The Lay Of The Children Of Húrin: I. Túrin's Fostering

by J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

Túrin Son of Húrin & Glórund the Dragon
Lo! the golden dragonof the God of Hell,
the gloom of the woodsof the world now gone,
the woes of Men,and weeping of Elves
fading faintlydown forest pathways,
is now to tell,and the name most tearful
of Niniel the sorrowful,and the name most sad
of Thalion's son Túrino'erthrown by fate.
Lo! Húrin Thalionin the hosts of war
was whelmed, what timethe white-clad armies
of Elfinessewere all to ruin
by the dread hate drivenof Delu-Morgoth.
That field is yetby the folk named
Ninin Unothradin,Unnumbered Tears.
There the children of Men,chieftain and warrior,
fled and fought not,but the folk of the Elves
they betrayed with treason,save that true man only,
Thalion Erithámrodand his thanes like gods.
There in host on hostthe hill-fiend Orcs
overbore him at lastin that battle terrible,
by the bidding of Bauglirbound him living,
and pulled down the proudestof the princes of Men.
To Bauglir's hallsin the hills builded,
to the Hells of Ironand the hidden caverns
they haled the heroof Hithlum's land,
Thalion Erithámrod,to their throned lord,
whose breast was burntwith a bitter hatred,
and wroth he wasthat the wrack of war
had not taken Turgonten times a king,
even Finweg's heir;nor Fëanor's children,
makers of the magicand immortal gems.
For Turgon toweringin terrible anger
a pathway clove himwith his pale sword-blade
out of that slaughter --yea, his swath was plain
through the hosts of Helllike hay that lieth
all low on the leawhere the long scythe goes.
A countless companythat king did lead
through the darkened dalesand drear mountains
out of ken of his foes,and he comes not more
in the tale; but the triumphhe turned to doubt
of Morgoth the evil,whom mad wrath took.
Nor spies sped him,nor spirits of evil,
nor his wealth of wisdom to win him tidings,
whither the nationof the Gnomes was gone.
Now a thought of malice,when Thalion stood,
bound, unbending,in his black dungeon,
then moved in his mindthat remembered well
how Men were accountedall mightless and frail
by the Elves and their kindred;how only treason
could master the magicwhose mazes wrapped
the children of Corthûn,and cheated his purpose.
'Is it dauntless Húrin,'quoth Delu-Morgoth,
'stout steel-handed, who stands before me,
a captive livingas a coward might be?
Knowest thou my name,or need'st be told
what hope he haswho is haled to Angband --
the bale most bitter,the Balrogs' torment?'
'I know and I hate.For that knowledge I fought thee
by fear unfettered,nor fear I now,'
said Thalion there,and a thane of Morgoth
on the mouth smote him;but Morgoth smiled:
'Fear when thou feelest,and the flames lick thee,
and the whips of the Balrogsthy white flesh brand.
Yet a way canst win,an thou wishest, still
to lessen thy lotof lingering woe.
Go question the captivesof the accursed people
I have taken, and tell mewhere Turgon is hid;
how with fire and deathI may find him soon,
where he lurketh lostin lands forgot.
Thou must feign thee a friendfaithful in anguish,
and their inmost heartsthus open and search.
Then, if truth thou tellest,thy triple bonds
I will bid men unbind,that abroad thou fare
in my service to searchthe secret places
following the footstepsof these foes of the Gods.'
'Build not thy hopesso high, O Bauglir --
I am no toolfor thy evil treasons;
torment were sweeterthan a traitor's stain.'
'If torment be sweet,treasure is liever.
The hoards of a hundredhundred ages,
the gems and jewelsof the jealous Gods,
are mine, and a meedshall I mete thee thence,
yea, wealth to glutthe Worm of Greed.'
'Canst not learn of thy lorewhen thou look'st on a foe,
O Bauglir unblest?Bray no longer
of the things thou hast thieved from the Three Kindreds.
In hate I hold thee, and thy hests in scorn.'
'Boldly thou bravest me.Be thy boast rewarded,'
in mirth quod Morgoth,'to me now the deeds,
and thy aid I ask not;but anger thee nought
if little they like thee.Yea, look thereon
helpless to hinder,or thy hand to raise.'
Then Thalion was thrustto Thangorodrim,
that mountain that meetsthe misty skies
on high o'er the hillsthat Hithlum sees
blackly brooding on the borders of the north.
To a stool of stoneon its steepest peak
they bound him in bonds,an unbreakable chain,
and the Lord of Woethere laughing stood,
then cursed him for ever and his kin and seed
with a doom of dread,of death and horror.
There the mighty manunmovéd sat;
but unveiled was his vision,that he viewed afar
all earthly thingswith eyes enchanted
that fell on his folk --a fiend's torment.
Túrin's Fostering
Lo! the lady Morwin in the Land of Shadows
waited in the woodland for her well-beloved;
but he came neverfrom the combat home.
No tidings told herwhether taken or dead,
or lost in flight he lingered yet.
Laid waste his lands,and his lieges slain,
and men unmindfulof his mighty lordship
dwelt in Dorlóminand dealt unkindly
with his widowed wife;and she went with child,
who a son must succournow sadly orphaned,
Turin Thaliodrinof tender years.
Then in days of blacknesswas her daughter born,
and was naméd Nienor,a name of tears
that in language of eldis Lamentation.
Then her thoughts turnédto Thingol the Elf-king,
and the dancer of Doriath, his daughter Tinúviel,
whom the boldest of the brave,Beren Ermabwed,
had won to wife.He once had known
firmest friendship to his fellow in arms,
Thalion Erithámrod --so thought she now,
and said to her son,'My sweetest child,
our friends are few,and thy father comes not.
Thou must fare afarto the folk of the wood,
where Thingol is throned in the Thousand Caves.
If he remember Morwinand thy mighty sire
he will fain foster thee,and feats of arms
he will teach thee, the tradeof targe and sword,
and Thalion's son no thrall shall be --
but remember thy mother when thy manhood nears.'
Heavy boded the heart of Húrin's son,
yet he weened her wordswere wild with grief,
and he denied her not,fo no need him seemed.
Lo! henchmen had Morwin,Halog and Gumlin,
who were young of yore ere the youth of Thalion,
who alone of the liegesof that lord of Men
steadfast in servicestaid beside her:
now she bade them bravethe black mountains,
and the woods whose wayswander to evil;
though Túrin be tenderand to travail unused,
they must gird them and go;but glad they were not,
and Morwin mourned when men saw not.
Came a summer daywhen sun filtered
warm through the woodland'swaving branches.
Then Morwin stoodher mourning hiding
by the gate of her garthin a glade of the woods.
At the breast she mothered her babe unweaned,
and the doorpost held lest she droop for anguish.
There Gumlin guidedher gallant boy,
And a heavy burdenwas borne by Halog;
but the heart of Túrin was heavy as stone
uncomprehending its coming anguish.
He sought for comfort,with courage saying:
'Quickly will I comefrom the courts of Thingol;
long ere manhood I will lead to Morwin
great tale of treasure,and true comrades'--
for he wist not the weirdwoven by Bauglir,
nor the sundering sorrow that swept between.
The farewells are taken:their footsteps are turned
to the dark forest:the dwelling fadeth
in the tangled trees. Then in Túrin leapt
his awakened heart,and he wept blindly,
calling 'I cannot,I cannot leave thee.
O Morwin, my mother, why makest me go?
Hateful are the hills where hope is lost.
O Morwin, my mother,I am meshed in tears.
Grim are the hills,and my home is gone.'
And there came his criescalling faintly
down the dark alleysof the dreary trees,
and one who weptweary on the threshold
heard how the hills said'my home is gone.'
The ways were weary and woven with deceit
o'er the hills of Hithlumto the hidden kingdom
deep in the darkness of Doriath's forest;
and never ere now for need or wonder
had children of Menchosen that pathway,
a few of the folkhave followed it since.
There Túrin and the twainknew torment of thirst,
and hunger and fearand hideous nights,
for wolfriders and wandering Ores
and the Things of Morgoththronged the woodland.
Magics were about them,that they missed their ways
and strayed steerless,and the stars were hid.
Thus they passed the mountains,but the mazes of Doriath
wildered and wayworn in wanhope bound them.
They had nor bread nor water,and bled of strength
their death they deemed itto die forewandered,
when they heard a hornthat hooted afar,
and baying dogs. It was Beleg the hunter,
who farthest faredof his folk abroad
ahunting by hilland hollow valley,
who cared not for concourseand commerce of men.
He was great of growthand goodly-limbed,
but lithe of girth,and lightly on the ground
his footsteps fell as he fared towards them,
all garbed in grey and green and brown --
a son of the wildernesswho wist no sire.
'Who are ye?' he asked.'Outlaws, or maybe
hard hunted menwhom hate pursueth?'
'Nay, for famine and thirstwe faint,' saith Halog,
'wayworn and wildered,and wot not the road.
Or hast not heardof the hills of the slain,
or the tear-drenchéd fieldwhere the terror and fire
of Morgoth devouredboth Men and Elves?
There Thalion Erithámrodand his thanes like gods
vanished from the earth,and his valiant lady
weeps yet widowedas she waits in Hithlum.
Thou lookest on the lastof the lieges of Morwin
and Thalion's son Túrin,who to Thingol's court
are wending by the wordof the wife of Húrin.'
Then Beleg bade thembe blithe, and said:
'The Gods have guided youto good keeping.
I have heard of the houseof Húrin the Steadfast -
and who hath not heardof the hills of slain,
of Nínin Unothradin,the Unnumbered Tears?
To that war I went on,but wage a feud
with the Orcs unending, whom mine arrows bitter
oft stab unseenand strike to death.
I am the huntsman Belegof the Hidden People.'
Then he bade them drink, and drew from his belt
a flask of leatherfull filled with wine
that is bruised from the berriesof the burning South --
and the Gnome-folk know it,and the nation of the Elves,
and by long ways lead itto the lands of the North.
There bakéd fleshand bread from his wallet
they had to their hearts' joy;but their heads were mazed
by the wine of Dor-Winionthat went in their veins,
and they soundly slepton the soft needles
of the tall pine-treesthat towered above.
Later they wakenedand were led by ways
devious windingthrough the dark wood-realm
by slade and slopeand swampy thicket
through lonely days and long night-times,
and but for Beleghad been baffled utterly
by the magic mazesof Melian the Queen.
To the shadowy shoreshe showed the way
where stilly that streamstrikes 'fore the gates
of the cavernous courtof the King of Doriath,
O'er the guarded bridgehe gained a passage,
and thrice they thanked him,and thought in their hearts
'the Gods are good' -- had they guessed maybe
what the future enfoldedthey had feared to live.
To the throne of Thingolthe three were come,
and their speech sped them;for he spake them fair,
and held in honour Húrin the steadfast,
Beren Ermabwed'sbrother-in-arms.
Remembering Morwin,of mortals fairest,
he turned not Túrinin contempt away;
said: 'O son of Húrin,here shalt sojourn
in my cavernous courtfor thy kindred's sake.
Nor as slave or servant,but a second king's son
thou shalt dwell in dear love,till thou deem'st it time
to remember thy motherMorwin's loneliness.
Thou wisdom shalt win unwist of Men
and weapons shalt wieldas th warrior Elves,
and Thalion's sonno thrall shall be.'
There tarried the twainthat had tended the child,
till their limbs were lightened and they longed to fare
through dread and dangerto their dear lady.
But Gumlin was gonein greater years
than Halog, and hoped notto home again.
Then sickness took him,and he stayed by Túrin,
while Halog hardenedhis heart to go.
An Elfin escortto his aid was given
and magics of Melian,and a meed of gold.
In his mouth a messagehow her wish was granted;
how Thingol called herto the Thousand Caves
to fare unfearingwith his folk again,
there to sojourn in solace,till her son be grown;
for Húrin the herowas held in mind,
and no might had Morgothwhere Melian dwelt.
Of the errand of the Elvesand that other Halog
the tale tells not,save in time they came
to the threshold of Morwin,and Thingol's message
was said where she satein her solitary hall.
But she dared not doas was dearly bidden,
for Nienor her mestlingwas not yet weaned.
More, the pride of her people,princes of Men,
had suffered her sendher son to Thingol
when despair sped her,but to spend her days
as alms-guest of others,even Elfin kings,
it liked her little;and there lived e'en now
a hope in her heartthat Húrin would come,
and the dwelling was dearwhere he dwelt of old.
At night she would listenfor a knock at the doors,
or a footstep fallingthat she fondly knew;
so she fared not forth,and her fate was woven.
Yet the thanes of Thingolshe thanked nobly,
and her shame she showed not,how shorn of glory
to reward their wendingshe had wealth too scant;
but gave them in gifther golden things
that last lingered,and they led away
a helm of Húrinthat was hewn in war
when he battled with Berenhis brother-in-arms
against ogres and Orcsand evil foemen;
'twas o'erwritten with runesby wrights of old.
She bade Thingol receive itand think of her.
Thus Halog her henchmancame home, but the Elves,
the thanes of Thingol,thrust through the woods,
and the message of Morwinin a month's journey,
so quick their coming,to the king was said.
Then was Melianmoved to ruth,
and courteously receivedthe king her gift,
who deeply delvedhad dungeons filled
with Elfin armouriesof ancient gear,
but he handled the helmas his hoard were scant;
said: 'High were the headthat upheld this thing
with that token crowned of the towering dragon
that Thalion Eithámrodthrice-renownéd
oft bore into battlewith baleful foes.'
Then a thought was thrustinto Thingol's heart,
and Túrin he calledand told when come
that Morwin his mothera mighty thing
had sent to her son,his sire's heirloom,
a helm that hammershad hardened of old,
whose makers had mingleda magic thererin
that its worth was a wonderand its wearer safe,
guarded from glaiveor gleaming axe --
'Lo! Húrin's helmhoard thou till manhood
bids thee battle;then bravely don it';
and Túrin touched it,but took it not,
too weak to wieldthat weight as yet,
and his mind mournédfor Morwin's answer,
and the first of his sorrowso'erfilled his soul.
Thus came it to passin the court of Thingol
that Túrin tarriedfor twelve long years
with Gumlin his guardian, who guided him thither
when but seven summerstheir sorrows had laid
on the son of Thalion.For the seven first
his lot was lightened,since he learnt at whiles
from faring folkwhat befell in Hithlum,
and tidings were toldby trusty Elves,
how Morwin his motherwas more at ease;
and they named Nienorthat now was growing
to the sweet beautyos a slender maiden.
Thus his heart knew hope, and his hap was fairer.
There he waxed wonderlyand won him praise
in all lands where Thingolas lord was held
for the strength of his bodyand stoutness of heart.
Much more he learned,and loved wisdom,
but fortune followed him in few desires;
oft wrong and awry what he wrought turnéd;
what he loved he lost,what he longed for he won not;
and full friendshiphe found not easily,
nor was lightly lovedfor his looks were sad.
He was gloomy-hearted,and glad seldom,
for the sundering sorrowthat seared his youth.
On manhood's thresholdhe was mighty holden
in the wielding of weapons;and in weaving song
he had a minstrel's mastery,but mirth was not in it,
for he mourned the miseryof the Men of Hithlum.
Yet greater his griefgrew thereafter,
when from Hithlum's hillshe heard no more,
and no traveller told himtidings of Morwin.
For those days were drawingto the Doom of the Gnomes,
and the power of the Princeof the People of Hell,
of the grim Glamhoth,was grown apace,
till the lands of the Northwere loud with their noise,
and they fell on the folkwith flame and ruin
who bent not to Bauglir,or the borders passed
of dark Dorlóminwith its dreary pines
that Hithlum unhappyis hight by Men.
There Morgoth shut them,andt he Shadowy Mountains
fenced them from Faërieand the folk of the wood.
Even Beleg fared notso far abroad
as once was his wont,and the woods were filled
with the armies of Angband and evil deeds,
while murder walkedon the marches of Doriath;
only mighty magicof Melian the Queen
yet held their havocfrom the Hidden People.
To assuage his sorrowand to sate the rage
and hate of his heart for the hurts of his folk
then Húrin's sontook the helm of his sire
and weapons weightyfor the wielding of men,
and went to the woodswith warlike Elves;
and far in the fighthis feet led him,
into black battleyet a boy in years.
Ere manhood's measurehe met and slew
the Orcs of Angbandand evil things
that roamed and ravenedon the realm's borders.
There hard his life,and hurts he got him,
the wounds of shaftand warfain sword,
and his prowess was provenand his praise renowned,
and beyond his yearshe was yielded honour;
for by him was holdenthe hand of ruin
from Thingol's folk,and Thû feared him --
Thu who was thronédas thane most mighty
neath Morgoth Bauglir;whom that mighty one bade
'Go ravage the realmof the robber Thingol,
and mar the magicof Melian the Queen.'
Only one was therein war greater,
higher in honourin the hearts of Elves,
than Túrin son of Húrinuntamed in war --
even the huntsman Belegof the Hidden People,
the son of the wildernesswho wist no sire
(to bend whose bowof the black yew-tree
had none of the might),unmatched in knowledge
of the wood's secretsand the weary hills.
He was leader belovedof the light-armed bands,
the scouts that scoured,scorning danger,
afar o'er the fellstheir foemen's lairs;
and tales and tidingstimely won them
of camps and councils,of comings and goings --
all the movements of the mightof Morgoth the Terrible.
Thus Túrin, who trustedto targe and sword,
who was fain of fightingwith foes well seen,
and the banded troopsof his brave comrades
were snared seldomand smote unlooked-for.
Then the fame of the fightson the far marches
were carried to the courtof the King of Doriath,
and tales of Túrinwere told in his halls,
and how Beleg the ageless was brother-in-arms
to the black-haired boyfrom the beaten people.
Then the king called them to come before him
ever and anonwhen the Orc-raids waned;
to rest them and revel,and to raise awhile
the secret songsof the sons of Ing.
On a time was Túrinat the table of Thingol --
there was laughter long and the loud clamour
of a countless companythat quaffed the mead,
amid the wine of Dor-Winion that went ungrudged
in their golden goblets;and goodly meats
there burdened the boards,neath the blazing torches
set high in those halls that were hewn of stone.
There mirth fell on many;there minstrels clear
did sing to them songs of the city of Tún
neath Tain-Gwethil, towering mountain,
where the great gods sit and gaze on the worl
from the guarded shores of the gulf of Faërie.
Then one sang of the slayingat the Swanship's Haven
and the curse that had comeon the kindreds since:
all silent satand soundless harkened,
and waited the wordssave one alone --
the Man among Elvesthat Morwin bore.
Unheeding he heardor high feasting
or lay or laughter,and looked, it seemd,
to a deep distancein the dark without,
and strained for soundsin the still spaces,
for voices that vanished in the veils of the night.
He was lithe and lean,and his locks were wild,
and woodland weedshe wore of brown
and grey and green,and gay jewel
of golden trinkethis garb knew not.
An Elf there was -- Orgof -- of the ancient race
that was lost in the landswhere the long marches
from the quiet waters of Cuiviénen
were made in the mirkof the midworld's gloom,
ere light was lifted aloft o'er earth;
but blood of the Gnomeswas blent in his veins.
He was close akinto the King of Doriath --
a hardy hunterand his heart was brave,
but loose his laughter and light his tongue,
and his pride outranhis prowess in arms.
He was fain before all of fine raiment
and of gems and jewels,and jealous of such
as found favourbefore himself.
Now costly cladin colours gleaming
he sat on a seatthat was set on high
near the king and queenand close to Túrin.
When those twain were at tablehe had taunted him oft,
lightly with laughter,for his loveless ways,
his haggard raimentand hair unshorn;
but Túrin untroubledneither turned his head
nor wasted wordson the wit of Orgof.
But this day of the feastmore deep his gloom
than of wont, and his wordsmen won harder;
for of twelve long yearsthe tale was full
since on Morwin his motherthrough a maze of tears
he looked the last,and the long shadows
of the forest had fallenon his fading home;
and he answered few,and Orgof nought.
Then the fool's mirthwas filled the more,
to a keener edgewas his carping whetted
at the clothes uncouthand the uncombed hair
of Túrin newcomefrom the tangléd forest.
He drew forth daintilya dear treasure,
a comb of goldthat he kept about him,
and tendered it to Túrin;but he turned not his eyes,
nor deigned to heedor harken to Orgof,
who too deep drunkenthat disdain should quell him:
'Nay, an thou knowest notthy need of comb,
nor its use,' quoth he,'too young thou leftest
thy mother's ministry,and 'twere meet to go
that she teach thee tamethy tangled locks --
if the women of Hithlumbe not wild and loveless,
uncouth and unkemptas their cast-off sons.'
Then a fierce fury,like a fire blazing,
was born of bitternessin his bruiséd heart;
his white wrath wokeat the words of scorn
for the women of Hithlumwashed in tears;
and a heavy hornto his hand lying,
with gold adornedfor good drinking,
of his might unmindfulthus moved in ire
he seized and, swinging,swiftly flung it
in the face of Orgof.'Thou fool', he said,
'fill thy mouth therewith,and to me no further
thus witless prateby wine bemused' --
but his face was broken,and he fell backward,
and heavy his headthere hit upon the stone
of the floor rock-pavedmid flagons and vessels
of the o'erturned tablethat tumbled on him
as clutching he fell;and carped no more,
in death silent.There dumb were all
at bench and board;in blank amaze
they rose around him, as with ruth of heart
he gazed aghaston his grievous deed,
on his wine-stained hand,with wondering eyes
half-comprehending.On his heel then he turned
into the night striding, and none stayed him;
but some their swordshalf slipped from sheaths
-- they were Orgof's kin --yet for awe of Thingol
they dared not drawwhile the dazéd king
stonefacéd staredon his stricken thane
and no sign showed them.But the slayer weary
his hands lavedin the hidden stream
that strikes 'fore the gates,nor stayed his tears:
'Who has cast,' he cried,'a curse upon me;
for all I do is ill,and an outlaw now,
in bitter banishment and blood-guilty,
of my fosterfatherI must flee the halls,
nor look on the ladybeloved again' --
yea, his heart to Hithlumhad hastened him now,
but that road he dared not,lest the wrath he draw
of the Elves after him,and their anger alight
should speed the spearsin despite of Morgoth
o'er the hills of Hithlumto hunt him down;
lest a doom more direthan they dreed of old
be meted his motherand the Maid of Tears.
In the furthest foldsof the Forest of Doriath,
in the darkest daleson its drear borders,
in haste he hid him,lest the hunt take him;
and they found not his footstepswho fared after,
the thanes of Thingol;who thirty days
sought him sorrowing,and searched in vain
with no purpose of ill,but the pardon bearing
of Thingol thronedin the Thousand Caves.
He in council constrainedthe kin of Orgof
to forget their griefand forgiveness show,
in that wilful bitternesshad barbed the words
of Orgof the Elf;said 'his hour had come
that his soul should seekthe sad pathway
to the deep valleyof the Dead Awaiting,
there a thousand yearsthrice to ponder
in the gloom of Gurthrond his grim jesting,
ere he fare to Faërieto feast again.'
Yet of his own treasurehe oped the gates,
and gifts ungrudgingof gold and gems
to the sons he gaveof the slain; and his folk
well deemed the deed.But that doom of the King
Túrin knew not,and turned against him
the hands of the Elveshe unhappy believed,
wandering the woodlandwoeful-hearted;
for his fate would notthat the folk of the caves
should harbour longerHúrin's offspring.

Last updated January 14, 2019