The Children of Húrin (Appendix to Part 9A): It’s about Tolkien, so an Appendix is always appropriate
Posted by David
I commence this post – or appendix to last week’s post, rather – with a mea culpa. I had fully intended to get to part 9B of this series on The Children of Húrin this week, but something happened. You could call it a massive invasion: An invasion of the margins of life, in which I write blog posts, by life, in which I do not. Not that I have much of a life, mind you – few men in their thirties who write lengthy blog series on The Children of Húrin do – but this week has been one long succession of fires that needed putting out, and putting them out left no time for a properly constructed post about Túrin and his judges. That will have to wait for next week (yes, I know the suspense is killing you).
So, since Tolkien was rather fond of Appendices, I thought, since I hadn’t sufficient time for a wholly new post – I actually wrote part of this one in a carwash – I could at least draft an Appendix to Part 9A, to answer a few questions raised there, so that, when the time comes to post the long-awaited Part 9B, I will be proceeding on a somewhat more solid footing.
I. Review: What the heck did I mean by Protestant and Catholic?
In my last post I set forth the agenda for the three concluding posts on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Children of Húrin, and commenced a sketch of his character by noting particularly (1) his pride and (2) how he was a Protestant hero in Catholic Middle-earth.
By Middle-earth being “Catholic” I meant that, while Middle-earth has one God, Eru Ilúvatar, Eru’s providence is almost entirely mediated through a rather complex network of created intermediaries – the Valar and the Maiar. Men, who were the second race of the Children of Ilúvatar to come into Middle-earth, seem to have been placed under the teaching of the firstborn Children of Ilúvatar: the Elves. Húrin, and his brother Huor with him, and their fathers before them, submitted readily to this arrangement, holding the Valar, the Lords of the West, in awe, and the Elves’s counsel as infallible. In short, they were good, faithful Catholics.
Not so Túrin (in this he was like Morwen his mother). He thought little of the Valar, and, while he respected the Elves and their counsel (indeed he learned much of them), he was not overawed by their teaching authority. So he was not a Catholic. Yet he not a nihilist, either. He possessed a lively conscience and sense of the judgment to which he would be subject. One can readily picture him saying “here I stand, I can do no other: God help me.”
And, for that reason and to that extent, I call Túrin a Protestant hero. He had less use than his forefathers for teachers or intermediaries in facing the perils of world in general and judgment in particular. I say less use because, again, Túrin did not renounce the Valar, nor reject outright the teaching magisterium of the Elves. He was not a devotee of the Inner Light, and, if he lived in our age rather than Middle-earth’s First Age, he would not have been likely to refer to the authority of the Ecumenical Council of Me and My Bible. He was a magisterial reformer, not a Quaker.
The Protestant analogy works to that extent, and breaks down if pressed further. Túrin probably would not, for example, have readily subscribed to or advocated the doctrine of justification by faith. As to the specific question Don raised in his comment to Part 9A – what authority would have been Túrin’s equivalent of Scripture? – there isn’t an easy answer. There isn’t a void, either. The lore of Men – not a canonized body of knowledge, but not an inconsiderable one, either – seems to have made a deep impression on Túrin in childhood which did not fade.
In part, Túrin’s “Protestantism” was but one manifestation of his stubbornness and pride. But I began to note that, the general “Catholicism” of Middle-earth (and its author) notwithstanding, Túrin’s Protestantism had a more positive side. For the Men of Middle-earth were every bit as much children of Eru Ilúvatar as the Elves, and though they had much to learn of the Elves, they also had their own distinct part to contribute to the tale of Middle-earth – a fact which, for much of the First Age of Middle-earth, was muted by their being drawn into what was essentially a war between Morgoth and the Elves. In Húrin’s house, and in Túrin in particular, we hear the first broken but unmuted lines Men would have to contribute to the Second Music.
II. What drove Túrin?
So much for Part 9A. Now I set the table for Parts 9B-C to come. My thesis is that three things drove Túrin:
(1) The love of his kin and homeland of Dor-lómin;
(2) The hatred of Morgoth, and the desire avenge Húrin’s downfall at Morgoth’s hands; and
(3) His desire to be vindicated in an ultimate judgment.
That last thesis is what I shall take up in Part 9B, Lord willing. I find it interesting, given Túrin’s sense of judgment to come, that Tolkien placed him in the midst of a slew of judges among the other characters in The Children of Húrin. And, given his concern to be vindicated in the ultimate judgment, he was peculiarly unwise in how he responded to these other characters’ judgments.
Posted on March 3, 2012, in Authors, David Mitchel, J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle Earth, Universes and tagged Catholic, Hurin, judgment, Morgoth, Protestant, The Children of Hurin, Turin Turambar. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.