly bleak & ending in despair & hopelessness.

Yet, it is also (& perhaps fittingly) the finest manifestation of the Northern theory of courage - to fight on without hope in a light at the end of the tunnel - because it ain't a 'tunnel': its a hole -in fact its a grave. One fights on not in hope of victory, or the defeat of the enemy, but simply because fighting an evil enemy is the right thing to do. As Turin argues:

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For victory is victory, nor is its worth only from what follows it....The defiance of Hurin Thalion is a great deed; & though Morgoth slay the doer he cannot make the deed not to have been. ...& is it not written into the history of Arda, which neither Morgoth nor Manwe can unwrite?'
LotR ends in Eucatastrope, CoH in dyscatastrophe. Yet, by chance ("If chance you call it"), the last published work of Tolkien's on Middle-earth reflects not Christian faith, but heroic Northern courage in the face of hopelessness. I think Garth is right, too, that only a Somme veteran could have written CoH.

At the very least we now have a counterpoint to the 'Christian hope' of LotR: the Pagan
courage in the face of 'hopelessness' of CoH. Others have pointed up Tolkien's inspiration in Sigurd & Kullervo. But Beowulf is there at the heart of CoH. Turin is a Northern hero, moreso than any other character Tolkien created.
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Old 04-22-2007, 07:11 AM   #2
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This is the Tolkienian question I find more fascinating than any other.

A long while back, I did start a thread on this subject, entitled Hurin and Despair which people currently reading CoH might find interesting.

I am not blowing my own trumpet by recommending a re-read of the thread, as I my own contribution was merely that of instigator. But there are some great analyses here, from fine thinkers such as Aiwendil, Numenorean and of course your good self, Davem. *bows*

I love this point, Davem, and agree absolutely.
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Yet, it is also (& perhaps fittingly) the finest manifestation of the Northern theory of courage - to fight on without hope in a light at the end of the tunnel - because it ain't a 'tunnel': its a hole -in fact its a grave. One fights on not in hope of victory, or the defeat of the enemy, but simply because fighting an evil enemy is the right thing to do
Also, the use of irony to highlight evil is very Northern. It only just struck me, now, reading CoH, the irony of Saeros' insult about the women of Hithlum, actually coming true.
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Old 04-22-2007, 11:33 PM   #3
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'kay...

From OFS:

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But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairystory. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite—I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function. The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,” it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?” The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.
Eucatastrophe, according to Tolkien here is essential to successful fairy story- indeed, is its 'highest function'.

CoH is a work that contradicts the core message of OFS. It breaks all the rules of 'Tolkienian fantasy'. What's going on?
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Old 04-23-2007, 01:58 AM   #4
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Well my thought is that this shows us yet again the two contradictory sides of Tolkien - he is at one moment a believer in Hope and at the next a believer in Fate. On Fairy-Stories was written in 1939, after the publication of the Hobbit, and as Tolkien said in the newly released BBC interview seen on Newsnight last week, some of the thought behind On Fairy-Stories sprang from the reactions of his own children to stories he told them. Lord of the Rings also sprang up at the same time in his life. Children of Hurin however sprang from an earlier, darker phase of Tolkien's life, from the 'war years'.

A person of course, is allowed to take differing views, not to fix upon one way of looking at life! We do get ourselves in knots trying to pin poor Tolkien down to being either Northern or Catholic - when he was both! That's why it's best not to fix on something and then go looking for it, but to read what he says and then see what flows from that...

And what does flow for one is that these periods of Middle-earth's history are quite different. Both are without any visible presensce of Eru or the 'good' Valar, both have Dark Lords - but in the earlier period that Dark Lord is a very real, very physical presence involved with the tangible world whereas later on, Sauron is very distant and remote. The Third Age is more 'modern' in that the Gods are more remote, less 'real', more like true legends. The First Age however is much more like the 'Pagan' age in that the Gods are very real, so real that you can be killed by one in battle, or taken captive by one, that you can try to find them and plead with them. The former would give you a sense of control of your own destiny and hence, a belief in things like hope, which you could bring into being yourself; the latter would leave you feeling subject to Fate and to Wyrd.
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Old 04-23-2007, 05:14 AM   #5
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Of course. Still, its interesting how Tolkien breaks his own rules regarding Fairy story. Then again, it could be argued (has been - here for instance http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/ID24Aa01.html, that his purpose was a more subtle one in CoH - to point up the bleakness & hopelessness of the Pagan worldview.

Of course, reading the Turin saga as part of The Sil is one thing - the Eucatastrophe is present in the War of Wrath & the overthrow of Morgoth. It is not present, however, in the Children of Hurin when read as a stand alone work - which is how it is presented now for the first time.

So, was Tolkien merely writing CoH to point up the failings of the Pagan worldview? Seems a very long, laborious way of going about it if he was. Or was he rather setting out the Pagan ideal? It seems to me that CoH is a story far better suited to a post Christian world than LotR, or at least a story that is easier to understand. I can identify with Turin far more than with Frodo, or even Sam. They may be people I'd like to be, but I know Turin is far more like I actually am.
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Old 04-23-2007, 05:47 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem

So, was Tolkien merely writing CoH to point up the failings of the Pagan worldview? Seems a very long, laborious way of going about it if he was. Or was he rather setting out the Pagan ideal? It seems to me that CoH is a story far better suited to a post Christian world than LotR, or at least a story that is easier to understand. I can identify with Turin far more than with Frodo, or even Sam. They may be people I'd like to be, but I know Turin is far more like I actually am.


Anyway! No, I don't think it does point out a pessimistic view of the 'Pagan' world - it may be a world where the Gods are closer to hand and so was Fate, as they were in the Pagan world, but there's something else very odd here. These are people close at hand to the Elves, the very Elves who have lived in the Undying Lands and who have lived with the Ainur. They know all about Eru, perhaps more than any other Men ever would - and yet they have less hope? What does that tell us about their times? About Eru? About Hope?
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Old 04-23-2007, 06:00 AM   #7
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What is also interesting is the recurring refrain in CoH of how unfortunate it was that Turin didn't die at various given points in the story. Also how lucky it is for people when Turin passes out of their lives - eg Nellas. This gives a strong sense that his situation really is hopeless.

Norse culture draws a very strong link between morality and luck. Even today, in Icelandic, somebody really morally reprehensible, a child molester for example, might be referred to as "ogaefumadur", or a man of ill fortune.
This idea is very prominent in Turin's story. Turin's hopelessness is very much tied in with his own perception of himself as a man of ill fortune. The whole issue of him refusing to return to Doriath, and thus be protected from Morgoth, is related to his pride - but was his pride the result of his ill fortune, or vice versa?

Interestingly, in CoH we have a very strong sense of Morwen also being cursed with pride which leads to terrible errors of judgement, while Nienor is more let off the hook - her main motive for leaving Doriath with her mother was the hope that her insistence would make Morwen turn back.
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Old 04-23-2007, 06:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
They know all about Eru, perhaps more than any other Men ever would - and yet they have less hope? What does that tell us about their times? About Eru? About Hope?
There's a really interesting speech by Turin on this very subject in CoH.
*goes to look*
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Old 04-23-2007, 10:57 AM   #9
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Just been re-reading the essay/review I linked to. The writer seems to see CoH as a work 'reflecting' what he sees as the pre-Christian world, full of hopeless, futile heroics which lead to disaster even as they achieve (transitory) victory. He also seems to believe that LotR is a work that reflects the 'Christian' world which superceded the 'Pagan'. Heroism is neither hopeless nor futile & victory may be permanent. God is (as far as the writer is concerned at least) fully present in the world of LotR, whereas he is conspicuous by his absence in CoH. Now, as I've pointed out, if we take the stories in chronological order in M-e history this theory fits as a 'reflection' of Primary world history - the world of CoH is the First Age, that of LotR is the Third.

If, however, we look at when the two works were published then we see the opposite - LotR appeared in the mid 1950's, when Churchgoing (in Britain/Europe at least) was the norm. Every home had a Bible, (which was well read, btw) & most everyone (in Britain again) considered themselves Christian. CoH has just appeared, in 2007, in (again from the British/European perspective) a post Christian world.

Quote:
"The Valar! They have forsaken you, and they hold Men in scorn. What use to look westward across the endless Sea to a dying sunset in the West? There is but one Vala with whom we have to do, and that is Morgoth; and if in the end we cannot overcome him, at least we can hurt him and hinder him ... Though mortal Men have little life beside the span of the Elves, they would rather spend it in battle than fly or submit."
This statement reflects, for the majority in the post-Christian world, our shared worldview far better than the 'Estel' we find in LotR. In short, it seems to me that the books have actually appeared in the correct sequence to reflect the change that has taken place in the Primary world...

Doesn't CoH actually feel more 'contemporary' than LotR?
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Old 04-23-2007, 03:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
If, however, we look at when the two works were published then we see the opposite - LotR appeared in the mid 1950's, when Churchgoing (in Britain/Europe at least) was the norm. Every home had a Bible, (which was well read, btw) & most everyone (in Britain again) considered themselves Christian. CoH has just appeared, in 2007, in (again from the British/European perspective) a post Christian world.

This statement reflects, for the majority in the post-Christian world, our shared worldview far better than the 'Estel' we find in LotR. In short, it seems to me that the books have actually appeared in the correct sequence to reflect the change that has taken place in the Primary world...

Doesn't CoH actually feel more 'contemporary' than LotR?
Only to add a little correction to the first part: in Western Europe, to be precise.

However, I agree with the second, though I think it was hardly an intention. I agree with that it corresponds much with the change in the Primary world, meaning now the general post-modernistic paradigm, where there actually is nothing certain and for some people, it can lead even to a loss of hope. We saw the rise and fall of big ideologies of the 20th century, from what streams the experience that nothing can be taken for certain, and people who cannot bear the "non-simplified" point of view can be really shaken. Though, I think to doubt is not a reason to lose hope, which would be for another topic. But what I wanted to say is, that though I agree with what you said, I certainly wouldn't like to see the story of Túrin as "hopeless": though it is a sad story, terrific almost (well... why almost? It is), it is the typical storyline we all know from for example Romeo&Juliet. But I don't know why, Tolkien's works, even "dark stories" like that of Húrin's children, have some light in it. This might be, as you say, the Northern heroic image (and I think we might easily track the source - cf. Tolkien's "Monsters and critics" and what he said about Beowulf). But let's face it, the Northern heroic image is ultimately hopeless. "Great deeds worth entering songs, even if there will be no one to sing them." This is exactly the classification of them. But in Tolkien, on the contrary, even the quoted part from the "last" ride of the Rohirrim, although dark in itself, is broken by the typical miraculous blow of estel (here even literally). Why I never felt the tale of CoH really depressing might be that I knew the context: I knew there is hope all around it, before and after, I knew it will ultimately not end in darkness, I know the light will prevail. If anyone read the tale of Túrin out of context, which would be theoretically possible now after releasing CoH, someone might just see it as one separate dark heroic story. But speaking for myself, I always see the larger world behind it - and to be honest, I think no one will just read CoH without at least hearing (even if he didn't want to) of the larger world Tolkien created, he will know Morgoth is going to be defeated etc. This does not change anything on the story itself, though: the complete experience of Túrin and the folk of Dor-Lómin and the whole Beleriand at times after Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the grave situation, can be felt from the story. But why not, it is the reality of the shadow, the true reality, not some cheap pretending of such a thing - the suffering and pain is real. But still, we know this shadow eventually passes away. (What more, if we take the prophecy of Mandos into account, then even Túrin himself will be the one who kills Morgoth, which I would consider quite "just".) But as I said: I don't need these things and after-world signs to have a "feeling of hope beyond Túrin" - it just comes from the tale itself, somehow, Tolkien-wise perhaps, as I said earlier. Does anyone else in here feel the way I do?
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Old 04-23-2007, 08:16 PM   #11
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Unanswerable question:

Would J.R.R. Tolkien have allowed such a work as CoH to be published as Christopher did? Or would JRRT have revised it so as to weave in a glimmer of hope? Who knows?
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Old 04-23-2007, 11:31 PM   #12
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Would J.R.R. Tolkien have allowed such a work as CoH to be published as Christopher did? Or would JRRT have revised it so as to weave in a glimmer of hope? Who knows?
Clearly Tolkien saw CoH as one third of a First Age Trilogy, along with Beren & Luthien & The Tale of Gondolin, so I suspect CoH would have remained 'hopeless', but would have been read in the context of the other two Three Great Tales.

Yet it has not been. I take Legate's point about the context, but I also agree that CoH now stands without such a larger context and neither do so many of us 'post Christians' . This is the point - the suffering in the world may be understandable in the larger context of Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Hinduism..... but remove that context & what one faces is as cruel & nihilistic as Morgoth.

Why did Turin fight - anger, spite against Morgoth, pride, self-aggrandizement, or just because he felt Morgoth was the biggest @£$%@* around & he wasn't going to get away with it if Turin had anything to do with it!

But the bigger point is, neither Eru nor the Valar actually step in to help him. Of course, with Morgoth & Glaurung making him the focus of their malice he has no chance - he needs divine help - but he doesn't get it. He is left to deal with the horror & suffering of his house - & does it as best he may.

Turin is not an athiest - he acknowledges the existence of the Valar - he just considers them to be either useless or uncaring. They play no part in his thinking.

(Too rushed...)

EDIT

And of course, Tolkien wrote the Narn as we have it after completing LotR, so in terms of composition we are also dealing with a post-'religious' work. Tolkien tells the story of a great victory (LotR) first, & follows it up with a tale of despair & defeat without hope. I also note that the planned sequel to LotR also looked to be full of despair & lost hope. Was Tolkien disillusioned after end of the WWII? Did he look around him & see that his England was not about to return to Christianity (remember the hopes of the TCBS?)?

Is the world of CoH the world that Tolkien saw coming, the world of LotR the one that he now realised had passed away?

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Old 04-24-2007, 04:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
But the bigger point is, neither Eru nor the Valar actually step in to help him. Of course, with Morgoth & Glaurung making him the focus of their malice he has no chance - he needs divine help - but he doesn't get it. He is left to deal with the horror & suffering of his house - & does it as best he may.

Turin is not an athiest - he acknowledges the existence of the Valar - he just considers them to be either useless or uncaring. They play no part in his thinking.
Well, not exactly. I think Túrin might be an "atheist" in the meaning of the word, not that he does not know about Eru or Valar, but it means nothing for him. The switch is on the other side - we know Valar came to help the people of Middle-Earth when Eärendil came and asked for it in the name of both Men and Elves. Túrin is in the state of division, as Noldor were, and he (as well as the Noldor in all their great deeds) is not able to defeat the Dark Enemy, as you said, simply because he doesn't have enough power for it. From the side of Noldor it was foolishness at first, lately just pride not to turn back and ask for help, then, as time passed by, they even "forgot" the possibility of turning back for help: and here the despair comes, which all the other nations "caught" from the Elves, and this concerns even Túrin. Túrin, as well as all the folk around him, does not even think of the possibility that Valar could help the folk in Middle-Earth. This does not necessarily mean he would think "nah, they didn't came thus far, they probably do not care anymore about us" or "they are so angry on Noldor still that they wouldn't help us" (the latter was quite common among the Elves at in the start) - he might not thought about it at all, he might just take it as fact, so may have forgotten even the original question why. After Nirnaeth, Beleriand is in the state of "forgetfulness about mercy of Valar", there are very few who get the idea about asking the powers for help: only people around Tuor and Turgon, for example (and even here it is Ulmo who comes first, unasked!).

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Tolkien tells the story of a great victory (LotR) first, & follows it up with a tale of despair & defeat without hope. I also note that the planned sequel to LotR also looked to be full of despair & lost hope. Was Tolkien disillusioned after end of the WWII? Did he look around him & see that his England was not about to return to Christianity (remember the hopes of the TCBS?)?

Is the world of CoH the world that Tolkien saw coming, the world of LotR the one that he now realised had passed away?
I think so. I think the Roger Waters-like thought "what happened to the post-war dream" was quite common at that time. Although Tolkien says that e.g. the Scouring of the Shire was logical ending even before the WWII ended, it pretty well catches the point that by the victorious war, world's trouble is not miraculously solved. And as time passed, the world didn't seem to change into a more peaceful place, but rather fall under the shadow of the Cold War. We might of course say, that the tale of Túrin had some shape even before that time and we don't know what shape it had in author's mind (as well as what it represented to him), so it (or its main points, at least) might not necessarily get affected by the changes in the world that much (as the mentioned thing about the Scouring of the Shire).
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Old 04-24-2007, 02:21 PM   #14
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SPOILERS

Of course, one could argue that CoH doesn't obey the rules (principally the absence of a Eucatastrophe) of Fairy story as laid down by Tolkien. Which begs the question: Is CoH actually a fairy story? LotR is, so is TH, so is The Sil as a whole. Yet CoH apparently is not. There is no 'glimpse beyond the walls of the world'. The tale ends in despair, with no glimpse of hope. What there is, is courage against all odds, a flawed human being defying evil alone, even though he is in the end destroyed by it.

Yet in the end he gives in to despair & takes his own life. He has nothing to live for, having apparently accepted that he cannot escape his doom, & throws himself on his sword. It could be argued that he never had a chance. The trigger had been pulled & the bullet was in flight. It was simply a matter of time before it struck him down. Breaks all the rules.

Yet if is is not a 'fairy story' what is it?

Do we admire Turin? He is, on the surface, a hero - he slays Morgoth's ultimate 'WMD'. He defies his fate. The 'incest' is hardly a 'sin' because he is not aware that Niniel is his sister, so he cannot be blamed for it. But is his suicide a 'sin'? From a 'Christian' viewpoint, yes, but from a Pagan one, or a pre- or post Christian one it is not - necessarily. It is a tragic end for a tragic hero. In the pre-/post-Christian worldview there is no moral judgement. Turin can commit suicide without being judged 'sinful' because in the world of the story his act is tragic but understandable, & he is still a 'hero', because he hasn't 'broken the rules'.

Yet, if Frodo had thrown himself on Sting at the end of LotR we would have been shocked. It would have been 'against the rules'., because while LotR is not a 'Christian' story it is one where a deity is a guiding force, & certain rules apply. Denethor ought not commit suicide either, because that act is against the rules. The fact that he does makes him wrong. Turin & Nienor are not wrong in taking their own lives. In fact, if Mablung had done a 'Gandalf' & started 'moralising' to Turin about having 'no authority' to take his life we'd have responded by thinking him a prig. Gandalf is not a prig - Gandalf is right to upbraid Denethor about neglecting his duty, because in the world of LotR there are certain rules - but those rules do not apply in the world of CoH, which is both an older & a more contemporary one.

Turin has not chosen to reject the Valar, he has not chosen not to have faith - he never had any to begin with - because, as Garth stated

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As a boy, Turin poses immense questions of fate & death, but no-one in this benighted world knows the answers. If The Lord of the Rings is an expression of faith in a God who turns events to good, The Children of Hurin expresses a visceral sense of evil undermining everything of worth.
Turin is a man of his (& our) time. No-one knows the answers to his questions, because there are no answers that work. There is no overarching religious vision or philosophy - his world is cut off from meaning & all a man can do is fight wrong to the best of his ability. His actions may be wrong, stupid, reckless, even cruel, but they are not seen as 'sins'. One cannot imagine Turin in the world of LotR, because he is of a different time & place. CoH is almost an 'anti-LotR' - different values, different rules. One cannot 'escape' into CoH as one can escape into LotR. For all the suffering, the tragedy & loss in LotR, there is a sense that there is a guiding hand, that somehow it will all be well in the end - because the characters will get what they deserve. Good will win out & evil will be overcome. CoH stands apart from that vision.

Of course, one can read it as part of The Sil, & see it as the darkness before dawn, yet in a sense that is to cheapen the tragedy, & thereby make ourselves 'comfortable' with the horror. Many of the reviewers of CoH have expressed a dislike of CoH - some of them lovers of TH & LotR. Perhaps that's because, deep down, CoH is the more challenging work, uncomfortable reading without a glimmer of hope. There is no 'escape' in CoH, no happy ending, no eucatastrophe to give us hope. As I said, CoH 'balances' LotR, it is an 'anti-fairy story'.
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Old 04-24-2007, 02:40 PM   #15
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How does Turin stand up morally against the Nordic code? (I'm using the word "code" to signify "standard of behavior", just for the sake of clarity)
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:08 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
How does Turin stand up morally against the Nordic code? (I'm using the word "code" to signify "standard of behavior", just for the sake of clarity)
I think he'd be seen as 'cursed' rather than 'immoral' or 'sinful' in his actions. His desire to rule in his father's place, to be a warrior, defender of his people, enemy of Morgoth, would be seen as right & praiseworthy. Of course he would also have been seen as overly proud in some things & as one who contributed to his own downfall. Yet, he tried, whenever his temper didn't get the better of him, to do the right thing. Principally, he wasn't a coward - which would count for a great deal in such a society. He would, I think, be held up as a tragic hero who defied his fate. In short, his behaviour & attiude wasn't 'out of line'. He faced the Dragon with courage.

(Sorry, that's a bit rambling....)
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:32 PM   #17
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It's this idea that Tolkien intended to have a version of Ragnarok at the end of time which fascinates me - in which Morgoth, newly returned from the Void, and Turin would fight. In the Norse sagas, Loki is the one newly freed from captivity and Heimdal is the one who fights him at the end of Time. Tolkien clearly envisaged an end to the world he had created drawn directly from the old sagas - but with this kind of intention, does it mean Turin was hopeless? No, he had it laid out in his fate that he would return and finally achieve his victory - and it's also quite fabulous that the end of Morgoth would be brought about by a mere Man.
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:38 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
It's this idea that Tolkien intended to have a version of Ragnarok at the end of time which fascinates me - in which Morgoth, newly returned from the Void, and Turin would fight. In the Norse sagas, Loki is the one newly freed from captivity and Heimdal is the one who fights him at the end of Time. Tolkien clearly envisaged an end to the world he had created drawn directly from the old sagas - but with this kind of intention, does it mean Turin was hopeless? No, he had it laid out in his fate that he would return and finally achieve his victory - and it's also quite fabulous that the end of Morgoth would be brought about by a mere Man.
That was what I mentioned earlier. But only mentioned. The point is that this is not mentioned in the story, nor in the new CoH (as far as I am aware), so "common reader" might not even know about it. Whether it is right or wrong not to write about that, is another topic.
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Old 04-24-2007, 04:07 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc
That was what I mentioned earlier. But only mentioned. The point is that this is not mentioned in the story, nor in the new CoH (as far as I am aware), so "common reader" might not even know about it. Whether it is right or wrong not to write about that, is another topic.
Of course - what a writer omits to mention is often more important than what he includes. In the Narn Tolkien chose to omit any 'light', any glimpse of a Eucatastrophe. Does the reader need that?

What the reader is given is not the whole story of Turin, but a version of the story, or if you will an 'episode'. But Tolkien chose to tell the story as he did, & it is a story of hopelessness, despair, & tragedy. It didn't have to be. He could have added the tale of Turin facing down & destroying Morgoth if he'd wanted to. Yet....

That would have turned it into a fairy story, with a 'happily ever after' ending. Tolkien could have turned up the lights at the end. Instead he blows out the candle & leaves the reader alone in the darkness. That is his intent, that's the story he wanted to tell.

I wonder whether LotR reflected the world as he wanted it to be, while CoH reflected the world as he had experienced it? Garth's point about CoH coming from the pen of a Somme survivor is relevant here, I think.
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Old 04-24-2007, 04:27 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
How does Turin stand up morally against the Nordic code? (I'm using the word "code" to signify "standard of behavior", just for the sake of clarity)
There's also Tolkien's own comments about heroism and chivalry and excess of personal glory. How does CoH stack up against Tolkien's comments in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth?

The hero has an obligation to his people, to do all he can to ensure victory--survivial--for his people in Tolkien's idea of the "heroic northern spirit." Does the ominous [i]lofgeornost'/i], "most desirous of glory", linger over Turin?

I suspect this gets away from the topic at hand, though, which examines hope.

So much for my 'unalloyed' reading of CoH.
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Old 04-24-2007, 08:54 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
That would have turned it into a fairy story, with a 'happily ever after' ending. Tolkien could have turned up the lights at the end. Instead he blows out the candle & leaves the reader alone in the darkness. That is his intent, that's the story he wanted to tell.
Well, this doesn't seem to be accurate in light of earlier comments, which I trust are accurate, that Children of Hurin was meant to be part of a trilogy along with Gondolin and Beren & Luthien. JRRT's intent, then, would seem to have been some light, whereas due to the exigencies of JRR's and Christopher's limited time, only the one book comes to light.

I wonder me, if anyone will have been created "literary executor" upon the passing of Christopher? If so, it would be nice to get editions (literally) of the other two tales (if possible).
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Old 04-24-2007, 11:25 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Well, this doesn't seem to be accurate in light of earlier comments, which I trust are accurate, that Children of Hurin was meant to be part of a trilogy along with Gondolin and Beren & Luthien. JRRT's intent, then, would seem to have been some light, whereas due to the exigencies of JRR's and Christopher's limited time, only the one book comes to light.
Yes - or if the Turinsaga was read as part of The Sil as a whole - or if the prophecy of Turin's ultimate defeat of Morgoth had been included. I'm talking about CoH as we now have it - as a standalone work, & the effect it has on the reader. Tolkien could have (simply by including that prophecy) have introduced a glimmer of hope into CoH. He chose deliberately not to do that. Hence, we have a post-Christian novel (not, as I stated a 'fairy story' according to Tolkien's own rules). I asked at the start (only half jokingly) whether LotR should be appended to CoH to give the reader that glimpse of final victory).

One can put it down to 'the exigencies of JRR's and Christopher's limited time', (or 'chance - if chance you call it') but what I'm arguing is that the work as we have it is a perfect post-Christian/post-religious novel, & therefore a much more contemporary work than LotR.
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Old 04-25-2007, 01:29 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
That would have turned it into a fairy story, with a 'happily ever after' ending. Tolkien could have turned up the lights at the end. Instead he blows out the candle & leaves the reader alone in the darkness. That is his intent, that's the story he wanted to tell.
There's something in all of this also which points to some of the events of the Twentieth century - people fighting beyond hope, without any, but fighting because there was no choice. I'm thinking of events such as the Battle of Stalingrad or even the Miner's Strike (yes, really!) where there was no option but to stand up and fight - it was either that or lay down dead and accept Fate. And indeed, the Somme itself was this kind of battle; it was 'pre-ordained', 'fated', however you want to call it - those involved had no choice but to go over the top and in all likelihood lose their lives and the battle.
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Old 04-25-2007, 02:21 AM   #24
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Just on the point of reading CoH 'in the context of' the Legendarium, & supplying the missing 'hope' either via the ultimate victory over Morgoth at the end of the First Age, over Sauron at the end of the Third, or in terms of the Prophecy & Turin's ultimate defeat of Morgoth – it seems to me that the problem with that is that it reduces CoH to 'more of the same'. The vision is the same as in LotR – there is darkness that is ultimately defeated & good wins out. From that point of view CoH is unnecessary & tells us nothing new.

However, CoH as a story without ultimate hope, where the hero is destroyed by a fate he cannot understand or hope to conquer (he hopes, but his hope actually betrays him), it seems to me is something unique from the pen of Tolkien & shouldn't be seen as merely a part of something else. To bring hope from the wider Legendarium is in a way to cheapen the tragedy – as if it was to turn out that Niniel wasn't really Nienor, that it was just a case of mistaken identity, & to have her turn up at the end with Hurin & Morwen after the death of Glaurung & to even have Niniel have fallen onto a ledge just below the precipice, so that everyone could live happily ever after. That would be a perfect Eucatastrophe, revealing a light & joy beyond the walls of the world, & make the tragedy more palatable. For Tolkien to deliberately miss out any hope or joy from the story is more than an interesting curiosity. As I said, we may wish that the world was like LotR, we may even believe that in the end it will be, that there will be an ultimate victory of good over evil, but what we know (after the Somme, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, 9/11, after all the personal tragedies we live through) is that the world is more like the one we see in CoH. We are more like Turin than Frodo.
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Old 04-25-2007, 04:03 AM   #25
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Tolkien But I think Tolkien's intention...

...if you take the story of CoH just by itself, without the context, was something else. Well, maybe not even intention, but just what he thought like when writing the story. I'll leave this to professional Tolkienologists, but as I mentioned much earlier, I think Tolkien was greatly inspired by Béowulf in many things he did, and I believe here this fact also takes part. I just stumbled upon this in the "Monsters and critics" (1936):
(I am really sorry, it's merely my translation - don't have original available - but I hope I haven't screwed up the main points while translating it.)
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(about the author of Béowulf)...The poet looks back into the past, overlooking the history of kings and warriors of old tradition, and sees, that all the fame (we could say also "culture" or "tradition") ends in night. It does not come to solving that tragedy - this does not flow from the subject. What we have in front of us is actually a poem... looking back into the depths of time, written by a man acknowledged with ancient stories, who tries in all possible ways to look into them all in sort of a global perspective, when still perceiving the tragedy of fatal doom, which connects them, though still he feels them in a more poetic sense, because he himself is not anymore immediately threatened by the weigh of its hopelesness. The old dogma - hopelesness of the event connected with the faith in the way of hopeless resistance - he could see from outside and at the same time immediately and thoroughly feel it.

...we could say that this poem was inspired (from one part) by the dispute... are we going or are we not going to give over our pagan predecessors to condemnation? ...the creator of Béowulf showed the true value of that pietas which preserves and keeps like a treasure the memory of battles of man in dark pasttime, a man fallen but not yet redeemed, fallen to disfavour, but not dethroned.
The boldened part is mine and for me it actually is the key element here. Tolkien speaks about how he imagines the author of Béowulf thought, and I actually am inclined to think that the above can be in (some ways, of course) adopted to Tolkien's creation of the story of Túrin (among others). In my opinion, it might not be at all reflecting the situation in reality, it was just a free intention of the writer to write a story like these of "ancient days, when dark was dark and in darkness it ended". Whether it was or was not consistent with the Legendarium (in which the Light ultimately prevails) then might or might not bother him, and questions like whether Tolkien thought that in the context we would know the light will shine or whether he just haven't had the time to solve this somehow are probably just left to speculation.
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Old 04-25-2007, 05:54 AM   #26
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I think Tolkien is correct – up to a point. The Beowulf poet doesn't so much reflect the actual Pagan worldview so much as the Christian understanding of it. The Pagans weren't without hope – they didn't go around under a cloud, feeling depressed & hopeless. They were, like us post Christians for the most part, quite happy. However, they lived, again for the most part, in dangerous, violent times & didn't look much 'beyond the walls of the world' for hope or much else.

I think the same could be said of the Christian/religious understanding of the post-Christian/non relgious world view. It is not without hope, but it doesn't focus on anything beyond the world either during life or after death.

Turin doesn't look for hope or salvation from beyond the world, but faces the monsters within it with courage & determination – so, it isn't so much the tragic aspect of his story that makes it post religious – that's a side issue for the moment – it’s the fact that he doesn't look for any help to come from outside, for any divine intervention. He deals with his problems as best he can.

Tolkien may well have written from the perspective of a Christian looking back from a safe distance on a world without supernatural hope, or belief in a divine guiding hand, but what he has written is a work that lookedforward to a similar world.
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Old 04-25-2007, 09:51 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by davem
One can put it down to 'the exigencies of JRR's and Christopher's limited time', (or 'chance - if chance you call it') but what I'm arguing is that the work as we have it is a perfect post-Christian/post-religious novel, & therefore a much more contemporary work than LotR.
I hope not, because contemporaneity has as its corollary that this work will some day become passé; which I highly doubt.

It is, however, perfectly honorable to say that one likes one work better than another by the same author because it jibes with one's beliefs.

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Old 04-25-2007, 02:13 PM   #28
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Question

Absolutely fantastic posts, everyone.

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Do we admire Turin? He is, on the surface, a hero - he slays Morgoth's ultimate 'WMD'. He defies his fate. The 'incest' is hardly a 'sin' because he is not aware that Niniel is his sister, so he cannot be blamed for it. But is his suicide a 'sin'? From a 'Christian' viewpoint, yes, but from a Pagan one, or a pre- or post Christian one it is not - necessarily. It is a tragic end for a tragic hero. In the pre-/post-Christian worldview there is no moral judgement. Turin can commit suicide without being judged 'sinful' because in the world of the story his act is tragic but understandable, & he is still a 'hero', because he hasn't 'broken the rules'.

Yet, if Frodo had thrown himself on Sting at the end of LotR we would have been shocked. It would have been 'against the rules'., because while LotR is not a 'Christian' story it is one where a deity is a guiding force, & certain rules apply. Denethor ought not commit suicide either, because that act is against the rules. The fact that he does makes him wrong. Turin & Nienor are not wrong in taking their own lives. In fact, if Mablung had done a 'Gandalf' & started 'moralising' to Turin about having 'no authority' to take his life we'd have responded by thinking him a prig. Gandalf is not a prig - Gandalf is right to upbraid Denethor about neglecting his duty, because in the world of LotR there are certain rules - but those rules do not apply in the world of CoH, which is both an older & a more contemporary one.
I do admire Turin. But not for being a hero, for slaying the dragon and being such a great warrior...but for failing. I can empathize with him exactly. He drives forward, blundering through his life, blindly fighting and failing, achieving small successes but overall making mistakes everywhere. And that's how my life really is. I'm not like Aragorn or Ecthelion or Faramir or Eomer or Gandalf or Elendil; I don't live a perfect life with epic achievements at every throw. I don't defeat my enemies; more often than not they defeat me. I don't have a stunningly good record, I've done many things I'm ashamed of. But like Turin, the victory or defeat is not important - what is important is the trying. I admire Turin for trying at life and failing - for being weak and breakable. It sounds like a paradox. But for some reason I like him, more than most of Tolkien's other characters.

I think it's right to say that Turin and indeed the world he lives in are much more like our modern time. The world of The Lord Of The Rings is the time around and after World War II. You can see plenty of parallels. Though both the real war and the War of the Ring are devastating, they are also 'glorious', in a way - the 'good' leaders are inspirations to their soldiers through the speeches of Churchill and Theoden, the heroes' cause is just, the enemies are clearly evil and need to be defeated whether they are Orcs or Nazis, the battles are decisive victories from Pelennor Fields to the Bulge, the good guys win in the end as the Dark Tower falls and Hitler is found dead, and happiness is achieved as people in both worlds celebrate the epic victory. The people are strong - they believe in their ideals and faith, as Damrod invokes the Valar to protect him and Allied soldiers pray before battle. Even through the dark nights of the Blitz and the enemies besieging Minas Tirith, there is always that comfort at the back of our minds that God is there with us, on our side, supporting us in everything we do, and assuring the eventual victory. Whilst the impact and effects of both wars is felt even after them, through both the Cold War and the Scouring of the Shire, ultimately good has won. Though thousands die in World War Two, a new, safer generation will take over, just as when Frodo departs forever, Sam and the other hobbits rebuild their realm to an even better state than it was before.

The world of The Children Of Hurin, in contrast, is much bleaker, as is perhaps our own world. No longer do we have the unshakeable comfort of God in the back of our minds - many people now question the credibility and even the worth of religion, just as no-one can tell Turin where his dead sister has gone, because none of them can quite agree or even understand. Questions that were once obvious now stand unanswered. No longer are the wars glorious, simple and decisive - just as Fingon confidently looked out over his armies and allies, and drove forward against Morgoth, so did George Bush and the Coalition armies drive into Iraq, confident of victory. And in both situations the outcome was terrible, as the well-laid plans and sturdy soldiers and epic speeches went awry and dismayed both worlds. The 'bad guys' are no longer so obvious, nor as defeatable as they once were - Turin never gets his chance at defeating Morgoth because he is constantly deceived and turned aside by him, just as hidden criminals and corrupt politicians walk freely upon our streets. People are not as united as they once were - Turin encounters distrust in most places he visits and in fact spreads much of it himself. Our world is much less certain, just as Turin's is, the people less strong, the orders less firm. We are no longer in the comfortable, safe world of The Lord Of The Rings in the 20th Century - now we live in the grim, insecure world of the The Children Of Hurin in the 21st Century.
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Old 04-25-2007, 02:34 PM   #29
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Tolkien must have seen it happening - perhaps that's why he chose to focus on CoH rather than Beren & Luthien & The Fall of Gondolin. Both those tales offer a sense of hope to the reader - Gondolin may fall, but Tuor & Idril escape with Earendel.

Actually, the 'War on Terror' was in my mind too as I read CoH. While evil is clearly present in Morgoth & Glaurung, good is not so clearly present. There is confusion, selfishness, pride & hopelessness on the 'good' side. For all its 'mythological' setting & characters CoH seems to me one of the most insightful comments on where we are right now. There are a lot of novels around which attempt to explore the state of our world at the beginning of the 21st century, but CoH, it seems to me, is perhaps one of the profoundest.

Which is not to claim it as an 'allegory' - clearly it cannot be, given when it was written - but as far as 'applicability' goes, its not far to seek...
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Old 04-25-2007, 03:20 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Sir Kohran
I do admire Turin. But not for being a hero, for slaying the dragon and being such a great warrior...but for failing. I can empathize with him exactly. He drives forward, blundering through his life, blindly fighting and failing, achieving small successes but overall making mistakes everywhere. And that's how my life really is. I'm not like Aragorn or Ecthelion or Faramir or Eomer or Gandalf or Elendil; I don't live a perfect life with epic achievements at every throw. I don't defeat my enemies; more often than not they defeat me. I don't have a stunningly good record, I've done many things I'm ashamed of. But like Turin, the victory or defeat is not important - what is important is the trying. I admire Turin for trying at life and failing - for being weak and breakable. It sounds like a paradox. But for some reason I like him, more than most of Tolkien's other characters.
The description here of admiration reads like sympathy. Which brings to mind the way many of us are sympathetic to Sméagol, and for the same reasons. Maybe a new thread ought to be started on it, but I'll broach the question anyway: Is Túrin most like Sméagol of all the characters in LotR?
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Old 04-25-2007, 03:40 PM   #31
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The description here of admiration reads like sympathy. Which brings to mind the way many of us are sympathetic to Sméagol, and for the same reasons. Maybe a new thread ought to be started on it, but I'll broach the question anyway: Is Túrin most like Sméagol of all the characters in LotR?
Don't think so, but I'm not sure in what way you mean 'like' Smeagol. I could see the argument that he is 'like' Boromir, who is also a flawed hero. Yet Boromir repents at the end, admits he was wrong. Turin never does, even at the very end. He admits he failed, but he never, unlike Boromir, repents of his 'sin', & doesn't see his death as either punishment or atonement. Boromir gives his life, Turin takes his. I suppose one could also argue that Boromir loses his life while Turin casts his away. Yet....

Turin, it seems to me, realised at the end that he would never be the hero he wanted to be, that as long as he lived he would be Morgoth's fool, & ended his life almost as an act of defiance. Its perfectly correct to say that he was mastered by his doom, yet in another way he did master his doom - by ending his life he put an end to his doom. Hence even his suicide could be seen as an act of defiance as much as one of despair.
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Old 04-25-2007, 04:07 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
The description here of admiration reads like sympathy. Which brings to mind the way many of us are sympathetic to Sméagol, and for the same reasons. Maybe a new thread ought to be started on it, but I'll broach the question anyway: Is Túrin most like Sméagol of all the characters in LotR?
Not really sympathy...more like empathy. In Turin's misguided attempts at greatness, ending in failure yet somehow still achieving something, I see many similarities with myself.

I never felt sorry for him, not in any great way. I felt bad for him, but ultimately he brought a lot of it on himself - just I do with certain things, so again I could empathize with him.
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Old 05-01-2007, 10:10 PM   #33
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Would J.R.R. Tolkien have allowed such a work as CoH to be published as Christopher did? Or would JRRT have revised it so as to weave in a glimmer of hope? Who knows?
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And of course, Tolkien wrote the Narn as we have it after completing LotR, so in terms of composition we are also dealing with a post-'religious' work. Tolkien tells the story of a great victory (LotR) first, & follows it up with a tale of despair & defeat without hope.
I'm in total disagreement with this. I don't think that there is a story in all of Tolkien's Legendarium that has more hope in it than the Narn i Chîn Húrin. Let's see:

From Unfinished Tales: Narn i Chîn Húrin
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"You say it," said Morgoth. "I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of all the Valar, who was before the world, and made it. The shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will. But upon all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death."
Can Morgoth actually do this to a person in particular that is not in his grasp? No he cannot. Does it help that Morgoth is really against you? It really hinders the person though.
From Morgoth's Ring: Ainulindalë
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But to Men I will give a new gift.'
§39 Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to fashion their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else. And of their operation everything should be, in shape and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest. Lo! even we, Elves, have found to our sorrow that Men have a strange power for good or ill, and for turning things aside from the purpose of Valar or of Elves; so that it is said among us that Fate is not master of the children of Men; yet are they blind, and their joy is small, which should be great.
In Arda, it is almost dominated by Morgoth, after the defeat of the Ñoldor in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. You have Doriath that is isolated from the rest of ME, Gondolin which is hidden and Nargothrond, there are other minor elven enclaves and some scatter Men. Túrin was sent by Morwen to Doriath to have a better future, but she remains in Dor-Lomín with Nienor.
Túrin grows and becomes a great warrior, but because of the incident with Saeros (he has a new name now in the CoH) instead of relying in the judgement of his foster father Thingol he leaves, never to return again. Did Morgoth make him do this? No.
Túrin with the outlaws, was given an opportunity by Beleg to return to Doriath, but Túrin refuses. Was that Morgoth's doing? No.
Túrin kills Beleg when he is rescued. That was a big boo boo by him, and he goes to Nargothrond. Does Túrin forces Orodreth into open warfare with Morgoth? No, Orodreth had his own mind, but he was swayed by Túrin. Nargothrond is destroyed, but he is spared.
Nargothrond could not beat the armies of Morgoth, if they had decided to keep hiding, they would have fallen sooner or later.
Glaurung bewitches Túrin into leaving Findulias, leading to the events of going into Brethil and marrying his sister. But he ultimately kills Glaurung, but the thing is that his sister kills herself. Then he learns the truth about Nienor and kills himself.

And yet, even with all this, his mother (Morwen never looses hope).
From Morgoth's Ring: Athrabeth Finrod an Andreth
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'Have ye then no hope?' said Finrod.
'What is hope?' she said. 'An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.'
'That is one thing that Men call "hope",' said Finrod. 'Amdir we call it, "looking up". But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is "trust". It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children's joy.
Morwen, was alone. Her 3 children were dead, and her husband was imprisioned in Angband with no hope of ever escaping, and yet she never lost hope that Húrin would return.
From Unfinished Tales: Narn i Chîn Húrin
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"Prudence, not doubt," said Húrin; yet he looked troubled. "But one who looks forward must see this: that things will not remain as they were. This will be a great throw, and one side must fall lower than it now stands. If it be the Elven-kings that fall, then it must go evilly with the Edain; and we dwell nearest to the Enemy. But if things do go ill, I will not say to you: Do not be afraid! For you fear what should be feared, and that only; and fear does not dismay you. But I say: Do not wait! I shall return to you as I may, but do not wait! Go south as swiftly as you can; and I shall follow, and I shall find you, though I have to search through all Beleriand."
Why did she had still estel?
From the War of the Jewels: The Wanderins of Húrin
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But Húrin did not look at the stone, for he knew what was written there, and, his eyes had seen that he was not alone. Sitting in the shadow of the stone there was a figure bent over its knees Some homeless wanderer broken with age it seemed, too wayworn to heed his coming; but its rags were the remnants of a woman's garb. At length as Húrin stood there silent she cast back her tattered hood and lifted up her face slowly, haggard and hungry as a long-hunted wolf. Grey she was, sharp-nosed with broken teeth, and with a lean hand she clawed at the cloak upon her breast. But suddenly her eyes looked into his, and then Húrin knew her; for though they were wild now and full of fear, a light still gleamed in them hard to endure: the elven-light that long ago had earned her her name, Eðelwen, proudest of mortal women in the days of old.
'Eðelwen! Eðelwen!' Húrin cried; and she rose and stumbled forward, and he caught her in his arms.
'You come at last,' she said. 'I have waited too long.
'It was a dark road. I have come as I could,' he answered.
'But you are late,' she said, 'too late. They are lost.'
'I know,' he said. 'But thou art not.'
'Almost,' she said. 'I am spent utterly. I shall go with the sun. They are lost.' She clutched at his cloak. 'Little time is left,' she said. 'If you know, tell me! How did she find him?'
But Húrin did not answer, and he sat beside the stone with Morwen in his arms; and they did not speak again. The sun went down, and Morwen sighed and clasped his hand and was still; and Húrin knew that she had died.
So passed Morwen the proud and fair; and Húrin looked down at her in the twilight, and it seemed that the lines of grief and cruel hardship were smoothed away. Cold and pale and stem was her face. 'She was not conquered,' he said; and he closed her eyes, and sat on unmoving beside her as night drew down.
It doesn't makes any sense, yet with all of that had happened to her and her family she never lost hope.

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What the reader is given is not the whole story of Turin, but a version of the story, or if you will an 'episode'. But Tolkien chose to tell the story as he did, & it is a story of hopelessness, despair, & tragedy. It didn't have to be. He could have added the tale of Turin facing down & destroying Morgoth if he'd wanted to. Yet....
But that is exactly what happened:
From The Lost Road and other Writtings: Quenta Silmarillion
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§31 Thus spake Mandos in prophecy, when the Gods sat in judgement in Valinor, and the rumour of his words was whispered among all the Elves of the West. When the world is old and the Powers grow weary, then Morgoth, seeing that the guard sleepeth, shall come back through the Door of Night out of the Timeless Void; and he shall destroy the Sun and Moon. But Eärendel shall descend upon him as a white and searing flame and drive him from the airs. Then shall the Last Battle be gathered on the fields of Valinor. In that day Tulkas shall strive with Morgoth, and on his right hand shall be Fionwë, and on his left Túrin Turambar, son of Húrin, coming from the halls of Mandos; and the black sword of Túrin shall deal unto Morgoth his death and final end; and so shall the children of Húrin and all Men be avenged.
Or course, the Narn i Chîn Húrin, ends with the dead of Túrin and not with the fate of Morwen.
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:16 AM   #34
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Yes, but we're discussing CoH as a stand alone work, which it now is, & how a reader would take it if they hadn't (or didn't want to) read any of the other writings you mention. Most readers of CoH will not work their way through HoM-e.
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:41 AM   #35
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Yes, but we're discussing CoH as a stand alone work, which it now is, & how a reader would take it if they hadn't (or didn't want to) read any of the other writings you mention. Most readers of CoH will not work their way through HoM-e.
Exactly. We're talking about the BOOK Children Of Hurin, not the story Children Of Hurin. When I first read it I had no idea about Earendil or Mandos' prophecy and it made for very grim reading.
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Old 05-02-2007, 01:27 PM   #36
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Yet, it is also (& perhaps fittingly) the finest manifestation of the Northern theory of courage - to fight on without hope in a light at the end of the tunnel - because it ain't a 'tunnel': its a hole -in fact its a grave. One fights on not in hope of victory, or the defeat of the enemy, but simply because fighting an evil enemy is the right thing to do
Except, except, except.......

It seems to me that the contemporary Zeitgeist has little to do with fighting on against anything, but just saying "Ahh, fuggit" and wallowing in either faineance or angst. The contemporary figure to my mind is not Turin but Mim.
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Old 05-02-2007, 01:53 PM   #37
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Morwen never looses hope
Hmm...interesting....I thought Morwen *had* lost hope, and I always interpreted that comment of Hurin's as a bitter one, bred by the lies of Morgoth.
Morgoth had twisted everything he'd seen, remember, and made him lose faith in almost everything.
He could not see that hope still lived in Doriath, and in Gondolin. (Although after the way Turgon behaved, who can blame Hurin for believing the lies of Morgoth....grr....don't get me started....)
But I thought his "She was not conquered" comment showed that the one thing Morgoth couldn't twist was Hurin's faith in his wife. Even though Morwen had actually messed up and she had lost faith.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:01 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hickli
Except, except, except.......

It seems to me that the contemporary Zeitgeist has little to do with fighting on against anything, but just saying "Ahh, fuggit" and wallowing in either faineance or angst. The contemporary figure to my mind is not Turin but Mim.
In fact, Túrin is the only character in the entire story who virtually brandishes the Nordic Ethos. Húrin comes closest after him, but even his talk has more to do with the righteousness of the Eldar. The Eldar are written by Tolkien to appear little if anything like their Alfar counterparts from Nordic legend. The words of all Eldar in the story, and even the wisest of the men (such as Brandir in his better moments, and others) counsel caution and hanging on, cognizant of the devastating power of Morgoth.

And Morgoth. This is one entity that cannot be found in the Nordic mythos. This evil personage goes way beyond a Loki, or a Surtr, or any such antagonistic figure from Norse myth. This is a will full of malice, seeking by means of a curse, and the carrying out of all of his plans, to fulfill that curse. And the curse might have been overcome had Túrin become powerful enough, and just one plot turn not have turned out for the worst, despite his pride. If Mím had not acted upon his vengefulness, if he had not been forced to sit idle while his son died, .... and so on. There are so many turns of the plot where something better could have happened, but the worst thing did. This goes to show that Túrin was up against an unbeatable foe. This is not blind fate, even though Túrin may think so. This is Morgoth willing Túrin's life to be a living hell.

So yes, there is plenty of hope in The Children of Húrin, but not for the Children of Húrin, ironically.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:36 PM   #39
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In fact, Túrin is the only character in the entire story who virtually brandishes the Nordic Ethos. Húrin comes closest after him, but even his talk has more to do with the righteousness of the Eldar. The Eldar are written by Tolkien to appear little if anything like their Alfar counterparts from Nordic legend. The words of all Eldar in the story, and even the wisest of the men (such as Brandir in his better moments, and others) counsel caution and hanging on, cognizant of the devastating power of Morgoth.

And Morgoth. This is one entity that cannot be found in the Nordic mythos. This evil personage goes way beyond a Loki, or a Surtr, or any such antagonistic figure from Norse myth. This is a will full of malice, seeking by means of a curse, and the carrying out of all of his plans, to fulfill that curse. And the curse might have been overcome had Túrin become powerful enough, and just one plot turn not have turned out for the worst, despite his pride. If Mím had not acted upon his vengefulness, if he had not been forced to sit idle while his son died, .... and so on. There are so many turns of the plot where something better could have happened, but the worst thing did. This goes to show that Túrin was up against an unbeatable foe. This is not blind fate, even though Túrin may think so. This is Morgoth willing Túrin's life to be a living hell.

So yes, there is plenty of hope in The Children of Húrin, but not for the Children of Húrin, ironically.

That's a very interesting look at the Nordic ideas and in particular Morgoth.

Morgoth seems almost out of place in COH. You're absolutely right in stating that the Nordic mythology, upon which the era of COH is 'based on', contains no-one equivalent to him - though there are evil beings, even terrifying beings, they just don't have that sense of malice and overhanging wickedness that surrounds the figure of Morgoth. In many ways Morgoth is, in this regard, most similar to Satan - the Christian being of evil. Both Morgoth and Satan are the prime evils in their worlds - the greatest, oldest incarnation of the shadow in its most evil form.

I'm reminded of the story of Job from the Bible - like Turin, he is tormented by the ultimate evil and put through absolute hell. The big difference is that Job is eventually relieved from his evil fate and is rewarded for his endurance. Turin receives no such reward from Eru for his heroism. Instead he is damned to a bitter, tragic end. The Christian 'hero' survives thanks to his Christian god whilst the Nordic 'hero' perishes thanks to his Christian devil. Essentially the world of COH lacks any Nordic god to defend it. Am I getting anything here or is this just mindless rambling?
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:04 PM   #40
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Well, yes, I think you're getting the gist of what I'm saying, Sir Kohran. Just a few things to note. You will remember that Ulmo had a role to play in Turin's life, but Turin rejected the god's counsel. It's a shame that the Beren & Luthien tale, and the Fall of Gondolin~Eärendil tales probably won't get the same treatment as the Children of Hurin tale, because as The Silmarillion shows, Ulmo, like Manwë, comes closest of all the Valar to understanding the mind of Eru. So if Ulmo is giving the counsel, it is safe to conclude that it is in agreement with the mind of Eru.

I understand why Job might come to mind as comparable to Children of Hurin, since Satan is introduced as a persona in the book as is Morgoth in CoH. However, a closer comparison can be drawn to King Saul of Israel. Both Saul and Turin labor vainly against curses; Turin's initiated by Morgoth; Saul's initiated by Yahweh as punishment for Saul's disobedience. Saul's life after the punishment begins is every bit as "downhill" as is Turin's.

Another thing CoH does not tell the reader (therefore yet another fault in the work as published) is that Turin will be at the Arda version of Ragnarok, and will slay (shoot I forget who) either Morgoth or some great evil wyrm or monster of some sort. So Turin's "eucatastrophe" is assured.
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