The Children of Húrin

The New Book "The Children of Húrin" Edited by Christopher Tolkien
Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:15 pm

This could be a long conversation! As it will take us off the topic of The Children of Hurin I'm copying lyaness's post over to the Tolkien in General thread where we can discuss it without interruption :wink: .

Carry on with C of H here and I'll see you over on the other thread... :sprint: .
Last edited by Iolanthe on Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:46 pm

Estel wrote:Sometimes the language isn't beautiful enough either, a bit rough around the edges and too simple, but what has kept me going, reading and reading, not wanting to stop, but still stopping, reluctantly, in order to keep a lot of the book for later, is an overall feeling of a lost world, a mysterious, cold, primitive world. And still perfectly recognizable and familiar.

You've hit the nail on the head, Estel! That's why I'm fascinated by the story too. A 'mysterious, cold, primitive world' indeed.
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:26 pm

Language is most important. One of the most frightening changes in language can be found in The Children of Hurin when Hurin is about to slay himself. I was very much amazed for the changes in The Children of Hurin... it is just plain stupid why Christopher changed all the words to give it a modern feel. It is one of the strongest scenes and is now in the new version reduced to nothing.

Here is what I mean. In the end the sword speaks some lines and normally these are in very argaic language and are almost exactly the same words the black sword speak in the Kullervo (Kallevala). In CoH it is replaced by a modern text. I don't understand why. I'll start with the Kullervo quote and then the UT version and finish with the CoH text. Why o why did this happen?

Here is the quote from Kullervo:

Quote:
Kullervo, Kalervo’s offspring
Grasped the sharpened sword he carried,
Looked upon the sword and turned it,
And he questioned it and asked it,
And he asked the sword’s opinion,
If it was disposed to slay him,
To devour his guilty body,
And his evil blood to swallow.
Understood the sword his meaning,
Understood the hero’s question,
And it answered him as follows:
"Wherefore at thy heart’s desire
Should I not thy flesh devour,
And drink up thy blood so evil?
I who guiltless flesh have eaten,
Drank the blood of those who sinned not?"
Kullervo, Kalervo’s offspring,
With the very bluest stockings,
On the ground the haft set firmly,
On the heath the hilt pressed tightly,
Turned the point against his bosom,
And upon the point he threw him,
Thus he found the death he sought for,
Cast himself into destruction.


And the text in UT

Quote:
Then he drew forth his sword, and said: 'Hail Gurthang, iron of death, thou alone now remainest! But what lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee? From no blood wilt thou shrink! Wilt thou take Túrin Turambar? Wilt thou slay me swiftly?' And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer: 'Yea, I will drink thy blood, that I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.' Then Túrin set the hilts upon the ground, and cast himself upon the point of Gurthang, and the black blade took his life.


And in COH

Quote:
Then he drew forth his sword, and said: 'Hail Gurthang, iron of death, you alone now remain! But what lord or loyalty do you know, save the hand that wields you? From no blood will you shrink. Will you take Túrin Turambar? Will you slay me swiftly?
And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer. 'yes, I will drink your blood, that I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay you swiftly.'
The Túrin sets the hilt upon the ground, and cast himself upon the point of Gurthang, and the black blade took his life.


So three different texts... the UT version being the strongest and best. CoH really renders a weak version of this dramatic moment. It just does not fit to start speaking modern english in this scene. Anyways, it is my opinion.
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Sat Jun 09, 2007 10:07 pm

Beren, seeing these texts side by side really makes your point. In general, I don't find the language in CoH to be sufficient to carry the tale.
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:49 am

I have to say that I agree too. I'm really surprised by those changes. I haven't managed to read CofH yet so my vision of the tale is still Unfinished Tales and the Sil. I can't imagine why Christopher would want to change that passage - Tolkien wrote it in that style for a reason and you've given us that very convincingly in the black sword speak in the Kullervo, where the sword speaks in a more formal language.

Did Christopher think modern young readers wouldn't cope with it, or that it jarred somehow? Tolkien was adamant that it was a big mistake to underestimate young readers. He also clearly wanted a distinction there, at the culmination of the tragedy, that lifted the tale out of narrative into epic myth.
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Estel
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Postby Estel » Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:18 pm

Beren wrote:Language is most important.

Language is what mostly drew me to Tolkien in my teens and then I happened to read it in a beautiful archaic Swedish. Must say that the new Swedish translation, though truer to Tolkien, isn't as true to his love of languages. :evil:

Beren wrote:One of the most frightening changes in language can be found in The Children of Hurin when Hurin is about to slay himself. I was very much amazed for the changes in The Children of Hurin... it is just plain stupid why Christopher changed all the words to give it a modern feel. It is one of the strongest scenes and is now in the new version reduced to nothing.

I suppose the reason was uniformity of the whole CoH text, but I do think modernization is really silly in this context. If a man contemplates killing himself, starts talking to his sword :lol: and it answers :shock: , then this simply calls for archaic language 8) , unlike the one in earlier narrative and dialogue.
I can see why one would take away verb endings, when modernizing, but why thou, thee, thy? Thou is another pronoun than you and is still in use in poetry, religion and dialects according to my dictionary. :reading:
I've never seen Kalevala in English before, sounds good. :D (seen, sound, well you know what I mean :wink: , it's supposed to be sung or at least read aloud)
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Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising
he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope he rekindled, and in hope ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Sun Jun 10, 2007 8:05 pm

It was a scene which had always stricken me... the words, the use of the archaic English,... it had so much strenght! Now we see CT changed it and that was a big dissapointment for me.

I'm very sensitive for the language use by Tolkien, it is so perfect...
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Jun 11, 2007 10:13 am

It is. And it has weakened it :( . The archaic language lifts that final moment into a different dimension - Tolkien, of course, knew exactly what he was doing there and why.

On a brighter note I've finally put aside the History Of Middle Earth Vol 1 for a while and started The Children of Hurin. I'm hooked again by the story, I confess I like the style it's written in (bar that ending!) and the confrontation between Hurin and Morgoth seems even more powerful than when I first read it, probably because I now know the whole story. To me it's electrifying, scary, very revealing about the nature of evil.

Hurin's 'you have spent your strength upon yourself and wasted it in your own emptiness.' is worth more than several books on the subject.

And we could write a whole thesis on Sador's words about the Elves:

"In their light we are dimmed, or we burn with too quick a flame, and the weight of our doom lies heavier on us."


This really is an astonishing work for someone so young when he started it.
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Mon Jun 11, 2007 10:42 am

I indeed enjoyed the Children of Hurin as a stand alone tale very much! Truly magnificent editing work, except some minor points (which might be personal issues, or just knowing the UT text too well)... but we can't expect it to be 100 procent everyones liking. It is also very fine to have the illustrations by Alan Lee to go with the tale, it is a perfect match!

In the book I can feel a young Tolkien struggle to tell his version of Kullervo, with lot's of improvements and some deep meaningfull differences. Some newly added parts really are fragments of this struggle, some where better left out, some are just stunning.

Now I'm a bit stuck, since I have a big problem placing the work among the other tales. Should you read it after Lord of the Rings, before The Silmarillion... since this is what is said the work is for "to make a bridge between Lotr and QS"; but I wonder if this is the case. I have to let someone read it after the Lord of the Rings, and see if it is possible to follow the tale without having read UT of The Silmarillion.
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon Jun 11, 2007 3:36 pm

I think you're right, Iolanthe and Beren. There are flashes of genius in the story and the language, and to read it as a young author trying to find his voice and genre is appropriate. Again, though, if we had read it first among Tolkien's opus, would we have read anything else?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

marbretherese
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Postby marbretherese » Mon Jun 11, 2007 4:17 pm

Merry wrote: Again, though, if we had read it first among Tolkien's opus, would we have read anything else?


I don't think I would have understood it enough to read it as an introduction to Tolkien - even having read the Sil (admittedly quite some time ago) I got quite confused between who was who, the various cities and occasionally even between Elves and Men :oops: I was constantly referring to the map and the other reference bits at the back! Somehow that never happened when I was reading LOTR - not even the first time. :)

I'm glad I've got the stand-alone CoH as part of my collection but I can't see myself using it as a reference for essays, for example, in the same way I've used LoTR, the Sil and even The Hobbit.

I think Beren is right, it would be interesting to ask someone who's read LOTR - but nothing else - what they make of it!
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:27 am

It's been weeks since I've finished reading CoH now and some impressions have been floating up from my subconcious, I guess. One of them is about Turin's mother. We have here, maybe, some precursor character traits that we see in later characters: a strong female character and a morally ambiguous character, neither purely good nor purely bad.

Her ending, though, is pure tragedy, almost in the classical style.

Any other thoughts?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jun 22, 2007 4:31 pm

Tolkien's women are always interesting, aren't they?

I've only got as far as Turin meeting Mim but from what I remember from Unfinished Tales and the Sil her pride and stubborn refusal to join him in Doriath goes a long way to creating Turin's fate. Her personality creates a lot of 'if only's'. If only she'd gone to Thingol with Turin as soon as Hurin failed to return, if only she'd gone with Turin's sister when Thingol and Melian invited her - either before she was too heavily pregnant or in the years afterwards before Turin was a man.

There is so much of the worst of her in Turin and yet she is a powerful and strong woman with much to admire. Perhaps if he had been with her through his his adolescence she could have helped him understand those dark traits in himself better and overcome them.
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:51 pm

Disaster!!!!

So much for keeping my first edition copy pristine for future generations to covet. I've just dropped a cup of tea on mine, all over the painting of Amon Rudh and along the edge of the book so it's seeped into dozens of pages :cry: .

And I really like that painting too :roll: . I've wiped it all off but I just know it's going to dry all wrinkly. Still, maybe it will look like a Cor Blok.
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Postby Merry » Sat Jun 23, 2007 4:10 pm

Quite an effective way to make it look like you found it in an antique store!
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.


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