Monday, April 09, 2007

The Children of Húrin

Displaying limitless range and depth, Bryan Appleyard wrote a superb piece in yesterday's Sunday Times on the 'new' Tolkien narrative, 'The Children of Húrin', to be published on April 16th.

I have yet, however, to understand the exact provenance of this narrative. Tolkien's son, Christopher, who produced the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth, (a remarkable, but very dry work of scholarship), is also responsible for this current publication. I thought that everything Tolkien ever wrote about the children of Hurin had already been published in The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, and the relevant volumes from the History of Middle Earth. The 'Narn i Chîn Húrin' in the Unfinished Tales is a lengthy, fully-fledged, and deeply poignant narrative fragment. The story is completed by joining to it 'The Wanderings of Húrin', from Volume 11 of the History of Middle Earth. I am fascinated to see what Christopher Tolkien has actually done to produce the current work. There is some extra material in verse-form also published in the History of Middle Earth. Perhaps Christopher has done some concatenation, some interpolation, some extrapolation, and some selection to arrive at a coherent and consistent final manuscript. I am not necessarily agin this, but I am interested to understand exactly what his contribution is.


Susan's Husband said...

It could simply be extracting something useful for those who don't want to read 12 volume histories. It's the difference between a "best of" album and a "complete works". Duplicated material, but targeted at different audiences.

P.S. Blame Brit!

Gordon McCabe said...

Yeah, I'll be buying it simply because it places, between its covers, text which was previously distributed between the covers of at least two other books.