The Children of Húrin (part 9C): Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life . . .[1]

Today I arrive, at last, at the end of this series on The Children of Húrin. Those who have read any of the previous installments will have noticed the plethora of footnotes, and have perhaps concluded – wrongly – that the essays were, like, meant to be scholarly or something. Nothing could be further from the truth — as I shall demonstrate presently, in this decidedly unscholarly conclusion to the series.

From a literary standpoint, The Children of Húrin isn’t Tolkien’s greatest work.  But it is the work in which we see the most of the author’s blood on the pages. And when we look at those pages, we see the how much of the blood of the sagas of Finland and Scandinavia flowed in the veins of their English author.  In the tale of Húrin’s children, that blood runs almost true.  The stories of Beren and Lúthien, Tuor and Gondolin, are Northern sagas that are significantly transfigured by their fairy-tale endings.  That isn’t true of The Children of Húrin.

But what of its characters?

[W]hat of your doom and rumours of Angband? What of death and destruction? The Adanedhel [the “Elf-Man”; i.e., Túrin] is mighty in the tale of the World, and his stature shall reach yet to Morgoth in some far day to come.’ [2]

Throughout his life, Tolkien was adamant that the sundry myths of the world echoed what he called the “True Myth”: the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This would have applied to the dyscatastrophic tragedies of the North as to any other myth. And for all his admiration of the virtue of Northern courage, Tolkien would have been particularly eager to see the story of Húrin and Morwen, and Túrin and Niënor — who, as characters in an authentically dark Northern dyscatastrophe, exhibited stark Northern courage — finally break through to some extraordinary, glorious end. This would be the kind of end that would make the perpetual survival of the Stone of the Hapless not just a monument to defeated valor, but a foretaste of the final victory of the children of men over Morgoth.

From Tolkien’s scraps, we know with certainty that he intended to give the House of Húrin that kind of end.  The exact form the glorious postlude would have taken, had Tolkien completed it, we do not know.  We have one fragment of Túrin returning to Middle-earth at the end of the First Age to slay another dragon, Ancalagon the Black.[3]  In another scrap, Túrin returns in the Dagor Dagorath, the world’s final apocalyptic battle, to slay the resurrected Ancalagon.  And, in a truly remarkable fragment, we see Túrin standing alongside Tulkas the Vala and Eönwe the Maia, in a final battle with Morgoth – which ends with Túrin running his black sword through Morgoth’s heart, and thus avenging the evils Morgoth inflicted upon him, his family, and all the children of men. Though there would be difficulties with harmonizing that ending with the rest of Tolkien’s legendarium, it would be the most obvious fulfillment of Finduilas’s prophecy that Túrin’s stature should “reach yet to Morgoth.” And it would, finally, make vain Morgoth’s boast to Húrin: “I may come at you, and all your accursed house; and you shall be broken on my will, though you all were made of steel.”[4]

Nor was Tolkien just keen on seeing Húrin’s house triumphant in battle.  He wanted to see it unmarred – as we see in an early manuscript of Turambar and the Foalókë, where Túrin and Niënor are admitted to a literal baptism of fire, from which they emerge, glorified, all their sorrows washed away. And while it appears that Tolkien later rejected that form of the story, the idea may well have survived.

At least, I like to think so.  Just as I like to think that, after completing whatever extraordinary eschatological exploits Tolkien had prepared for him, Túrin was able finally to return to his unmarred homeland, from which he had been exiled but where his heart dwelt ever.  And that, in Dor-lómin unmarred, he found again his sister Lalaith, who had died in childhood.  And that he was reunited with his friend, the house servant Sador the woodwright, now cured of his lameness and able to walk tirelessly with Túrin the hills of unmarred Dor-lómin.  And that Túrin saw, finally, the smile of his mother, Morwen, which had been long hidden behind the walls of pride, and buried beneath layers of care and grief.  And that Túrin saw again Niënor, and that on that day brother and sister looked upon one another with knowledge and deep affection, and without shame. And that Túrin locked strong arms with his father, Húrin, as he had never been able to do as a grown man – and  that father and son looked upon one another, having finally defeated the shadow against which they had fought so mightily all their days, and were glad.

And why shouldn’t such things be? They would be entirely consonant with Tolkien’s vision of Arda unmarred, the end result of the Second Music of the Ainur – where it would finally be shown that it was good for evil to have been, and where everything sad would come untrue.[5]


[1] Epistle of St Paul to the Romans 2:6-7 (AV).

[2] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin 169 (2007).

[3] Which has to be rejected, since Tolkien ultimately settled on having Eärendil slay Ancalagon during the War of Wrath.

[4] The Children of Húrin at 63.

[5] The Lord of the Rings VI. iv.

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Posted on March 31, 2012, in Authors, David Mitchel, J.R.R. Tolkien and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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