Chapter 21... Of Turin Turambar
Over the past assignments we have seen that through most of the Silmarillion, Tolkien has dealt with his tale in a similar way to a historian covering events of real history. By this I mean he has looked at the larger picture, concentrating on realms and armies rather than on the individuals. This has given his work an ’epic-like’ feel to it, but has robbed it somewhat of the personal feel he presented in Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.
Having said that, some of the chapters do contrast to this style by concentrating on the individuals, following their deeds in much more depth than those seen in other parts of the book. The tale of Luthien and Beren was one such chapter, and now this one, the tale of Turin Turambar, is similar.
The son of Hurin the Steadfast, Turin was sent by his mother, Morwen, to Doriath when he was eight years old. The Easterlings had occupied their homeland of Hithlum and Morwen feared they would enslave her son if he were to stay. In honour of Hurin, Thingol allowed Turin to stay in Doriath, and there he grew strong. After nine years in the elven realm, Turin bore the Dragon-helm of Dor-lomin and fought on the borders of Doriath alongside Beleg Strongbow.
One day on returning to the Menegroth, however, Turin accidentally caused the death of the elf Saeros, who had been tormenting him. Even though, in his absence Turin was pardoned of this deed by Thingol, he left Doriath, believing himself to be a hunted man. In desperation he joined a band of outlaws and soon became their leader, refusing to return to Doriath even when word of his innocence reached him. Unable to persuade Turin to return to Doriath, Beleg asked Thingol’s permission to join Turin in the wilds.
He found Turin at Amon Rudh, where his company were staying in the caves of the Petty Dwarf, Mim. Mim had shown the outlaws the secret caves in ransom for his life, even though the outlaws had killed one of his sons, but later when captured by Morgoth’s spies, he showed them the secret paths too. The orcs attacked the outlaws while most of them were sleeping, capturing Turin and killing the rest of his men, only Beleg escaping.
Beleg followed the orc trail, and with the aid of Gwindor, an elf who had escaped from Angband, he rescued Turin. When Turin awoke, however, he mistook Beleg for his orc captures and slew him with the elf’s own sword, Anglachel. In grief, Turin took this sword for his own and went with Gwindor to Nargothrond.
Turin’s ill-luck followed him here too. Although he fought valiantly and found the ear of King Orodreth, one of his decisions proved disastrous for the elves. For long they remained hidden, fighting with stealth, but Turin urged them to go wage war against the orcs. To this end he had them build a huge stone bridge across the river Narog which guarded the gates of Nargothrond. He then took an army forth, but the enemy was stronger than any had expected, and Glaurung the dragon was among them. Orodreth and most of the warriors of Nargothrond were slain and Glaurung sacked the elven city.
Turin returned to Nargothrond in an attempt to rescue the Orodreth’s daughter Finduilas and the other women who had been taken prisoner, but coming face to face with the dragon, he was charmed by the beast’s sorcery. Turning aside from his quest, he travelled instead back to Hithlum in search of his mother. Finding her gone, he slew an Easterling chieftain and many of his men, before returning once more to rescue the elven maiden. The dragon’s curse had had it’s effect though, and by the time he returned, Finduilas was dead.
Again grieving, Turin lived for a while with some people of the House of Haleth, changing his ways and laying down his sword. While travelling one day he came across a young woman who appeared lost and without memory of who she was. Turin returned to the village with her and as time passed fell in love with her. She too, however, had been charmed by the dragon, and what neither she nor Turin knew when he married her, was that she was really his younger sister, born after he had first left Hithlum.
Turin again took up his sword and hunted Glaurung. He eventually managed to slay the creature, but sprayed with the dragon’s acidic blood, Turin fainted. There his wife found him, and unable to rouse him, she believed him dead. In its dying breaths the dragon then managed to add a final curse to the unhappy tale by revealing to Niniel who she really was. In grief and guilt she cast herself off a cliff and was lost in the water.
Turin, however, was still alive, and when he awoke he returned to the village seeking his wife. There he discovered she was dead, and also who she really was. In grief he fled into the wilds, and ended his life upon his own sword.
Questions for discussion.
1) In contrast to the tale of Beren and Luthien, this tale has no happy ending. Although in both tales the heroes overcome overwhelming forces and fight valiantly, throughout, the story of Beren seems full of hope, whereas the tale of Turin seems dark and tragic. Further, Beren and Luthien’s love seems pure, whereas that of Turin and Niniel is incestuous. Why are the fates of Beren and Turin so different?
2) There are several posts elsewhere in the forum () concerning the incestuous relationship between Turin and his sister. Although for biological reasons incest is regarded as taboo in most societies, were Turin and his sister really committing a sin here?
3) What differences can you see between the Petty Dwarves and the other Dwarves who you have encountered?
4) When Beleg pricked Turin’s foot as he cut through the shackles with Anglachel, was this just an accident?
5) Through his life Turin bore several pseudonyms including Neithan, Gorthol, Agarwaen, Mormegil, Wildman of the Woods and Turambar. Particularly with the elves of Nargothrond he was unwilling to reveal his name and heritage. Why do you think this is?
6) Is there any relevance to the fact that Gurthang had broken when Turin had thrown himself upon its blade?
2) I don't think that it counts as a sin if you don't know what you're doing is wrong. Man only began to sin when he understood what sin was. And although Turin and Niniel knew that incest was wrong, I believe that their ignorance of the facts is what makes them innocent. They could however have been found guilty if they had continued their incestuous relationship after they had discovered the truth.
5)Turin was ashamed of his past and the doom and misfortune that he seemed to bring to others and himself wherever he went. I think he was hoping to escape this doom by leaving his past and his name behind him.
6)The evil in the blade has now come to an end. It has wrought tremendous havoc and misery and now with the death of Turin it is finally satisfied.