This weekend (in just a few hours in fact), Hall of Fire will be chatting about the sixth chapter of The Children of Húrin, which documents Túrin’s time in the wilderness of west Beleriand as a member of a desperate group of outlaws, scofflaws and outcasts.
Túrin the outlaw
In his persona of “Neithan the wronged”, one wonders if Turin’s feels that he’s finally found his people after (often) feeling so out of place in Doriath.
But, for mine, the most interesting aspect of the chapter is the moral dimension: over and again, Túrin is forced to confront what he will do — and is willing to permit others around him to do — in order to survive.
Now, any adult knows that living involves compromise. Our wants and needs are rarely matched by our resources at hand. And one’s circumstances and capabilities can compel one into seemingly odd situations merely to make rent. Even if it’s “just” working an awful job with even-more-awful people with the (faint) hope of, one day, finding something better.
This seems to be precisely Túrin’s situation as he takes up with the Gaurwaith, or wolf-folk.
He believes (if falsely) that he is wanted for the death of Saeros in Doriath. He knows that Nagothrond is closed to him, and that Dor-lómin is a presently unattainable dream. Fascinatingly, he refuses to consider Brethil, discounting the folk of Haleth as “lesser men”.
This, to his mind, leaves only the sparsely inhabited wilderness to the south of Brethil and the increasingly dubious company of Forweg’s outlaws.
Is his sojourn with them justified?
Admittedly when he first encounters them he is in an invidious position. His life is immediately at stake. His options are, perhaps, limited: to find a way to join them, or to fight them all, and probably die. However, afterwards, he remains even when it becomes clear that some of his new companions are more than a little morally flexible.
Túrin knows unsavoury business is going on. He knows that his comrades are preying on homesteaders in the region, yet he chooses to turn a blind eye. How, then, are we to judge his culpability? Is a sin of omission as bad as a sin of comission? Is his tacit acceptance of their ways as bad as their perpetuation of them? Could he have done otherwise or is it an ugly compromise he has to make to survive right now? Can we excuse it by saying that, well, we might have felt unable to do otherwise in similar circumstances?
Yet, if Túrin has suppressed moral reservations, why does he only act when he’s physically confronted by these situations?
The chapter is named “Túrin among the the outlaws”, but would it perhaps be more accurate to call it “Túrin the outlaw”? He fled Doriath fearing to be falsely determined a lawbreaker. Does he, in fact, become one in this chapter?
Hall of Fire will be chatting about Túrin among the the outlaws later today. If you’d like to join us, just come to our chatroom through this link at 6pm ET!