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The Children of Hurin Hardcover – Illustrated, April 17, 2007
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Adam Tolkien on The Children of Húrin
How did a lifetime of stories become The Children of Húrin? In an essay on the making of the book, Adam Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (and French translator of his History of Middle-earth), explains that the Húrin legends made up the third "Great Tale" of his grandfather's Middle-earth writing, and he describes how his father, Christopher Tolkien, painstakingly collected the pieces of the legend into a complete story told only in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien. "For anyone who has read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings," he writes, The Children of Húrin "allows them to take a step back into a larger world, an ancient land of heroes and vagabonds, honour and jeopardy, hope and tragedy."
A Look Inside the Book
This first edition of The Children of Húrin is illustrated by Alan Lee, who was already well-known for his Tolkien illustrations in previous editions (see our Tolkien Store for more) as well as his classic collaboration with Brian Froud, Faeries, and his Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Black Ships Before Troy, before his Oscar-winning work as conceptual designer for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy brought him even greater acclaim. Here's a quick glimpse of two of Lee's interior illustrations for The Children of Húrin. (Click on each to see larger images.)
Questions for Alan Lee
We had the chance to ask Alan Lee a few questions about his illustrative collaboration with the world imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien:
Amazon.com: How much of a treat was it to get first crack at depicting entirely new characters rather than ones who had been interpreted many times before? Was there one who particularly captured your imagination?
Lee: Although it was a great honor to illustrate The Children of Húrin, the characters and the main elements of the story line are familiar to those who have read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and these narratives have inspired quite a few illustrators. Ted Nasmith has illustrated The Silmarillion and touched on some of the same characters and landscapes. This was the first time that I ventured into the First Age; while working on The Lord of the Rings books and films--and The Hobbit--I've had to refer back to events in Middle-earth history but not really depict them.
I'm drawn to characters who bear similarities to the protagonists in myths and legends; these correspondences add layers and shades of meaning, and most of the characters in this story have those archetypal qualities. However, I prefer not to get too close to the characters because the author is delineating them much more carefully than I can, and I'm wary of interfering with the pictures that the text is creating in the reader's mind.
Amazon.com: The Húrin story has been described as darker than some of Tolkien's other work. What mood did you try to set with your illustrations?
Lee: It is a tragic story, but the darkness is offset by the light and beauty of Tolkien's elegiac writing. In the illustrations I tried to show some of the fragile beauty of the landscapes and create an atmosphere that would enhance the sense of foreboding and impending loss. I try to get the setting to tell its part in the story, as evidence of what happened there in the past and as a hint at what is going to occur. My usual scarred and broken trees came in handy.
Amazon.com: You were a conceptual designer (and won an Oscar) for Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, which I think we can safely say had a bit of success. How does designing for the screen compare to designing for the page?
Lee: They both have their share of joys and frustrations. It was great to be part of a huge film collaboration and play a small part in something quite magical and monumental; I will always treasure that experience. Film is attractive because I enjoy sketching and coming up with ideas more than producing highly finished artwork, and it's great having several hundred other people lending a hand! But books--as long as they don't get moldy from being left in an empty studio for six years--have their own special quality. I hope that I can continue doing both.
Amazon.com: Of all fiction genres, fantasy seems to have the strongest tradition of illustration. Why do you think that is? Who are some of your favorite illustrators?
Lee: A lot of excellent illustrators are working at the moment--especially in fantasy and children's books. It is exciting also to see graphic artists such as Dave McKean, in his film Mirrormask, moving between different media. I also greatly admire the more traditional work of Gennady Spirin and Roberto Innocenti. Kinuko Craft, John Jude Palencar, John Howe, Charles Vess, Brian Froud ... I'll stop there, as the list would get too long. But--in a fit of pride and justified nepotism--I'll add my daughter, Virginia Lee, to the list. Her first illustrated children's book, The Frog Bride [coming out in the U.K. in September], will be lovely.
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Publisher : William Morrow (April 17, 2007)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 313 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0618894640
- ISBN-13 : 978-0618894642
- Item Weight : 1.02 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.98 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #51,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2020
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Top reviews from the United States
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If anyone thinks JRR only wrote happy fairytales, then they will be surprised by this ultradark tale. On the other hand, Tolkien-tropes/style are still very much present:
1) A dragon, Glaurong, terrorizes Middle Earth (reminiscent of Smaug in the Hobbit)
2) Evil villain-god Glaurong is a servant of Morgoth, once named Melkor whose lieutenant Sauron appears in LOTR; Morgoth has a large role in this book.
3) Forbidden man and elf-woman relationships, in this case Turin has a few relationships with women, and elves, but one relationship echoes that of Aragorn & Arwen from LOTR ... which echoes that of Bereth and Luthien in and Tale of Tunuviel
4) Abandoned Dwarf place: in the Hobbit and LOTR we were treated to ruined Dwarf holds (Erebor and the Mines of Moria); here we have the petty-dwarf Mim and his abandoned hold Amon Rûdh.
5) Secretive Elf places: in the Hobbit and LTOR, we had Rivendell and Lothlórien... here we are graced with Doriath and Nargothrond)
These Tolkien-tropes reinforced my take on the Hobbit and LOTR's themes; if you've read those and are entertaining reading the Silmarillion, I suggest reading Hurin first. It is easier to read than The Silmarillion and expands the milieu well.
The Children of Húrin really extends the World of the Hobbit and Return of the King. Easier to read than the Similarion, but still pretty thick. From this I learned lots of nuances (like Elrond is half-human). Would make an awesome movie (which will not happen :( ). Highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
The book is as excellent as I remember it being, and the full colour illustrations by Alan Lee are as extraordinary as ever. For any fan of Tolkien, be it from film or book, this is a must read.
I was disappointed to find out that between publishing this and Beren and Lúthien that the publisher had decided to change the finish of the dustjacket. I now have two lovely looking books on my shelf in a nice matte, textured finish with debossed, lettering and a white logo/text on the spine with this sat beside it in a horribly reflective gloss all over and mismatched lettering on the spine.
I am pleased that the latter two publications came in a much nicer dustjacket but am rather disappointed to find that The Children of Húrin was never updated to match - unless there is a copy out there somewhere which I have never found! If this does exist I will be sure to be replacing my copy (again).
Edit: I've now discovered that there is a new edition and have it on my shelf! Careful when ordering from Amazon if this does matter to you, as it seems to be pot luck as to which one you'll get.
This is a great historical book set in the 1st Age of Middle Earth, before Sauron and his Rings, before Hobbits and Gandalf etc. It is a stand alone story, but it fills in historical gaps that are aluded to in the LotR.
This is that book. An essential addition to any Tolkien lover's bookshelf. One of the great stories of the First Age.
As a narrative it’s a sweeping tragedy, spanning a full (human) lifetime of the cursed Turin. Place names and peoples take some understanding, and without being a Tolkien scholar you either have the choice of constant references to the maps and appendices or just going with it and hoping that you catch the drift. Either way it’s still a well constructed tale, albeit one pieced together from notes and partially finished works by the original authors grandson. Taking a step back from this and judging the book as a stand-alone piece of fiction, it’s certainly engaging and like many a piece of tragedy a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion.