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Children of Hurin Reading Group

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

Postby A#minor » 15 Jul 2007, 20:25

nomad wrote:I wonder, A#minor, if we don't meet people like this more often but don't recognize them precisely because they are like Morwen. Some people are very good at that. Some, like Morwen, hide behind a stern and strong mask. Others hide behind a joyful one. And both masks are reactions to painful experience of some sort.


Hmmmmm.... good insight, nomad! I can certainly think of people I've known that hide behind a mask of happiness and exuberance.
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Postby nomad » 16 Jul 2007, 18:15

And I have a hunch that the mask of happiness is easier to see through than the one of strength and silence.

I've read up through ch. 6 now. Is is just me, or does Turin remind anyone else of Anakin Skywalker? The whole, "I've been wronged" and pride thing.

[quote="A#minor"The friendship of Turin and Nellas is so bittersweet. I hate to think of her watching over him, but no longer his playmate. She must've been more of the ilk of the elves who sing silliness and jokes to Bilbo in The Hobbit, rather than the serious elves of LotR or Silmarillion. [/quote]

She didn't seem like that at all to me. If anything, she seems wiser than Turin - she just stays in the wood which he leaves. I think Turin has put away the "child-like" as well as the "childishness" with his maturity.


Chapter V
* * *

It's a wonder how Saeros with his bitterness and malice could have been one of the close counselors of King Thingol. Thingol was no fool; wouldn't he have recognized those traits in his counselor? Not to mention Saeros had no honor, as he demonstrated when he attacked Turin from behind and without a proper challenge. And he showed by his conduct in the hall when he insulted the women of Turin's family that he had no respect, no wisdom; so why would Thingol keep him around? Saeros must have been a phenomenal brown-noser and liar to deceive old Thingol. The King even says in court, "Saeros I accounted faithful and wise."
Sounds like Saeros was a politician! Ha! Ha!


Possibly, as contra mundum said, he started good and went bad. Or maybe he was a good and wise counselor in many things right up to the end, but Turin hit his weak spot. Obviously, he must have lacked strong honor to give in to his hatred and pride as he did when he attacked Turin. But that doesn't mean that even then he was all bad. Much as Turin has become more shadow than light during his stay with the wolfmen - but retains a sense of the honor which he has betrayed.
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Postby A#minor » 16 Jul 2007, 21:20

I've read up through Chapter XI now. Here are some more thoughts:
Major Spoilers for those who haven't read this far!

Chapter IX
1. "But Beleg would not abandon Turin, and despairing himself he aroused hope again in Gwindor's heart..."
I have to wonder what Beleg said to Gwindor that could kindle hope in a heart so long hopeless and without light in the caves of Angband.
Also, I'm amazed at the strength of Beleg! He's just recovered from terrible wounds, journeyed a long way, and seen his dearest foolish friend captive; but even as he despairs himself, he has the words, the courage, the wisdom to give someone else hope, probably thereby sparking a little hope within himself. They say when you are sad or depressed, the best thing you can do for yourself is to cheer up someone else who is depressed.


2. "But now in the camp beneath the Orcs were roused... but no search was made for him [Turin], for they were filled with terror by the thunder that came out of the West, believing that it was sent against them by the great Enemies beyond the Sea."
There are two possible ways of looking at this: either the Valar, possibly Ulmo, really did send weather to confuse the doings of Morgoth and his Orcs; or the Orcs are just superstitious and scaredy cats. Maybe both.

I wonder what other Orc superstitions there are. Maybe they won't fight on Friday the 13th. Maybe orcs don't walk under ladders. Maybe they shun black cats. They're afraid of lightning evidently. Any other ideas for orc superstitions?


Chapter X
3. "Gwindor answered...."You think of yourself and of your own glory, and bid us each to do likewise; but we must think of others beside ourselves..."
I think Gwindor had it exactly right. Turin is selfish as he has shown again and again. I don't think he once does a selfless act to really help his friends or family.


Chapter XI
4. Turin's treatment of the messengers from Cirdan and Ulmo:
Turin has just gotten too big for his own britches! He's not even trying to be polite! And he's pretty stupid not to listen when one of the Valar send warning. And Orodreth just sits there and says nothing!
agh! I'm so frustrated with both of them right now.


5. "...he [Glaurung] defiled the Eithel Ivrin..."
Aw... that was my favorite lake after the words Gwindor spoke there about laughter and such. What does Tolkien exactly mean by defiled? Is the lake gone? Is it all dirty and muddy? Or is it just defiled by the very presence of a dragon? Perhaps the surrounding shores are maimed and dirtied by orc encampments and fires.


6. "Then suddenly he [Glaurung] spoke by the evil spirit that was in him, saying: 'Hail, son of Hurin. Well met!' "
If he spoke by an evil spirit in him, does that mean that Glaurung was demon possessed somehow? Or is that just a poetic embellishment?
Smaug could speak without an evil spirit, so I'm assuming that all Tolkien's dragons were capable of speech on their own. Hmmmm..... don't know.

7. Gwindor's last words to Turin: "Haste you to Nargothrond, and save Finduilas. And this last I say to you: she alone stands between you and your doom. If you fail her, it shall not fail to find you."

Glaurung's words to Turin: "And if you tarry for Finduilas, then never shall you see Morwen or Nienor again; and they will curse you."

Now who are you gonna believe? A lying servant of Morgoth, or your best friend who still loves you despite all you've done to hurt him? Stupid choice, Turin. Stupid. Stupid. So frustrating!
This is why it is taking me so long to read this.
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Postby contra mundum » 17 Jul 2007, 16:10

A#minor wrote:Chapter X
3. "Gwindor answered...."You think of yourself and of your own glory, and bid us each to do likewise; but we must think of others beside ourselves..."
I think Gwindor had it exactly right. Turin is selfish as he has shown again and again. I don't think he once does a selfless act to really help his friends or family.


While I think Gwindor takes a too-dark view here of Turin and his motivations. I cannot think that the well-being of Nargothrond or others in the world has not entered Turin's thought processes at all. His counsel to Orodreth, and even his rejoinder to Gwindor, sounds plausible. Which is of course what makes his counsel so lethal. As one of the Eldar, Orodreth should have known better than to follow it.

Turin's fundamental problem is that he overestimates his own prowess and grossly underestimates the power of Morgoth. And this is not the first time; even when he was leading the outlaws from Amon Rudh, he thought himself a bigger impediment to Morgoth than he really was.

So is Turin rash? Yes--he'd do much better to take the longer view of things that the long-lived Eldar take. Is he proud? Again, yes. But utterly selfish? I do not read him that way. Think of his speech to Finduilas about how the armies of Nargothrond will win time for Gwindor to heal from the hurts Morgoth did him. I concede that the speech may have contained a large amount of rationalization of selfish motives, but I also think it contained a large measure of sincerity.

A#m wrote:Chapter XI
4. Turin's treatment of the messengers from Cirdan and Ulmo:
Turin has just gotten too big for his own britches! He's not even trying to be polite! And he's pretty stupid not to listen when one of the Valar send warning. And Orodreth just sits there and says nothing!
agh! I'm so frustrated with both of them right now.


I agree that this is Turin at his absolute worst. And Orodreth, too. And it's moments like this where one starts to wonder about the relationship of doom and will. Morgoth may have cursed Hurin's children, but Turin's actions often made the curse rather easy to carry out.

So is Turin proud because of the curse laid on him, or is that solely his own doing? Regardless of the thorny questions about destiny and will, I do think we have to charge Turin with full responsibility for his pride.

A#m wrote:6. "Then suddenly he [Glaurung] spoke by the evil spirit that was in him, saying: 'Hail, son of Hurin. Well met!' "
If he spoke by an evil spirit in him, does that mean that Glaurung was demon possessed somehow? Or is that just a poetic embellishment?
Smaug could speak without an evil spirit, so I'm assuming that all Tolkien's dragons were capable of speech on their own. Hmmmm..... don't know.


I think Glaurung's "evil spirit" was his own, not a possessing spirit.

A#m wrote:7. Gwindor's last words to Turin: "Haste you to Nargothrond, and save Finduilas. And this last I say to you: she alone stands between you and your doom. If you fail her, it shall not fail to find you."

Glaurung's words to Turin: "And if you tarry for Finduilas, then never shall you see Morwen or Nienor again; and they will curse you."

Now who are you gonna believe? A lying servant of Morgoth, or your best friend who still loves you despite all you've done to hurt him? Stupid choice, Turin. Stupid. Stupid. So frustrating!
This is why it is taking me so long to read this.


We are not told how potent dragon-spells are, but I am inclined to think that Turin's decision was a direct result of Glaurung's spell, not a decision of his own will. Turin's fatal mistake here (again born of pride) was daring to look Glaurung in the eye.
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Postby A#minor » 17 Jul 2007, 17:48

contra mundum wrote:So is Turin proud because of the curse laid on him, or is that solely his own doing? Regardless of the thorny questions about destiny and will, I do think we have to charge Turin with full responsibility for his pride.

Yes, I think that most of his decisions and the consequences thereof come upon Turin from his own pride, stubbornness, and stupidity. However, things like his stabbing Beleg accidentally in the dark, and his belief in the lies of Glaurung smack of the work of Morgoth. Turin certainly does make it easy though. And some misfortunes come just from the peril of the times and the treachery of others, like Mim and Saeros.
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Postby contra mundum » 17 Jul 2007, 20:01

What makes Turin's story so tragic is the unique conjunction of his flaws and his circumstances, which almost always nullify his strengths (or cause them to backfire) and expose his flaws.

That Morgoth . . . utterly diabolical.
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Postby nomad » 18 Jul 2007, 17:41

OK, I'm behind the discussion a little. But one question... why, if Morwen thought it too dangerous for Turin to stay, did she not also think it just as dangerous for her daughter to stay? It might be even more dangerous for a young girl.

Tolkien is certainly filling this story with tragedy. Beleg's death by Turin's hand was a coup de force for the tragic. How would you recover from something like that?

And I agree Turin is getting too big for his britches... he's not the first general to do that. Again... the Anakin Sywalker thing... turned in on his own pain and suffering. No one can possibly understand what he's been through. But then, that's largely because he won't tell anyone even who he is to hide his past. He's trying to carry it all on his own shoulders instead of trusting his friends.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Postby A#minor » 18 Jul 2007, 17:52

nomad wrote:OK, I'm behind the discussion a little. But one question... why, if Morwen thought it too dangerous for Turin to stay, did she not also think it just as dangerous for her daughter to stay? It might be even more dangerous for a young girl.

Nienor was too young to travel, I think. And also Turin was the "important" one, since they hoped the chieftainship of Hurin would be continued through him. Morwen probably hoped that one day they could regroup and again be a strong people, and Turin would be their rightful leader and produce an heir in his turn.
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Postby The Pfifltrigg » 19 Jul 2007, 04:38

6. "Then suddenly he [Glaurung] spoke by the evil spirit that was in him, saying: 'Hail, son of Hurin. Well met!' "
If he spoke by an evil spirit in him, does that mean that Glaurung was demon possessed somehow? Or is that just a poetic embellishment?
Smaug could speak without an evil spirit, so I'm assuming that all Tolkien's dragons were capable of speech on their own. Hmmmm..... don't know.

The "evil spirit that was in him" was the dragon's own spirit. Remember that the Balrogs and probably (although it's not sated outright in so many words as it is for the former) the dragons also were 'angelic' spirits, lesser Maiar, who had followed Melkor's song and followed him to earth when he descended to destroy it and the Children of Illuvatar for whom it was created. The dragon is the evil spirit, it's just not as explicit in The Hobbit, a children's book.
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Postby nomad » 19 Jul 2007, 17:26

A#minor wrote:
nomad wrote:OK, I'm behind the discussion a little. But one question... why, if Morwen thought it too dangerous for Turin to stay, did she not also think it just as dangerous for her daughter to stay? It might be even more dangerous for a young girl.

Nienor was too young to travel, I think. And also Turin was the "important" one, since they hoped the chieftainship of Hurin would be continued through him. Morwen probably hoped that one day they could regroup and again be a strong people, and Turin would be their rightful leader and produce an heir in his turn.


But I figure she waited till Nienor was within spitting distance of the threshold of womanhood. If I were a mother, and I had the opportunity, I would get my daughter out of there as soon as she could survive the journey. Because, well, in situations like this, horrible men and men-things often don't wait for a girl to cross that threshold before they start treating her like a woman... and not in a way befitting a lady. I know supposedly they were afraid of Morwen, but she would have to absolutely never let Nienor out of her sight and what sort of life is that for a child?
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Postby nomad » 25 Jul 2007, 17:15

A#minor wrote:Chapter XI
4. Turin's treatment of the messengers from Cirdan and Ulmo:
Turin has just gotten too big for his own britches! He's not even trying to be polite! And he's pretty stupid not to listen when one of the Valar send warning. And Orodreth just sits there and says nothing!
agh! I'm so frustrated with both of them right now.


A#minor wrote:It's a wonder how Saeros with his bitterness and malice could have been one of the close counselors of King Thingol.


I wonder how Turin with his pride and arrogance could have been one of the close counselors of Orodreth. :wink:

But seriously, Turin has ironically become quite similar to Saeros.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Postby nomad » 25 Jul 2007, 17:22

Whatever the mix of curse-will is driving Turin, Nienor seems to be outright a victim of the curse. The poor girl did nothing more than stick by her misguided mother, and ends up under the spell of Glaurung and allowed a measure of happiness only to set her up for a terrible fall. Tolkien hasn't exactly rectified the rarity of strong female characters in his work. Not that I think that is automatically a bad thing that needs rectifying. But the book is called the Children, pl, of Hurin. But it's really all about Turin.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Postby A#minor » 25 Jul 2007, 21:12

nomad wrote:But seriously, Turin has ironically become quite similar to Saeros.

My God, you're right! :stunned: I hadn't even seen that before. He's come full circle and become the thing he hated. This is so Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader-ish.
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Postby nomad » 27 Jul 2007, 17:01

A#minor wrote:
nomad wrote:But seriously, Turin has ironically become quite similar to Saeros.

My God, you're right! :stunned: I hadn't even seen that before. He's come full circle and become the thing he hated. This is so Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader-ish.


Quite, except there was no redemption of Turin. I think Turin is more complex than Skywalker. Because with the later it was a linear, started cute-went bad-turned good, progression. Whereas the former had elements of good and bad right the way through. Even as an innocent child he was a bit head-strong, though at that time I would not call that 'bad', rather a quality that could lead to bad things if not tempered. And right up until the end, he carries qualities of gallantry and courage alongside his selfishness and pride. In fact, his selfishness sort of hides itself behind his courage often. And his pride rides in the saddle with his gallantry. On the other hand, while his his passion burns on, his compassion seems greatly diminished by the end.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Postby A#minor » 27 Jul 2007, 18:24

Well, yes, perhaps the Skywalker/Vader analogy is not so great, but I didn't really intend it to be an exact match with Turin. That was just the first example of someone becoming the thing they used to hate that came to mind.

Now that I've finished Ivanhoe, I'm hoping to get more of Children of Hurin read this weekend.
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