From ancient Greek tragedies, to Shakespeare’s tales of star-crossed lovers, to the classic sci-fi epic Star Wars, destiny has always been featured prominently in our stories. Some may scoff at it, but nonetheless the idea of a predetermined fate is a fascinating one. If luck is on their hands, our heroes can achieve great things, yet if it turns against them, everything they desire can fall to ruin. The latter is true of Turin, the unfortunate hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Children of Hurin. This book is set in Tolkien’s famous world of Middle Earth ages before The Lord of the Rings when the dark lord Morgoth is terrorizing the world. The man Hurin dares to defy him, and in punishment Morgoth curses him and his family. The book follows the misadventures of Hurin’s son Turin as he fights to loosen Morgoth’s grip on Middle Earth and destroy the dragon Glaurung. The theme of The Children of Hurin is that it is futile trying to escape your destiny, as can be seen through plot, characterization, foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism.
First off, the theme is portrayed through plot. Most of the main events hinge off this theme as Turin struggles with consistently bad luck and tragic outcomes to all his endeavors. The central conflict that drives the plot is introduced on page 63 when, “Morgoth stretching out his long arm towards Dor-lomin cursed Hurin and Morwen and their offspring…” This shows that Turin, as the son of Hurin, has been condemned to misfortune by Morgoth. The effects of this curse can be seen countless times throughout the story, but one notable instance is when Nienor, Turin’s pregnant wife, discovers he is also her brother: “With that she cast herself over the brink; a flash of white swallowed in the dark chasm, a cry lost in the roaring of the river.” Major events like this one show how the curse of Morgoth never fades. It can be concluded from the plot of The Children of Hurin that the theme is that you can’t escape your destiny.
In addition, characterization helps make the theme apparent. The way the main character Turin is portrayed and what happens to him shows the lasting power of Morgoth’s curse. Several times, Turin tries to start anew by changing his name and moving to a different location, but this doesn’t help. There is an example of indirect characterization through other characters’ reactions on page 170: “But Gwindor answered: “The doom lies in yourself, not in your name.”” This quote expresses the idea that, whether Turin changes his name or not, he can’t change the reality of the doom that is a part of him. Thus, characterization is one element that communicates the futility of trying to cheat fate.
Another aspect that shows the theme of this novel is foreshadowing. Tolkien uses many ominous hints to show how, no matter what, Turin will always be plagued by the curse. For example, when Beleg picks out a sword he is warned: “There is malice in this sword. The heart of the smith still dwells in it and that heart was dark. It will not love the hand that it serves; neither will it abide with you long” (Tolkien 97). This speaks of dark things to come and, later on, this is proven when Beleg is killed by this sword and it passes on to Turin, only to kill him too: “…and the black blade took his life” (Tolkien 256). The foreshadowing serves as an indicator of bad things that will happen later as a result of Turin’s fate. In this way, foreshadowing proves that it is impossible to avoid your destiny.
Also, the theme of The Children of Hurin is expressed through irony. Throughout the book Turin battles with ill-luck that constantly seems to turn even his best intentions against him. On page 154, there is such an instance: “…And grappling with him in the darkness he seized Anglachel, and slew Beleg Cuthalion thinking him a foe.” The irony of this is that Turin just killed his best friend, Beleg, who was trying to rescue him from a band of orcs. This relates to the theme because it shows how Turin’s destiny follows him wherever he goes and causes him to hurt those he loves most. Therefore, irony is one aspect that demonstrates that you can’t escape your destiny.
Likewise, symbolism indicates that it it useless to resists your predestined lot in life. There are some characters and events that are paralleled later on in the book. For example, Turin meets a woman named Finduilas in Orodreth who falls in love with him. Later she is killed and Turin blames himself for her death. Later Turin (now calling himself Turambar) is harshly reminded of this: “Then Turambar…started back and covered his eyes, and trembled; for it seemed that he saw the wraith of a slain maiden that lay on the grave of Finduilas” (Tolkien 214). This “wraith” is actually Turin’s sister, Nienor. The fact that she is lying on the grave of Finduilas symbolizes that she will eventually meet a similar death (which she does). From this we can see that Turin cannot escape from his past grievances, and that the curse will continue to hurt those he loves. Because of this, the symbolism Tolkien uses clearly illustrates the theme.
In short, the underlying message of The Children of Hurin is that it is futile trying to escape your destiny. The plot proves this through the main conflict, Morgoth’s curse on Hurin’s family, and how this conflict causes the major events to go astray. Turin’s characterization also proves the theme because, no matter what he does, he remains unlucky. Foreshadowing hints at bad things to come and thereby demonstrates that Turin’s fate remains bleak. The irony of Turin accidentally harming his closest friends is another way we can see the power of Turin’s curse. The theme is also visible through symbolism, like when the unconscious Nienor symbolizes the death of Finduilas and how Turin will never be free of his guilt. For centuries Lady Luck has played a major role in our stories and chances are she always will. Any subject so long-lasting and prevalent in our society deserves a second glance. Whether you believe in destiny or not, there’s no denying it’s an intriguing subject that has been revisited over and over again through the ages, and that’s got to count fosomethingg.
Works Cited List
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Children of Hurin. New York: Del Ray/Ballentine Books, 2010.