|By David Revoy [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons|
Courage, resilience, loyalty, and hope. These themes, among many others, permeate J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and its immediate prequel, The Hobbit. I think of these ideas to be as much Tolkienesque as the "ring saga" itself: the bleakness in LOTR is well exceeded by acts of bravery and strength of faith. Yet if you go back further in Middle Earth history to The Children of Húrin, you'll find very different tale, as similar as it may seem in most respects.
Before Sauron, there was another dark lord called Morgoth. Like Sauron, Morgoth intended to rule all Middle Earth, and he was merciless to any who stood in his way. Túrin, son of Húrin, is compelled by his mother Morwen to leave the eventual war zone of his home village and find refuge with the elves in Doriath. Though a natural leader, Túrin is hotheaded and impulsive, and in a world where all must fend for themselves, he finds it easier to make friends than to keep them. As he grows from boy to man, with all the glory and heartbreak that his heritage has left him, Túrin feels he must take on Morgoth in his own way, and, if he can, reunite with his mother and the sister he has never met.
I regret putting this off so long. It's a bleak, lingering wreck of a story, more disturbing than shocking. I loved the characterization of Túrin and Morwen, because they seemed to me very real people, given their circumstances. Túrin has good intentions, but in the greater scheme of things, he is not particularly heroic. I would hardly expect him to be; he's just trying to survive, and that without a Shire to remember, or a Samwise to turn to.
Some of the plot was a little repetitive; most of it was tragic and depressing. By the end, I almost felt like it was too tragic, to the point of melodrama, but that might just be me. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, though I rounded to 4 on Goodreads. Recommended to those who enjoyed reading LOTR and also anyone who likes mythology stories.