The Children of Hurin (part 5B): “Morwen, Morwen, when shall I see you again?”
Posted by David
[SPOILER ALERT: This post has spoilers. So if you’ve your heart set upon reading The Children of Húrin but haven’t done it yet, and if suspense is important to your enjoyment of the book, read no further than, say, the end of Section (I)(a) below. – DPM]
In the previous installment in this series on The Children of Húrin I introduced unrequited love as a major theme in The Children of Húrin, and considered, at some length, the causes of Túrin’s being so often an object of unrequited affections. In my next two posts I shall take up the actual instances of unrequited love, particularly the players in the two tragic love triangles. I begin in this post, though, by considering the great unrequited love of Túrin’s youth: his own love for his mother, Morwen.
I start here, not because Tolkien was a closet Freudian, nor because I have any desire to impose on The Children of Húrin an unwarranted Freudian reading. Rather, the literary structure suggests that this is the appropriate place to start – most of the story’s significant threads are already woven into it before Túrin leaves his home in Dor-lómin at age eight, and Tolkien masterfully stretches these out over the entire course of the story, all the way to its bitter end.
- “Morwen, Morwen, when shall I see you again?”
Among the griefs Túrin learned in early childhood – the grief of death in the death of his younger sister, Lalaith, the grief of war with the loss of his father in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears – was the grief of exile. In his case the exile is particularly tough because it was his mother who sent him away. And despite Hurin’s admonition, she did not flee Dor-lomin with Túrin, nor follow him afterwards – first, because she was pregnant with Húrin’s daughter, Niënor; afterwards, because she was too proud to leave the family house.
Tolkien calls Túrin’s being sent away his “first sorrow.” Then, after Túrin arrived safely in Doriath, Queen Melian summoned Morwen to Doriath. Morwen declined, though – and Tolkien calls that refusal Túrin’s “second sorrow.”
The course of dialogue between Morwen and Túrin is typical: she mixes no comfort with her words. First, when Túrin asks her “whither shall we go?” she responds, “I did not say we, my son.” Then, describing the road ahead, she says plainly that
it will be a hard road. And since you are my son and the days are grim, I will not speak softly: you may die on that road. . . . But if you stay, you will come to a worse end: to be a thrall. If you wish to be a man, when you come to a man’s age, you will do as I bid, bravely.
Túrin asks his mother what a “thrall” is, a question that Morwen characteristically does not answer. She concludes their conversation with a kind word, if not a warm one:
It is hard, Túrin, my son. . . . Not hard for you only. It is heavy on me in evil days to judge what is best to do. But I do as I think right; for why else should I part with the thing most dear that is left to me?
The conversation leaves Túrin “grieved and bewildered,” and to get the answers he needs to understand his situation, he seeks his friend Sador, Húrin’s crippled house-servant. After learning from Sador what a thrall is, he “understands things better,” but he departs in anguish:
But when they bade Túrin turn and look back upon the house of his father, then the anguish of parting smote him like a sword, and he cried: “Morwen, Morwen, when shall I see you again?”
Sador had once thought about Túrin that “grief is a hone to a hard mind,” and he told Túrin that, “seldom and to few” would he show what was in his heart. So it proved – as I will discuss further in my next installment.
 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin 78 (2007).
 Id. at 70-71.
 Id. at 72.
 Id. at 73-74.
 Id. at 75.
 Id. at 43.