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« The Children of Húrin »

The illustrations on this page are extracted from Alan Lee's cover illustration to « The Children of Húrin »

JRR Tolkien started imagining the world and mythology of Middle-earth as early as 1916, and never ceased working on the stories and legends pertaining to this world until his death in 1973. Out of this gigantic and constantly revised Legendarium one tale in particular was published, like a window onto a moving landscape, The Lord of the Rings.

The author wished for his third son, Christopher Tolkien, to become his literary executor after his death, and Christopher's first task was to organize the huge volume of papers that JRR Tolkien had created during his lifetime ; the first published work on the subject to appear was The Silmarillion in 1977. This work is an outline of the story and mythology of Middle-earth in condensed form and, as such, gave tantalizing but very brief accounts of the creation of Middle-earth, the birth of Elves and of Men, and many individual tales of which not least was that of the Children of Húrin and the tragic life of Túrin Turambar.

Christopher Tolkien then pursued his study of his father's papers and developed in detail the history of the author's writings and the evolution of the mythical and legendary conceptions in the course of his lifetime, in Unfinished Tales (1980), and the twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth (1983-1996). These works contain many unpublished writings by J.R.R. Tolkien, but almost always as fragmented or incomplete versions.

Three « Great Tales » were to be of most considerable importance to J.R.R. Tolkien in his creation of Middle-earth : Beren & Lúthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and The Children of Húrin. As was to be expected, these tales exist in many unfinished and heavily reworked forms. As a culmination of thirty years' work on his father's papers, and having already published such fragmentary and condensed forms of the tale of Túrin as part of the development of « The History of Middle-earth », Christopher Tolkien has now succeeded in assembling the multiple variants, unfinished pieces, and outlines of the tale to produce a standalone and complete version, entirely in the author's original words. The work therefore is accessible both as a new and complete version of the text for the Tolkien scholar, and as an entirely new tale from Middle-earth for the Tolkien reader who is not overly familiar with the great tales and mythology that are the roots of The Lord of the Rings(cont'd)

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