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10th anniversary of The Children of Húrin

16th April marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of The Children of Húrin, the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Nienor.

The Children of Húrin, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Children of Húrin, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Conceived in the 1910s as one of the great tales of the First Age – alongside The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien – the story tells of the lord Húrin who has three children, Túrin, Lalaith and Nienor, with his wife Morwen. The tale itself draws some parallels with the story of Kullervo from the Finnish epic Kalevala.

Although Tolkien had been working on it since the 1910s, nothing was known of Túrin – the principal character of the story – until the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977. There were a couple of cursory references in The Lord of the Rings, though:

“But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right; and though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself were assembled together your seat should be among them.” – Elrond to Frodo

The story tells of how Húrin’s son, Túrin, is sent to grow up under the protection of King Thingol of Doriath (the father of Lúthien) where he grows into a strong young man. Due to his pride, he believes himself banished from the kingdom and goes on a number of journeys throughout Beleriand. Due to a curse laid on Húrin’s family by Morgoth, all of Túrin’s actions turn against him bringing about only death and ruin. Eventually he falls in love with a woman Niniel, who transpires to be his sister Nienor who is suffering a bewitchment. The story concludes with the deaths of the entire family, including the suicides of Túrin and Nienor.

A fuller account of the story was included in Unfinished Tales as “Narn i Chîn Húrin”, before The Children of Húrin was finally released by Christopher Tolkien in 2007. Writing in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Hand described the story:

A bleak, darkly beautiful tale played out against the background of the First Age of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, The Children of Húrin possesses the mythic resonance and grim sense of inexorable fate found in Greek tragedy. [..] Readers looking for happy endings will find none in this book. Instead, there is grand, epic storytelling and a reminder, if one was needed, of Tolkien’s genius in creating an imaginary world that both reflects and deepens a sense of our own mythic past.

About the Author: Shaun Gunner

Shaun is the current Chair of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2013, Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien’s works whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time can be found in the cinema, playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter.


  • Ray Bell

    Not just Finnish – the names are very Celtic in appearance Túrin is similar to the Irish Tuireann, and names like Morgoth, Doriath etc look very Welsh.

  • Ruca77

    10 years of this amazing masterpiece! /bow

  • Alex McLeish

    Umbethinking back when I bought this book from WHSmith ten years ago as a fresh faced youth, I have to say I was irked at the time that the book binding in my first edition was so tight that the pages crinkled 🙁

    I also thought, having newly read the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, that the Turin tale lost something when it was cleaved from what had gone before. Yes, Christopher Tolkien gave a brief outline of the Nírnaeth Arnoediad but it wasn’t the same.

    Speaking of the Silmarillion, I’ve had my well-thumbed paperback (printed circa 1999) for over a tenyear now. Will there be a 40th anniversary edition coming out this year or should I settle for the 2006 hardback already out?