I try to read at least one fiction book simultaneously with my leisurely and academic reading. This gives me a chance to wind down every now and then and keeps my reading regimen fresh and exciting. So far this year, I’ve managed to squeeze in a Ted Dekker book, Showdown, C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and now, one that I have long awaited to read, The Children of Hurin. This book is the first officially published work by the hand of J. R. R. Tolkien since The Simarillion which was released in 1977. Both works were left unfinished by Tolkien at his death in 1973. However, the Middle-Earth estate and Tolkienian legacy was rightfully passed on to his son Christopher Tolkien. In a similar manner as The Silmarillion (the history book of Middle-Earth), Christopher endeavored to compile and construct this unfinished tale into a coherent narrative from his father’s manuscripts. Some of the earliest pages of work by J. R. R. Tolkien concerning The Children of Hurin date back before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy sometime right after the end of WWI. Although Tolkien began this particular work at a much earlier date than his more well know literary masterpieces, he continued to brood over it and expand its content beyond the success of LOTR. Christopher has labored over the various manuscripts and writings for the past thirty years to which now his editorial work is complete and this story which was very dear to Tolkien his father, is available to new and old Middle-Earth fans alike.
This ancient story is set in the First Age of Middle-earth in a land called Beleriand which at the time of LOTR no longer exists. If you may recall, the War of the Ring was the chronological marker for the cessation of the Third Age. So, this story would have been part of core Middle-earth mythology and legend for characters such as Aragorn, Legolas, and Elrond. These three men in particular have special ties to The Children of Hurin in that their ancient ancestors are at the threshold of this dark tale. And indeed, the story is much darker and gloomier than Tolkien’s work in The Hobbit and LOTR. However, similar themes such as hope, justice, mercy, grace, destiny, predestination, a divine plan, apocalyptic scenes and images (especially with the appearance of a Dragon as the main adversary), and redemption are extremely prevalent in this work. As usual, Tolkien is a master storyteller in this fictional work just as ever. In fact, I was ever amazed at his ability to keep me turning the pages which is hard for me to do at long lengths of time. Not to mention, Tolkien is at his best in constructing and prolifically writing in the old english prose reminiscent of Norse and Beowolf, and at times, you feel that you are reading a work which in style and genre sounds very much like King James Version prose and poetry renderings of the Old Testament. If you enjoy 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, then go read this book immediately. I would encourage everyone to read this book and let Tolkien sweep you away to a distant land where he projects his deeply, pious and theological Christian faith and worldview onto a fictional story where he communicates themes and truths of the Scriptures better than most who write monographs with those very purposes in mind.