Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tolkien's Children of Hurin -- Is It Tolkien?

A new book "by" Tolkien has been published, and reviewed here. Prof Drout gives a rebuttal here, especially about critisms of Tolkien's style.

I really like Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings is one of the most important books of the 20th century, not least for spawning a new genre. However this new book is not really a Tolkien book. JRRT was a perfectionist who took 17 years to write and rewrite the LOTR. He specifically did not publish Children of Hurin or the Silmarillion during his life. For the simple reason that they were not finished. So it seems rather unfair to criticize the good Professor's dense or archaic "style" in these half-finished stories.

Perhaps this style is what he intended for the finished work. He certainly had challenges with tone. He greatly regretted the overly cute tone of The Hobbit. In the LOTR he combined a more serious "adult" tone with a more accessible style. The hobbits, so modern that they owned umbrellas, provided a bridge for readers into the old ways. The Children of Hurin has no hobbits, and Tolkien in his letters acknowledged the challenge that this made in presenting his "lost tales" to modern day readers. I wonder if his inability to solve this challenge is one reason they were never published.


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