Over at Arts and Letters Daily a note has been posted about a new book from the Tolkien estate.

Ostensibly, the tale of the Children of Hurin was written by J.R.R. Tolkien during his lifetime. Like many of the stories hinted at in the text of the Lord of the Rings, the tale of Hurin and his children was set in Middle Earth. Tolkien penned many versions, revisions, and emendations of these tales as he worked on his mythology.

After the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher took up the task of gathering and publishing what he could of these writings. Some tales were published in the collection titled The Silmarillion. Other tales (and fragments, and original versions, and emendations) were published in a multi-volume History of Middle Earth series. This series read more like a scholarly study of Tolkien's work than a novel.

Now one of the major elements of Tolkien's mythology has been published as a complete book. It is the tale of The Children of Hurin.

The tale does promise much of what we saw in the Lord of the Rings: a focus on a few individuals caught in the middle of a titanic struggle between good and evil. Like in the epic war against Sauron, the evil side has the stronger army. However, in this story (set in what would be ancient history to the hobbits who saw the War of the Ring), the hope of victory is scant.

The tale that unfolds around the family of Hurin is a tale of curses, fate, courageous resistance against evil, murders, attempts to hide from fate, and the evil will of the Dark Lord--primarily manifested through one of his servants, a malicious dragon.

Other tragedies can be found in the vast mythological world that Tolkien created. However, this tragedy was the one that Tolkien poured most of his thought and energy into. The story that resulted contains many elements which can be found in other tragedies--especially the Norse stories which Tolkien loved. But The Children of Hurin also contains many elements which are the result of long thought about the nature of evil, the virtuous response to evil, and the multifarious ways in which evil presents itself in the world.

Like Tolkien's other writings, this book is one that is worth reading, and reading again.

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