Sunday, March 3, 2013

Capture of Hurin = DRAMA

In chapter two, "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears," Tolkien describes the last stand and capture of Hurin by Gothmog.  First of all, Tolkien sets the scene by specifically pointing out that Hurin stood alone. It's a heightening of the stakes:  Hurin's the last one left after Huor, his brother, and Fingon have been killed and Turgon retreated back to Gondolin in order to stay secret. I feel a sense of despair and desparation at the emphasis of Hurin's solitude, and I think we see this even more in the description of Hurin's reckless abandon as he fights wildly against Gothmog's guards.

Tolkien writes also that Huor and the other men fighting with Hurin are slain as the sun is setting. So Hurin's last stand takes place as darkness falls and shadows grow. Could this be a more perfect setting? And then Hurin cries that "Day shall come again!" each time he strikes down an enemy.  Once again, it's the contrasting of light (hope) and dark (despair) - a common theme in Tolkien's work. It reminds me somewhat of the Battle of Helm's Deep.

Tolkien's description of Hurin's weapons adds an interesting dynamic to this scene, as well. He says Hurin casts down his shield and seizes the axe of an orc-captain. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but when he throws his shield aside I see that as basically Hurin accepting his fate, thinking "I'm going to die here, but I'll go down fighting." And then he grabs an orc axe - BAM! Defiance. Maybe Hurin's thinking, "I'll kill you all with your own weapons." The withering and smoking of the axe gives a reader an idea of the powerful filth and stench of Morgoth pervading his vile servants.

Tolkien ends this scene saying, "Night fell in Hithlum, and there came a great storm of wind out of the West." Back to the light/dark binary. It's like the defeat of Hurin was the sunset into a period of darkness in the war against Morgoth.

1 comment:

Megan said...

What a great passage! So moving. And so, so sad, yet beautiful. Hurin is so awesome. I think you're exactly right about exchanging the shield for the axe, and two-weapon fighting--swoon!

I did not notice all the parallel imagery of light and dark. It really characterizes the scene, and is really cinematic.