13 June, 2007

Narn I Chin Hurin - Improved Edition

I'm a huge Tolkien fan, as anyone acute enough to notice the title of this blog has probably guessed. So for me, one of this year's most highly anticipated events has been the release in book form of Tolkien's long partially-published Narn I Chin Hurin, or "The Tale of the Children of Hurin."

The tale is one of the three major myths (beyond the Lord of the Rings) that Tolkien wrote, the other two being The Tale of Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin. All three can be found in basic form in the Silmarillion, Tolkien's immense master-mythology of Middle Earth. A more extended version of each is also found in The Book of Lost Tales, and from what I understand, in The History of Middle Earth as well. (I haven't read this last one.) So when I heard (back in October) that this book would be published this April, I promptly rushed to our bookshelves and re-read the tale in both the Lost Tales and in the Silmarillion.

The content of the published tale was not surprising, then, for me. I was, however delighted to find several chapters with parts of the story I had not encountered in either version. I'm not sure if these came from Tolkien's unpublished notes, but that's what I assumed at the time. The best part of re-reading it in a form edited together into one storyline was the improved continuity of the story. The version in the Book of Lost Tales was unfinished; the version in the Silmarillion was too brief in areas to make a good stand-alone story. This was much easier to read, since there was no need to skip from book to book, piecing the story together on my own.

It was well worth the re-reading just for these reasons. I'll write about the story itself next, hopefully soon.

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