Septembers have also been traditionally the month that I would start re-reading The Lord of the Rings. There is always something poignant about the ending of summer. It reminds me that it’s time to move on, and to fly towards the shadows of the unknown.
This time, I’m reading a quite different book from J.R.R. Tolkien. Entitled The Children of Húrin, this story takes place nearly 6,000 years before The Lord of the Rings, far west of the Shire, a land that was ravaged and drowned during the War of Wrath in the age of legends, which Elrond remembers and alludes to in comparison to the War of the Last Alliance.
This novel was actually just published this year, edited carefully by Tolkien’s son Christopher. Of the legends that Tolkien wrote, the story of Túrin Turambar was the most complete, although up until now it had been fragmented across Tolkien’s various notes.
The tone is quite different from LotR. The style is quite aligned with the Norse legends, very much reminding me of a prose version of The Kalevala, for example. But it is also reminscent of the Bible as well. There are no whimsical hobbits, no wizards, no clear-cut good guys. The elves are more akin to the gods of pagan mythology, prone to fierce wrath, reminiscent of the rages of Zeus or Thor, and they are sometimes quite merciless to mortal man.
And the main protagonist is a hard-headed bastard, too prideful for his own good, leading him down a hellish road to complete ruin.
He’s my kind of protagonist. (Except for the part where he fucks his sister. That’s just too messed up.)
It’s interesting to compare the novelized version to the fragments I’ve read in the Book of Lost Tales, in The Silmarillion, and in The Unfinished Tales. My sense from these versions is that Túrin is just a cursed bastard who—while he does brood a lot and he is a very poor communicator—he is generally a good guy who can’t do anything right no matter how much he tries. Every triumph somehow turns into utter defeat. Every achievement always costs him something dear.
In the novel, it is a little more clear that a lot of his problem is that he is a stubborn mule who can’t stand giving in, and who would rather sit out in the cold and freeze to death than go back and apologize, because he knows that he didn’t do anything wrong.
His uncompromising nature causes a lot of avoidable grief, in the end costing him his life.
For the longest time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I’m the type of person who would rather be right than happy. I think of Sir Thomas More, who refused to deny his faith to make Henry the VIII happy and therefore lost his head.
Of course, the sad fact of the matter is that, as a human being, it’s nearly impossible to be completely right, so there’s little point in torturing myself.
Of course, happiness is not exactly an easy thing to achieve.
There is also the possibility that I am literally cursed. Now I don’t really believe all that much in the occult. I do believe that there are forces in the universe which we know nothing of, and which are not accounted for by the laws of physics as we know them, but we’re learning more and more all the time, and I doubt that anyone out there can really channel all-powerful spirits, nor does anyone have a direct hotline to God. If we figure things out, it will be through blood, sweat, tears, and the scientific method and not by something like voodoo or astrology or fundamentalist religion.
But, still, there is something voyeuristic in watching how the pseudo-scientific process operates. I once paid a tarot card reader to read my fortune, and the first thing she noticed is that there is an extremely dark cloud overshadowing my life.
While I have no proof at all for such a thing, I knew she was right as soon as she said it.
(Interestingly, my sister has also been told by a fortune teller that there is a curse on her. Maybe it’s just standard technique by these shysters to bilk us out of our money. But both me and my sister knew the truth of it as soon as we heard it.)
These days, I feel like dying young might be a blessing, because then at least I won’t have to undergo so much torture in life. While I don’t think it’s really possible (yet), I do wish that reincarnation did exist. I’d definitely like to be able to press the reset button and start all over again. Seriously.