Tolkien, Q.E.D.?

I found this crepuscular novel a chore to read. But that, some would say, is my shortcoming.
The Children Of Hurin
By J.R.R. Tolkien
HarperCollins Pages: 320;; Rs: 495
For once, the paltry space Outlook grants its reviewers does not seem like a personal slight. Really, what is there left to say about Tolkien? Only a fool would deny his astonishing achievement. Tolkien’s self-confessed ambition was to create what he called a Secondary World, a world "inside which the green sun will be credible". His is the narrative art at its most primal, the Scheherezadian need to tell stories or die.

The events in The Children of Hurin—already familiar to Tolkienistas from the extensive rummagings into the Nachlass by the author’s son Christopher—take place during the Elder Days, in the First Age so revered by Elrond in The Lord of the Rings. All the hobbit stuff is 6,000 years or so in the future. The fatalistic plot, in which dragon-slaying is interspersed with incest, follows that of a Finnish folk story; expect bleak Bergman Island rather than the cosy, parochial comforts of the Shire.

With Tolkien, the writing, the individual sentence, is never the point. His style, probably scrupulous to the ears of medievalists, is trying to mine. I found this crepuscular novel a chore to read. But that, millions of readers and tribes of academics would say, is my shortcoming.

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