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Silmarillion Sunday: No Eagles for Turin

Then Turin sprang about, and strode against him, and the edges of Gurthang shone as with flame; but Glaurung withheld his blast, and opened wide his serpent-eyes and gazed upon Turin. Without fear Turin looked into them as he raised up the sword; and straightaway he fell under the binding spell of the lidless eyes of the dragon, and was halted moveless. Then for a long time he stood as one graven of stone; and the two were alone, silent before the doors of Nargothrond. But Glaurung spoke again, taunting Turin, and he said: 'Evil have been all thy ways, son of Hurin. Thankless fosterling, outlaw, slayer of thy friend, thief of love, usurper of Nargothrond, captain foolhardy, and deserter of thy kin. As thralls thy mother and thy sister live in Dor-lomin, in misery and want. Thou art arrayed as a prince, but they go in rags; and for thee they yearn, but thou carest not for that. Glad may thy father be to learn that he hath such a son; as learn he shall.' And Turin being under the spell of Glaurung hearkened to his words, and he saw himself as in a mirror misshapen by malice, and loathed that which he saw.

Dragons in Tolkien aren't just hard to kill. They're also assholes.

I mean, there are dragons that fly around burninating the countryside because that's their instinct or they're hungry or scared or whatever, or because someone went poking around in their gold-bath and they can't have that, and you can understand it even if you don't entirely approve. But Glaurung the Golden is the father of dragons and also the father of complete tools. He's so gratuitous. When Turin reaches Nargathrond, it's already on fire, and most of the population has already been slaughtered or taken prisoner. Turin already feels terrible, so what's the point of TELLING HIM he's a blight on everyone he loves and will destroy everything he touches?

The worst part is that it's true. It's not the whole truth, but it's not wrong, either, and Glaurung is a deceiver but Turin belives him in part because he says out loud what Turin already fears in his heart, and that feels like honesty even though it isn't.

The OTHER worst part is that Hurin is apparently really being shown all this, so he gets to watch his son being agonized by the thought of his father seeing what he's become, while being powerless to reassure Turin that he's not angry and he'll always love his children even when he's chained to a chair watching their downfall.

There are no eucatastrophes in this chapter, and none of the kind of trouble you can get plucked out of at the last minute by an Eagle Ex Machina. "Of Turin Turambar" is just wall-to-wall catastrophe, and any happy moment you might approach from a distance is bound to be a mirage over a pile of quicksand. If it starts to look like something good might happen, you can be 100% sure that nothing good is going to happen. At least it's consistent?

Honestly, Peter Jackson (should stay far away from this book, but) would LOVE this book. I was so upset when he had Frodo send Sam away in RotK just to create unnecessary drama, but here there is SO MUCH terrible drama for him to turn up to 11.5; he could glut his monstrous hunger like the insatiable drama-spider he is. The actual adaptation I'd like to see of The Silmarillion is a big-budget 2D-animated TV series with a really good score.

I do like that the dragon here acts as a heroism negator rather than the object of heroism -- when you're face to face with Glaurung, being the bravest and the strongest doesn't help at all; you're better off hiding in a cave or running as far away as you can. It happens again with Turin's sister Nienor: she's gone out searching for her brother, and Glaurung finds her on a hilltop; she fights him but he destroys her memory and leaves her frozen on the hilltop, blind and deaf for days, and when she is rescued she can remember nothing from her old life except to be afraid. His whole MO is to draw the protagonists in with a big show of destructive power, then snuff them out with a breath or a few words and leave them to stumble helplessly into the rest of their lives.


Nienor and Turin are punished for their bravery, and for trying to help each other and making a rash bid for happiness in the middle of a long apocalypse -- and that's it, that's the whole story. It's top-shelf doom; I don't want to suggest it's not nicely done. But it's such a never-ending parade of bleakness and self-hate and despair that I felt really tired by the time I finished it. I hope the next chapter is a little more optimistic.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
egelantier
May. 3rd, 2015 08:53 pm (UTC)
turin's story is pretty much the lowest point of the whole thing as it goes (well, not counting the horrible hurin tie-up further in, which you still can look forwards to); there's not even a hint of eucatastrophe or a shred of hope, just misery and doom. on the other hand, it's all uphill from there!.. for certain values of, that's it.
evelyn_b
May. 4th, 2015 04:50 am (UTC)
Uphill is good. . . right? (unless it's that climb uphill that brings you fact to face with Glaurung) (at least he's dead now) :( :(

Seriously, I'm impressed with how miserable and exhausting it was -- especially the killing of Glaurung, for some reason, maybe because it was so unsatisfying and destructive -- rather than restoring order, it marks a final unraveling of their lives and saves no one in particular. This chapter was really good at being the worst. But I am looking forward to things getting at least a little better.

Poor Hurin :(
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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