Monday, January 5, 2009

Starting off the New Year with ... Tolkien, of course!

I'm going to start off 2009 with a review of The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien (2007), edited by Christopher Tolkien. I still have 60 pages or so to go, but I can say with certainty that reading The Children of Hurin is an incredible experience. I knew within five pages of starting that I was in for a great ride, and now I don't want it to end.

I went into The Children of Hurin anticipating another Silmarillion--interesting and very worthwhile, but dry and staid in tone. But this is no historical tract or textbook. The Children of Hurin is not only a legend of the elder days of Middle Earth, but is a living, breathing story to boot with an engaging narrative flow. It has definitely exceeded my expectations.

Much more on this to come, but here's a favorite early passage:

Then Morwen bade farewell to Hurin without tears; and she said: "I will guard what you leave in my keeping, both what is and what shall be."

And Hurin answered her: "Farewell, Lady of Dorlomin; we ride now with greater hope than ever we have known before. Let us think that at this midwinter the feast shall be merrier than in all our years yet, with a fearless spring to follow after!" Then he lifted Turin to his shoulder, and cried to his men: "Let the heir of the House of Hador see the light of your swords!" And the sun glittered on fifty blades as they leaped forth, and the court rang with the battle-cry of the Edain of the North: Lacho calad! Drego morn! Flame Light! Flee Night!


Falze said...

Interesting. I've been quite hesitant about picking up any of these 'new' books coming out ("Oh, look, I've found another of father's books and edited it!" -Christopher Tolkien), but I might have to check this one out. Just seems odd to me that a guy that was teaching and writing letters and, of course, writing one of the greatest stories ever told, also find time to write all this other stuff that, years later, his son just happens upon and publishes with a bit of 'editing'.

Day finally comes tomorrow - spending a day doing nothing but watching TLOTR expanded DVDs back-to-back-to-back. Can't wait.

Brian Murphy said...

Hey Falze, having read a bit of how The Children of Hurin came into print, I don't harbor any doubts about its authenticity or Christopher Tolkien's motives. Apparently J.R.R Tolkien greatly expanded on the original tale, which received brief mention in the Silmarillion, after he published The Lord of the Rings. Again, according to what I've read, he put together a few lengthy drafts but never finished the project prior to his death. Christopher felt the tale deserved its own book between its own covers, and he was certainly correct. It's a pretty amazing book.

Let me know how the LOTR movies fare in a back-to-back-to-back viewing; I've never had the experience myself (someday, perhaps, when the wife and kids are away...). Post here or send me an e-mail!

Falze said...

OK, so I gave it a good shot, but, unlike Frodo and Sam, couldn't make it up the final hill. I got through more than an hour of disc 2 of Return/King. Frodo and Sam have just slipped away from the orc column they 'joined' up with as the men of the West's diversion has begun with Aragorn revealing himself to the eye.

My recommendations for a future attempt. 1) One thing I did right was planning ahead for lunch and had it handy in the house so little time was lost with lunch preparation. I recommend the same for dinner.

2) Budget 11-12 hours if you don't think you'll need any long breaks. I forgot just how long the expanded editions are and had been thinking 8-9 hours and started at 9:45 AM. If I had started earlier I would have made it, but had to call it quits at 9:45 PM. That's with only short breaks here and there. Without some extra diversions (present opening, cake, etc) and with fewer breaks, 12 hours would have done it.

3) Go into it rested, otherwise you may find yourself nodding during the middle of Fellowship against your will. I found the word 'nap' floating through my head and I wasn't particularly tired.

4) Crank it up. Some of the dialogue is sort of quiet and, if you're going for the full experience, you don't want to miss anything. Unlike a James Bond movie, the action parts are only a little louder, not 10 times as loud, as the rest of the movie, so you don't have to keep playing with the volume.

5) Stay AWAY from the movies for a while beforehand. I've been intentionally avoiding watching any of the movies that have been on cable a lot over the last couple of months, knowing I had this planned and wanting it to be 'fresh'.

6) Get comfortable.

All in all, it was pretty fun, there were a lot of scenes I'd sort of forgotten, having seen the movies a bunch on cable where they play the short versions - not having watched the extendeds for a while. Still love the end of the battle of Helm's Deep the most. And you're right, Aragorn's arrival really ruins Theoden's moment. His charge buys the West maybe 10-15 minutes. Wow, great, thanks, Rohan. Whatever would we have done in those couple of minutes before the ghosts arrive to slaughter everything.

Two neat little points I noticed that I hadn't noticed before. 1) When we first hear Gandalf approaching in his cart where Frodo waits under a tree, Gandalf is singing the 'the road goes on and on' song that Bilbo sings as he leaves the Shire after his party. 2) When Eowyn angrily asks her uncle what other duties she can perform as he gets ready to leave her behind as they ride for Gondor, Theoden asks that she smile again, etc. When they meet on the field after she kills the Witch King she is smiling as she speaks with him and he dies.

Brian Murphy said...

Hey Falze, thanks for providing me with a good plan of attack for my eventual LOTR marathon day. Sorry you couldn't quite make it. So to confirm:

1. Cook meals in advance, preferably high nutrition to sustain the emotional energy you'll expend;

2. Budget at least 12 hours, and allow no breaks. Evacuate in adult diaper :)

3. Spend previous day just resting;

4. Watch loud and proud.

Sounds awesome (except for second part of part 2). Now I just need the gift of time...

Falze said...

Yeah, finding the time is definitely the hardest part. With the wallpaper only half down in the kitchen it was a little hard to keep myself on the couch when I took the day off instead of doing a little scraping. Should the opportunity present itself, it's fun to try, though.

Final note as I finished watching Return...I thought it was interesting that the theme of "Into the West" was playing as Frodo and Sam make their final assault up the side of Mt. Doom.