The Children of Húrin

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A Dark Fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, it was edited posthumously by his son Christopher. This is one of Tolkien's "Great Tales" of the First Age of Middle-earth--one of the earliest and most elaborated tales. It exists in many versions, both in prose and in poetry, some almost complete and some as fragments. The various versions and parts have previously been published in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, and The History of Middle Earth known as Narn i Chîn Húrin (aka "The Narn"), but the published novel The Children of Húrin is the first to compile it all into a single complete text.

Following the cataclysmic destruction of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Húrin, the greatest of all mortal warriors, was captured by the forces of Morgoth. The Dark Lord offered Húrin freedom in return for revealing the location of the Elvish city of Gondolin. Húrin refused and the enraged Morgoth cast a curse upon him and his family for all eternity. The remainder of the plot follows Húrin's struggling son Turin and daughter Nienor as the curse winds its way toward a terrible conclusion.

Probably the darkest and most depressing single work in the entire Middle-earth canon. While beautifully written, this is in no way a happy book.

Tropes used in The Children of Húrin include:
  • A God Am I: Morgoth already is a godlike being in physical form, but his dialogue with Hurin clearly shows he has "Big-G God" aspirations on top of that.
  • Accidental Murder: Happens to Beleg, at Turin's hands (he'd just been rescued from Orcs, was barely conscious, and thought he was an enemy.)
  • And I Must Scream: Hurin's imprisonment in Angband.
  • Anti-Hero: Turin, in one of the first fantasy examples. Although JRR Tolkien was inspired by the tragic anti-heroes of Norse and Finnish mythology when he wrote the character of Turin.
    • Androg, Turin's Lancer is an extreme Type V, a convicted murderer who crosses the Moral Event Horizon early on by attempting to rape a woman and subsequently killing Mim's son then trying to murder Mim in cold blood. He does have a few redeeming qualities such as his loyalty to Turin, and even sacrifices his life to save Beleg.
  • Anti-Villain: Mim the Petty Dwarf is a Type II.
  • Anyone Can Die: And almost all characters do.
  • The Archer: Beleg "Strongbow" and Androg.
  • Attempted Rape: Turin's heroism first emerges when he rescues a girl from being raped by Androg.
  • Badass Normal: Both Hurin and Turin are solid examples.
  • Berserk Button: Do not insult Turin's family in front of him. It won't be pretty.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Beleg has mentored Turin since he was a young child growing up in Doriath.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Turin tries his best to be a great hero but is constantly hounded by his temper and inflexible moral views, not to mention having a convicted rapist as his second in command. The antagoists are often just as ambigous, especially Mim. That said, Glarung and Morgoth aren't ambigous by any standards.
  • Broken Bird: Nienor.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Turin and Nienor, unknowingly. When they find out, they kill themselves.
  • Butt Monkey: Turin is a decidedly non-humorous example. As a result of Morgoth's curse, the entire universe essentially is out to get him, and he knows it.
  • Catatonia: Turin goes into this after he finds out the princess he promised to protect is dead. He collapses on her grave and takes several days to be nursed back to health.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Done by Morgoth to the captive Hurin. Later on, Beleg is tortured by Androg and the other outlaws.
  • Compelling Voice: Glaurung, who uses it to create amnesia in Nienor.
  • Dead Little Sister: An exquisite specimen of this trope. Both little sisters die.
  • Darker and Edgier: You could say that again.
  • Dark Fantasy: Could have been the Ur Example, if only JRR Tolkien wouldn't hold it in Development Hell so long (the conception appeared in the Professor's mind as early as WWI).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Turin, the main hero, wears black, wields a black sword (that may or may not be alive and somewhat malevolent) and often hides his face behind a fearsome mask. Somewhat played with in that while not an evil man himself, evil tends to follow wherever he goes anyway.
  • Downer Ending or Bittersweet Ending: The Hero kills The (literal) Dragon, ridding the world of one of the greatest evils it's ever seen. Then his sister commits suicide when she finds out about her incest, and Turin does the same after he killed an innocent man. Hard to be happy at that.
    • The whole story is pretty much one downer ending after another. Turin being exiled from Doriath, the Orcs attacking Amon Rhud and killing all the outlaws except for Turin, Beleg finding Turin only to be killed by him, and the fall of Nargothrond to the Orcs. Basically, every time it seems like Turin is going to have a happy and peaceful life and escape his fate, something bad happens.
  • The Dragon: Glaurung, both literally and figuratively.
  • Defiant to the End: Hurin.
  • Driven to Suicide: Turin and Nienor.
  • Easy Amnesia: Glaurung can use his dragon magic to cause this.
  • Empathic Weapon: Gurthang.
  • Enslaved Elves: Gwindor.
  • Evil Overlord: Morgoth.
  • Evil Weapon: Whether or not the black sword Gurthang is evil is up for debate, but it's certainly unpleasant, and Melian (a Physical God, or, rather, angelic being) specifically remarks upon seeing it that there is malice in it.
  • Expy: Turin is partially based on Cullervo from The Kalevala.
  • Fantastic Racism: The human Turin grows up among the Elves of Doriath, who are perfectly civil to him (being the King's ward tends to work wonders in that department, as does being related to varying degrees with some well-known mortal heroes), with a few exceptions: one of them, Saeros, pushes him one step too far...
    • Mim the Petty-Dwarf and his sons are viewed with superstitious loathing by everyone. It's mentioned that the Elves used to hunt the Petty-Dwarves like animals for sport, and now only three remain alive. It's pretty much Word of God that their situation is an analogy for Anti-Semitism.
  • Fan Nickname: "The Narn."
  • God of Evil: Morgoth.
  • Heroic BSOD: Turin, after he accidentally kills Beleg.
  • Hannibal Lecture: The whole chapter "The Words of Hurin and Morgoth" is basically a double Hannibal Lecture between the two title characters. Glaurung is good at this, too.
  • The High Queen: Melian, in her own way.
  • I Have Many Names: Even for Tolkien characters, the people here seem to pick up a lot. (Turin has more than everyone else put together, it seems.)
  • The Heavy: Glaurung. Morgoth is the Big Bad, but Glaurung is a much more visible villain who is more directly involved with Turin and Nienor's story.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Finduilas, who is pinned to a tree with a spear.
    • Not to forget Glaurung and Turin, both impaled on Gurthang. Allow me please; "Then he fled from them, like the wind, and they were filled with wonder and fear. But Mablung said: 'Some strange and dreadful thing has chanced that we know not. Let us follow him and aid him if we may: for now he is fey and witless.' But Túrin sped far before them, and came to Cabed-en-Aras, and stood still; and he heard the roaring of the water, and saw that all the trees near and far were withered, and their sere leaves fell mournfully, as though winter had come in the first days of summer. 'Cabed-en-Aras, Cabed Naeramarth!' he cried. 'I will not defile your waters where Niniel was washed. For all my deeds have been ill, and the latest the worst.' 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. "
  • Kill'Em All: Both the battle of Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the ending of the story itself.
  • Last of His Kind: Mim and his two sons are the last Petty-Dwarves in the world. All of them are killed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Glaurung.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Does Turin encounter so much misfortune because he's actually 'magically' cursed, or because of 'regular' bad coincidence, or because he's stubborn and bullheaded and doesn't know when to give up or admit he's wrong? Or is it a little bit of all?
    • Also Gurthang. Is it really a sentient Evil Weapon, or is the "malice" in it simply a function of its being a weapon that can be used to kill indiscriminantly, and anything more is just in Turin's head?
    • And did it really speak to Turin before he killed himself, or was he just halucinating from extreme emotional distress?
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Okay, Beleg was more of a Big Brother Mentor than The Obi-Wan, but he still gave Turin plenty of help and advice, and still got killed before everything was said and done.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Glaurung certainly didn't intend to die, but boy, did he have one zinger of a parting shot...
  • Named Weapons: Many special (and less special) weapons having names exist in Tolkiens stories and this is no exception: Beleg's bow Belthronding, the sister-swords Anguirel and Anglachel, the latter renamed Gurthang by Túrin.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Turin helps the Elves of Nargothrond fortify their city against their encroaching enemies, including the addition of a giant bridge in front of their gates across the River Narog. This just shows Morgoth's armies exactly where to find the hidden fortress-city, and he sends the dragon Glaurung to literally smoke them out...
    • Everything Turin does goes awry, all the good he does ends in evil, everything he loves he looses. That is the whole point of the tale and Morgoth's cruel curse on Hurin. Who himself; greatest of all mortal warriors and unbending even by Morgoth, still does his handiwork by breaking the people of Brethil and bringing the Nauglamir to Doriath.
    • Later, Turin returns to the northern homeland he was exiled from as a child, now ruled by an Easterling chieftain who usurped his father's lordship. He kills this chieftain out of revenge, which sparks a rebellion from the enslaved Edain. This just makes the Easterlings oppress the Edain even harder.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Glaurung breathes fire, has no wings, is highly intelligent and possesses incredible mind-bending magic.
  • Physical God: Melian and Morgoth.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The roving band of outlaws in the Brethil forest who are joined by the exiled Turin. He takes over as their leader and organizes them into La Résistance against the Orcs.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Thingol, in contrast to his Jerkass persona from Beren and Luthien. Somebody learned his Aesop, it seems.
  • The Resenter: Morgoth lives in an eternal state of this.
    • Brandir, when Turin subverts his command and weds Niniel, whom he loves.
  • Screw Destiny: Tragically averted. Turin tries so hard, even taking on the name "Turambar" ("Master of Doom") during his best attempt at living a normal life, but the curse catches up to him in the end. As Nienor said, "master of doom by doom mastered".
  • Smug Snake: Saeros, who paid for it dearly.
  • Talking Weapon: Gurthang speaks only once. When Turin wants to kill himself and asks his sword if it will do the job, it anwers him. If it actually spoke or if he just imagined it is not known, as this is the only instance of a weapon doing so.
  • Tragic Hero: Turin, so very much.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: Anglachel and Anguirel, made of black steel from a "star that fell from the sky".
  • Unbuilt Trope: Let's see, it's an epic Dark Fantasy novel featuring incest, the fate of a family over the cours eof an epic struggle, a morrally ambigous dwarf, dollops of Black and Grey morality, a sinister supernatural force encroaching from the north and a serious downer ending. And it's got nothing to do with George R. Martin.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Turin tries so hard to get things right, and even tries several times to completely quit his heritage in an attempt to escape, but in the end nothing works out.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Morgoth, gloating to Hurin about his family's terrible fate. Of course, being a Physical God, he's right.

Morgoth: Sit now there, and look out upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom thou lovest. Thou hast dared to mock me, and to question the power of Melkor, master of the Fates of Arda. Therefore, with my eyes thou shalt see, and with my ears thou shalt hear; never shalt thou move from this place until all is fulfilled unto its bitter end!