"The Lay of the Children of Húrin" completed and edited by C. Tolkien will be published spring 2007 (18.09.06)

The Associated Press reports that one of Tolkien's earliest stories, written in 1917, Narn i Chîn Húrin, Sindarin for "The Lay of the Children of Húrin", has been edited by his son into a completed work and will be released next spring. The book will include a new map by Christopher Tolkien and a jacket and color paintings by Alan Lee. "It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of the Children of Húrin as an independent work, between its own covers," Christopher Tolkien said in a statement, published in a Harper Collins and Houghton Mifflin press-release, since the new book will be published by them in England and the United States respectively.

Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on The Children of Húrin, which his father J.R.R. Tolkien began in 1917. J.R.R. Tolkien consciously based the lay on the crude medieval story of Kullervo in the Finnish mythological poem the Kalevala, saying that it was "an attempt to reorganize...the tale of Kullervo the hapless, into a form of my own" (H. Carpenter, in Letters 214). Also called "The Tale of Grief", "Narn i Chîn Húrin", commonly called "The Narn", tells of the tragic fates of the children of Húrin, his son Turin (Turambar) and his daughter Nienor. Sadly Tolkien did not finish it. Of course excerpts of The Children of Húrin have been published before, namely in The Silmarillion (prose), Unfinished Tales (prose), in The Book of Lost Tales partII (prose), in The Lays of Beleriand (verse in allitterative long-lines) and the most recent in 1994 in The War of the Jewels (prose).

In the body of The Silmarillion, we find it as the second of the three tales which Tolkien wrote in succession while on medical leave from the British army during 1917 through the spring of 1918: "Of Beren and Luthien", "Of Turin Turambar", and "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin".

In Unfinished Tales we have a detailed, though unfinished and, in parts, interrupted narrative version of the poetic tale about the Children of Húrin told once long ago by the poet Dírhavel and called "Narn i Hîn Húrin" - Sindarin for "The Lay of the Children of Húrin". The present narrative is the Tolkien father and son tandem's version of the story. In 1984 we find excerpts in The Book of Lost Tales Part II, the second volume of The History of Middle-earth as "Turambar and the Foalókë" and "The Nauglafring".

The Lays of Beleriand, the third volume of The History of Middle-earth, consists of two extensive poems by J.R.R.Tolkien having to do with the Eldar Days. They are the Lay of the Children of Húrin and the Lay of Leithian. The first of the poems "the Lay of the Children of Húrin", his early but most sustained work in the ancient English meter, intended to narrate on a grand scale the tragedy of Turin Turambar. More on Húrin can be found in The War of the Jewels, the eleventh volume of The History of Middle-earth series, published in 1994, in "The Wanderings of Húrin". These additional narratives involving Húrin and the tragedy of his children, "The Wanderings of Húrin" is the conclusion to the "Narn". It was not included in the final Silmarillion because Christopher Tolkien feared that the heavy compression which would have been necessary to make it a stylistic match with the rest of the book would have been too difficult and would have made the story overly complex and difficult to read.

The Tale about the Children of Húrin comes from the ancient times of the First Age and is a beautiful and touching story about the tragic fate of Húrin's family from the house of Hador Goldenhead "the Lord of the Edain". Húrin was the Man who dared directly defy Melkor and was cruelly punished for this by the mighty Vala. It tells the account of the killing by Turin of his friend Beleg, as well as a unique description of the great redoubt of Nargothrond.

For those who want to know even more about the tale I will give a brief summary and give a guide how to read the story (if you cannot wait for the new completed version of The Narn). The story starts (in the published Silmarillion) with the childhood of Túrin, continuing through the captivity of his father in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and Túrin's exile in Doriath, to Túrin's time in Nargothrond, his unintentionally incestuous relationship with his sister Nienor, and ultimately ending with suicide by his sword Gurthang after having slain Glaurung.

As a point of reference regarding the names of the main characters: In this story, Túrin renames himself Turambar, meaning Master of Doom in the High-Elven speech, with a vow to turn aside from the darkness that had ruled his early life. His sister Nienor is also called Níniel, meaning Maid of Tears. She is renamed by Turambar himself after he finds her alone and in distress in the woods. Only much later does he learn her real name and origins. The section ends with the Elves calling them by the names of Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga (as the slayer of the Dragon Glaurung) and Nienor Níniel.

The story of the Narn continues in the Later Narn (which you can read in the Unfinished Tales). The last part of the story (published as "the Wanderings of Húrin"), a text which was found to be too different in style from the rest of the Silmarillion, but which continues the Narn past Túrin's death and ends with Húrin's eventual release and the bad deeds which come from that (read in The War of the Jewels, part 11 of the History of Middle-earth series).

There has never been a film made of The Silmarillion. Although it is not a huge book, it covers a lot of ground. Any movie which tried to include it all would have to cover at least 600 years of history and have at least 25 main characters. This puts it in the general category of 'unfilmable'. But it is quite possible that a good movie could be made of some of the stories within the book: the tale of Turin Turambar or the soon published "The Lay of the Children of Húrin" is probably the most suitable, with a hidden elvish city, a dragon and a doomed hero along with liberal helpings of tragedy, betrayal and incest.

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