Mhnd A edited the summary of The Children of Húrin Friday, June 18, 2010.
The story begins with the coming of Húrin and his brother Huor to the hidden Elvish city of Gondolin. After living there for a year, they swear an oath not to reveal its location to anybody and are permitted swift passage to Dor-lómin. Once there, Húrin marries Morwen Eledhwen and they produce two children, a son who they name Túrin and a daughter, Lalaith. Lalaith dies almost in infancy, but Túrin grows to boyhood with a quiet and thoughtful nature. A kind, lame woodworker in Húrin's employ by the name of Sador becomes his first friend, and sees the first indications of Túrin's growing character.
In the disastrous defeat of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears Húrin is captured alive and taken to Angband, stronghold of the dark lord Morgoth. Morgoth personally torments Húrin, trying to force from him the location of Gondolin, but despite his efforts, Húrin defies and even scorns Morgoth. For this, Morgoth places a curse on his family whereby evil will befall them for their whole lives, and imprisons Hurin high on a mountain, forcing him to witness his family's fate through Morgoth's own twisted eyes.
At Morgoth's command, the allied Easterlings over-run Hithlum and Dor-lómin. Morwen, fearing her son's capture, sends Túrin to the Elven realm of Doriath for safety. Shortly after Turin's unwilling departure, Morwen gives birth to a second daughter, Nienor. In Doriath, Túrin is taken as foster-son by King Thingol and becomes a mighty warrior, befriending the Elf Beleg Strongbow, and living more often with him on the marches of Doriath than in Thingol's halls. At one point during his life with Beleg on the fringes of the forest Túrin returns to Thingol's court, where his wild and unkempt appearance draws the scorn of Saeros, a proud Elf who believes that Men should be kept out of Doriath. After Saeros hurls a snide insult directed at Túrin's mother and sister, Túrin throws a dish in Saeros's face, injuring him. Saeros, angry over what happened in the hall, attacks Túrin from behind in the woods the next day. Túrin overpowers him, however, and strips him, forcing him run naked through the woods shouting for help as Turin pursues him. The Elf Mablung follows them, crying for Turin to stop, but Turin continues chasing Saeros until the terrified Elf attempts to jump a gorge too wide for him, and falls, dying in the water below. Mablung, having witnessed only the chase through the woods and not Saeros's original assault upon Túrin, believes that Saeros was humiliated without provocation and wishes to bring Túrin back to trial in Doriath. Túrin's pride restrains him from either correcting the misunderstanding or submitting to trial, and he chooses rather to leave Doriath and become an outcast.
Thingol holds an absentee trial for Túrin, and as the only evidence is that Túrin humiliated Saeros without cause, Thingol is on the verge of outlawing him from Doriath until he should choose to return and ask for pardon. Just as the King's judgment is about to be put into effect, however, Beleg rushes in late accompanied by an Elf-maid named Nellas, who witnessed Saeros's assault upon Túrin from her vantage point in a tree. With Nellas's evidence taken into account, Thingol grants Túrin a full pardon, and Beleg leaves Doriath to find Túrin and bid him to return to Doriath.
Túrin meanwhile joins a band of outlaws in the wild, the Gaurwaith or "Wolf-folk", who live by raiding and pillaging the property of the few Men left in the land. Soon afterward Túrin kills the leader of the band to prevent him from killing a young woman from a nearby homestead, and the leaderless outlaws promote Turin to the position of captain. Beleg traces the signs of Túrin's band, gathering news of Túrin from those who had seen or heard of him, but the outlaws repeatedly throw off his pursuit.
After a year in the wild he succeeds in overtaking the band at a time when Turin is absent. Mistrusting Elves in general and having become cruel through long lives of self-centered crime, the men mistreat Beleg in an attempt to elicit any information he might possess. After being tortured by the lawless gang for several days, Beleg is on the verge of death when Turin returns. Turin is horrified to see his friend so maltreated by his own men, and while tending Beleg Túrin vows to forsake the evil and cruel habits he has fallen into while among the lawless men, recognizing that his band's senseless cruelty towards the innocent Beleg can be traced back to his own lax standards. When Beleg recovers, he is able to deliver to Túrin the message of the king's pardon; Túrin is torn, but in spite of Beleg's pleas refuses to humble his pride, and will not accept the pardon and return to Doriath. Beleg then departs in order to participate in battles upon the north-marches of Doriath, in spite of Túrin's request that Beleg stay by his side.
Some time later, Túrin and his men capture Mîm the Petty-dwarf, who ransoms his life by leading the band to the caves in the hill of Amon Rûdh, where the ancestral home of the Petty-dwarves is hidden. Despite the unfortunate death of Mîm's son at the hands of one of Túrin's band, Mîm grows to respect Túrin, and the outlaws set up a permanent base in the caves. In Doriath, Beleg decides against his better judgment to return to his friend, and arrives at Amon Rûdh to a loving reception from Turin. The other outlaws resent Beleg's presence, however, and Mîm, who had earlier proclaimed his enmity towards the Elves, grows to hate him bitterly. Nevertheless everything proceeds smoothly for a while, the outlaw band gradually increases to a great number (though only the original fifty men are allowed entrance to the hidden caves of the Petty-dwarves), and becomes more daring and successful in the warfare against Morgoth's troops. At length, Túrin and Beleg even establish the realm of Dor-Cúarthol, and word spreads that Beleg and Túrin, long unheard-of, have appeared again as the captains of a great host.
However, Mîm's hatred towards Beleg eventually reaches a breaking point, and he approaches a band of Orcs with an offer to lead them to the outlaw's headquarters on Amon Rûdh, in return for the promise of monetary compensation. (A footnote explains that there is another version of the tale in which the vital information is tortured out of an unwilling and captive Mîm; but the canonical version seems more likely, considering Mîm's later conduct.) Mîm lays down several other conditions, among them the demand that after the Orcs depart from Amon Rûdh, Beleg must be left behind, helpless, to Mîm's own mercy. The Orcs agree to all of Mîm's conditions, without the intention of fulfilling any of them except for that regarding Beleg. The dwarf leads them to the hidden caves, and Túrin's company is taken unawares. They retreat to the top of Amon Rûdh to defend themselves, but the entire band are eventually killed, excepting Beleg and Túrin, whom the Orcs want alive. They bind Túrin and carry him off towards Angband, while leaving Beleg wounded and helpless, chained to a rock. Mîm approaches him after all the Orcs depart and is on the verge of torturing the Elf to death, when Androg, one of the outlaws, who is wounded and had appeared dead, rouses himself enough to drive Mîm away and release Beleg before succumbing to his wounds. Beleg remains in Amon Rûdh until his own wounds are healed, and then, knowing that Túrin is not among the dead and must have been taken captive, follows the company of Orcs.
In pursuit of the Orcs, Beleg comes across a mutilated elf, Gwindor of Nargothrond sleeping in a forest. Gwindor had been an Elvish lord before being taken captive and forced to serve in Angband for many years, and Beleg remains with him. They see the Orc company pass by, and entering their camp that night find Túrin sleeping, and carry him away from the Orcs. When at a safe distance they stop, and Beleg begins to cut Túrin's bonds with his sword Gurthang, which Beleg had been warned was an evil blade which would not stay with him long. The sword slips in his hand and Túrin is cut; and Túrin, mistaking Beleg in the dark for an Orc who had come to torture him, leaps to his feet and kills Beleg with his own sword. When Túrin sees Beleg's face in a flash of lightning and realizes what he has done, he falls into a kind of frenzy, not speaking or weeping, but refusing to leave Beleg's body. In the morning Gwindor is able to bury Beleg, but Turin remains crazed and witless with grief.
Gwindor leads Túrin through the wild for months, and Túrin remains in a fixed state of grief and guilt, not speaking, but doing only what Gwindor bids him. At length, however, the two reach Eithel Ivrin, where Túrin finally weeps for Beleg, and is healed. Having regained his senses, he and Gwindor proceed to Nargothrond, where Gwindor lived before his long imprisonment in Angband. There Túrin gains favour with King Orodreth and earns the love of his daughter Finduilas, although she was previously engaged to be married to Gwindor, and Túrin does not reciprocate her romantic feelings. After leading the Elves to considerable victories, Túrin becomes the chief counsellor of Orodreth and effectively commander of all the forces in Nargothrond. This fuels Túrin's pride, and he begins giving extravagant orders which are arrogant and ill-thought-out, and eventually hasten the doom of Nargothrond.
Messengers sent from Círdan warn Túrin to hide Nargothrond from Morgoth, but Túrin refused to retract his rash and prideful plans for full-scale battle, and treats the messengers rudely. However, after five years Morgoth sends a great force of Orcs under the command of a dragon, Glaurung, and defeats the army of Nargothrond on the field of Tumhalad, where both Gwindor and Orodreth are killed. Easily crossing over a great bridge which Túrin had had built against all council, Morgoth's forces sack Nargothrond and capture its citizens while its forces are engaged on the field of battle. Túrin returns just before the prisoners are let away by the Orcs, and in an attempt to prevent this, Túrin encounters Glaurung. The dragon, wielding the evil power of Morgoth, enchants and tricks him into returning to Dor-lómin to seek out his mother and sister instead of rescuing Finduilas and other prisoners, which, according to the last words of Gwindor, is the only way to avoid his doom.
When Túrin returns to Dor-lómin, he learns that Morwen and Nienor have long been sheltered in Doriath, and that Glaurung deceived him into letting Finduilas go to her death. An enraged Túrin incites a fight among the Easterlings who now inhabit Dor-lómin and is compelled to flee once more. He tracks Finduilas's captors to the forest of Brethil, only to learn that she was murdered by the Orcs when the woodmen attempted to rescue the Elvish prisoners. Almost broken by his grief, Túrin seeks sanctuary among the Folk of Haleth, who maintain a tenacious resistance against the forces of Morgoth. In Brethil Túrin renames himself Turambar, or "Master of Doom" in High-elven, and gradually overrules the gentle, lame Chieftain Brandir.
Meanwhile, in Doriath, Morwen and Nienor hear rumors of Túrin's deeds at Nargothrond, and Morwen determines either to find Túrin living or hear certain news of his death. Against the council of Thingol she rides out of Doriath alone, and when the king sends a group of Elves to follow and protect her, Nienor conceals herself among the riders and rejoins her mother. Mablung, leading the group, does not wish to proceed with Morwen's mission, but feels compelled to protect her and Nienor. When they approach Nargothrond, Mablung leaves Morwen and Nienor with a group of riders, and takes the rest to explore the ruins of Nargothrond in the hopes of finding information about the fall of the city and of Túrin's fate. There they encounter Glaurung, who has established himself in the ruins of Nargothrond, and he scatters Mablung's force before proceeding to the hill on which the women and Elves are waiting. His coming drives all of horses mad, and in the frenzy Nienor is separated from all the others. When she regains the hilltop alone, she comes face-to face with Glaurung, who, upon discovering her identity, enchants her so that everything she knows is lost, and her mind is made blank.
When Mablung returns to the hill alone, also separated from his company, he finds her waiting on the hill like a lost child, and is forced to attempt the long journey back to Doriath on foot, leading Nienor by the hand. The two of them become stranded in the wilderness, and only the arrival of a few of the other Elves from the scattered group prevents them from starving to death. The few Elves continue their long journey to Doriath, but in an affray with a band of Orcs Nienor runs into the woods and is lost. Eventually she collapses near Brethil on the grave of Finduilas, where Túrin finds her and brings her back to the town. There she gradually recovers the use of speech, although she has no memory of any past life. Brandir falls in love with her, but though she feels a sisterly affection for him, she and Túrin develop a strong mutual attraction; Túrin has never seen her, and she remembers nothing of what she once knew about her brother, and not realising their kinship, they fall in love. Despite the counsel of Brandir, they soon marry, and Nienor becomes pregnant.
After some time of peace, Glaurung comes to exterminate the Men of Brethil. But Turambar leads a perilous expedition to cut him off, and stabs the dragon from beneath while he is crossing the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras. Meanwhile, Nienor and several other of the people of Brethil leave the safety of the town and, wishing to know what transpired between the men and the dragon, join the scouts waiting for Turambar's return on a hill a short distance from where the dragon was stabbed. As Glaurung is dying on the bank of the ravine, Turambar, who is now alone, pulls his sword from the dragon's belly, and the venomous blood spurts onto his hand and burns him. Overwhelmed with pain and fatigue, he faints. Nienor eventually comes to the place of the battle, followed by Brandir hobbling on his crutch. She takes Turambar's swoon for death and weeps over him, as with a last effort of malice Glaurung opens his eyes, and informs her of the fact that she and her husband are in reality brother and sister, taunting her with her incestuous pregnancy. Glaurung then dies, and his spell of forgetfulness passes from her, and she remembers her entire life. Forced to acknowledge that the dragon's words were true, she throws herself off the nearby cliff into the river Taeglin, and is washed away, as Brandir watches helplessly. When Turambar wakes and returns to the hill where the scouts are waiting, Brandir bitterly informs him of Nienor's death and of hers and Turambar's true relationship as siblings, concerning which he overheard the dragon's words. Believing that Brandir has concocted the story as a lie stemming from jealousy of Nienor's love for Turin, Túrin kills Brandir, who declares before dying his hope that he will rejoin Nienor across the sea, which only further infuriates Túrin. However, running crazed into the wild, Túrin meets Mablung, who has been seeking Nienor for years; as well as Morwen, who was never found after Glaurung's scattering of the Elvish company. Mablung, without knowing anything that has transpired since Nienor was lost in the woods, innocently confirms Brandir's tale. After Túrin has learned all the terrible truth from Mablung, he returns to the place where Nienor threw herself from the cliff, and takes his own life upon the sword, Gurthang, which killed Beleg so many years before.
The main part of the narrative ends with the burial of Túrin. Appended to this is an extract from The Wanderings of Húrin, the next tale of Tolkien's legendarium. This recounts how Húrin is at last released by Morgoth and comes to the grave of his children. There he finds Morwen, who has also managed to find the place, but now dies in the arms of her husband with the following sunset.