Of Turin Turambar

Sophocles would be proud.

Turin Slays GlaurungI’ve heard, “If you think Feanor is tragic, just wait.” And what do you know? I found him. Turin the Tragic…or should I say the Bloodstained son of ill-fate? Every single thing Turin attempts to do is fated to evil. That’s the whole point of the story, right? to show how no matter what good Turin tries to do his fate is going to be ruinous. Shakespeare would tip his hat.

In an attempt to not be devastated by Tolkiens efforts to write the sort of over-the-top tragedy that rivals Oedipus Rex and Macbeth, I decided to stop caring about the characters to see if that would change my view of the last few chapters in the book. And you know? it actually worked right up to the point when Nargothrond was destroyed and its people massacred. And when Turin and his sister unwittingly married each other and conceived a child, I couldn’t help but cringe. In fact, I was somewhat expecting Turin to gouge his eyes out and wander the countryside in blindness for the rest of his life. Was there an oracle in there that Turin was trying to avoid somewhere that I missed?

Once again, I take my hat off to Tolkien for good writing, though. My only beef in that respect (and hey I wouldn’t want to disappoint you) is how quickly the story goes. It would’ve been hard to read a tragedy much longer (but then, Shakespeare got away with it). Yet, with all its turns along the way, it could’ve made for an interesting full-length book. So, inspite of my “beef” with the brevity, I would like to thank Tolkien for this version. Ted has suggested that perhaps Tolkien’s son “translated” the stories of Beren and Luthien and Turin Turambar from the much longer “lays” refered to at the begining of those two chapters–which would explain the somewhat choppy feel of their narratives.

But, hey! on the bright side of things, Glaurung is dead. I was expecting him to stay curled up on that pile of treasure in Nargothrond for heroes to challenge in the future…or something. That is a pretty stock fantasy image and with Tolkien purported to be the “father of the fantasy genre” I would’ve expected an image like that to have appeared in Tolkien’s writings.

One last thing before I go: I’m not sure I agree that Turin is more of a tragic figure than Feanor. Feanor’s hate was so blinding he couldn’t see the evil in his actions (the kin-slaying and the burning of the ships foremost among his evil deeds). Neither could he see how his scorn for the Valar, his desire to return to Middle-earth, his jealousy and foolish-pride had all been born out of the deceit and lies of the foe he hated so fiercely. Finally, Feanor set the whole ball in motion (or would that be Melkor via Feanor?) unwittingly dooming all of the Noldor and Sindar, even Beleriand itself. Turin’s life was met with evil after evil, true, but he has merely kept the ball rolling, if you will.

till next time,

keep thinking,