About a hundred years ago, I read a short little book about a short little person who had a very big adventure. The book was entitled The Hobbit, and it was written by someone with more than the usual number of initials in his name. So taken was I by this book, that I immediately acquired a much larger work by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and sliced out a sizable junk of my childhood following Frodo and Gandalf on an epic journey through Middle Earth.
Then, I grew up and promptly forgot about them.
Unfortunately, a fellow named Peter Jackson, along with a host of other people, brought the whole fantasy vividly back to life for me. Once again, I was lost in a fantastical world not so different from our own as to be unbelievable yet not so like it as to be mundane. My memories of the story were weak enough and the technology of the day was advanced enough that I felt transported to a realistic world that mirrored one I had known in my youth. I bought the deluxe DVDs with all the extras. Each film meant that I spent over $100 in movie going and follow-on merchandise. I was enthralled. There was a time when there wasn’t $100 worth of merchandise to buy!
Time has passed and the movies are gone. But, Chris Tolkien is still trying to milk his father’s empire for all it is worth. Do I blame him? No. I would do the same if I were in his shoes. His efforts are the reason The Children of Húrin became known to me. Unfortunately, I wish it hadn’t.
I don’t remember JRR’s style. Maybe it was different in The Lord of the Rings. But I remember the story. I remember how it gripped me; how I couldn’t put the books down; how the tale dragged the boy willing through it. I remember the rapture. None of that was evident in this work. The voice carried the overbearing tone of a storyteller. The names were difficult to pronounce and hard to remember, and it didn’t help that the main character ended up having about 10 different ones. The story was hurky-jerky, and seemed initially to have no point. In the end, that was borne out.
The children of Húrin are a doomed offspring. There is no real victory in the end. The story is a tragedy. I hate tragedies. I put the book down several times. In fact, at one point, I put it down for several months. Only sheer determination to finish what I had started caused me to pick it up again. The story’s flow did eventually pick up, and eventually I got into it. So, in that regard, I’m glad I finished it. But, I don’t recommend it.
If you are die-hard Tolkien fan, you might find some satisfaction in knowing that you have read more of his stuff. Don’t expect to find anything related to The Lord of the Rings. If you’re a casual fan, however, don’t bother.