Túrin Turambar is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. First introduced in The Silmarillion, he is the primary protagonist and a tragic hero (or anti-hero) of the novel The Children of Húrin. Prior to that book, early versions of the relevant story and some of the later texts were published in Unfinished Tales and in The History of Middle-earth series.
In the books, Túrin was a Man of the First Age of Middle-earth, whose family had been cursed by the ultimate evil being of the legendarium, Morgoth. In course of his unsuccessful attempts to defy the curse, Túrin brought ruin upon several Mannish and Elven strongholds as well as upon himself and his sister Nienor Níniel. Their history was recorded in the Tale of the Children of Húrin or Narn i Chîn Húrin, which was claimed by Tolkien to be the ultimate source of the published writings.
The Siege of Angband was already broken at that time, but Túrin's homeland of Dor-lómin was still contested against the forces of the Dark Lord Morgoth by the Folk of Hador. When Túrin was eight years old, Húrin lead most of his Men to war, and all were slain during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Húrin himself was captured alive, and cursed by Morgoth together with his family. Dor-lómin was invaded by the Easterlings at Morgoth's command. Túrin remained with Morwen, who hid him from the Incomers, fearing that they would enslave or kill him as the heir of both Dor-lómin and Ladros. She sent him secretly and under protection of Grithnir and Gethron to the Elven-realm of Doriath; Morwen remained in Dor-lómin herself, and shortly afterwards Túrin's second sister, Nienor, was born.
Túrin and his guides eventually reached Doriath, and were enmeshed in the Girdle of Melian. There they came near to death, but the marchwarden Beleg Strongbow found them and led to the halls of Menegroth. King Thingol adopted Túrin, in memory of the deeds of Húrin and because of his kinship with Beren. One of Túrin's friends there was an elven-lady Nellas, who watched him over at Queen Melian's bidding and taught elven-lore. Túrin became esteemed and renowned for his prowess and hardihood, and Beleg became his teacher of warfare.
When after eight years Dor-lómin was cut off and tidings from Morwen and Nienor ceased, Túrin decided to put his strength against Morgoth's forces, hoping to avenge thus the sorrows of his kin. Thingol appointed him to be one of his "knights of the sword", and Túrin departed to the northern marches of Doriath to fight the Orcs, where he was joined by Beleg. His chief weapon for ever after became the sword, and in addition he wore now the Dragon-helm of Hador, so that the Orcs began to fear him more than any other.
At the age of twenty, Túrin accidentally caused the death of Saeros, one of Thingol's counsellors, who had scorned him for his attire and mortal lineage. Túrin injured him for this, but later was ambushed by Saeros. Túrin overpowered him, chasing him at the sword point to a ravine where, in an attempt to jump, Saeros stumbled and died on the rocks below. Before Túrin could have been either punished or absolved, he fled from Doriath, fearing imprisonment and heedless of Mablung's counsels. Thingol, after learning of the circumstances from Nellas, eventually pardoned Túrin, and Beleg obtained leave to seek out his friend.
Túrin was unaware of this and fled westward, eventually meeting up with a band of outlaws called Gaurwaith that dwelt in the woods south of the river Taeglin. He proved his worth for them by killing one of their best warriors, and thus earned himself a place in the band. At that moment he wished neither to depart anywhere else, nor to strive with them, and so he did little to restrain other members from their evil deeds, such as harassing scattered homesteads of Men. After a year, in attempt to save the daughter of a woodman Larnach, Túrin slew by mishap the leader of the band Forweg. He claimed then his place, and this was granted to him as to "the best men" among the outlaws.
Soon Beleg found the band in the wild, while Túrin was absent spying upon the Orcs. The outlaws treated the Elf badly, and this as well as the counsels of Beleg made Túrin stop the lawless way of the band's life, hunting hereafter only the servants of Angband. He rejected Beleg's advice to return to Doriath, and the Elf then departed to Menegroth. Later Túrin's band captured Mîm the Petty-dwarf; his two sons escaped, but one of them, Khîm, was mortally wounded by an outlaw Andróg. In order to save his own life, Mîm was forced to share his dwellings upon the hill of Amon Rûdh with the band.
Beleg returned to Túrin after a time, healing those of the band that had become sick with cold and delivering them lembas of Melian. He also brought the Dragon-helm, and the area around Amon Rûdh became known as Dor-Cúarthol, the "Land of Bow and Helm". Many warriors joined them, and much of West Beleriand was freed from evil by the prowess of the "Two Captains", Beleg and Túrin. However, by wearing the Helm Túrin revealed his identity to Morgoth, who sent therefore a host of Orcs against Amon Rûdh two years later. These found Mîm, and he once again bought his life by leading them up the hill. Túrin was captured and all his men slain, except Beleg and Andvír.
Beleg followed the Orcs through the forest of Taur-nu-Fuin, where he met Gwindor, a slave who escaped from Angband. Together they rescued Túrin upon the confines of Anfauglith. Unfortunately, when Beleg was cutting the sleeping Túrin free from his bonds, he pricked Túrin's foot with the sword Anglachel, and Túrin, mistaking Beleg in the darkness for an orc come to torment him, took the sword and slew Beleg. Túrin became dazed with grief after this, but Gwindor led him to the Pools of Ivrin, where he returned to senses.
They journeyed to the hidden fortress of Nargothrond, where Gwindor had lived before. He gave Beleg's black sword Anglachel to Túrin now, who had it reforged and renamed as Gurthang, "Iron of Death". Túrin hid his own name, eventually becoming known as Mormegil or the Blacksword of Nargothrond, because of his prowess with Gurthang. Gwindor met there again his beloved, Finduilas daughter of King Orodreth, but she unwillingly fell in love with Túrin; however, Túrin did not perceive this and held her in awe.
Túrin was extremely influential in Nargothrond, becoming a chief counsellor of Orodreth and eventually overruling both him and Gwindor. He encouraged the Elves to abandon their practice of secrecy, and they built a great bridge before the Doors of Nargothrond and managed to clear the land between River Sirion and Falas from enemies. However, Túrin became arrogant, ignoring even a warning from the Vala Ulmo, brought by Gelmir and Arminas, to destroy the bridge and return to secrecy.
When Túrin had dwelt in Nargothrond for five years, Morgoth sent a great host of Orcs led by the dragon Glaurung against Nargothrond, and Túrin encouraged Orodreth to send his forces to fight them in the open. During the ensuing Battle of Tumhalad, Nargothrond's forces were destroyed and Orodreth was slain, while the bridge helped Morgoth's forces to locate the fortress and cross the river Narog. Túrin fought valiantly and was alone able to withstand Glaurung, but he forsook the battle to carry away the mortally wounded Gwindor. Before he died, he instructed Túrin to save Finduilas, prophesying that she alone can save Túrin from his doom.
Hastening to save the captives of Nargothrond, Túrin was caught by the powerful gaze of Glaurung, and stood by enspelled and moveless as Finduilas was dragged away, calling to him. The dragon deceived him into believing that Morwen and Nienor were suffering in Dor-lómin, and Túrin abandoned Finduilas to seek out his kin.
Next year he reached Dor-lómin, but found his old house empty and went to the halls of Brodda the Easterling, who had taken Húrin's lands and possessions. There Túrin learned from Brodda's wife Aerin that Morwen had already left for Doriath before the fall of Nargothrond, as Túrin's own efforts had made the way passable. In his rage he killed Brodda and his followers, rising a revolt. As he left, Aerin burnt herself alive in her halls, and the remnant of the Folk of Hador was persecuted even more cruelly from that time.
Túrin next tried to find Finduilas and followed the trail towards the forest of Brethil, but came too late: the woodmen informed him that she had been killed by the orcs when the Men of Brethil had ambushed them in an attempt to rescue the prisoners. Túrin collapsed of grief upon her grave, and was brought to Ephel Brandir. There he took up his life again, now calling himself Turambar ("Master of Doom") and renouncing his descent, hoping to overcome thus his curse. The Folk of Haleth dwelling there was ruled by Brandir the Lame, who hoped to preserve his people by secrecy. Turambar quickly gained the favour of the Folk and once again overruled Brandir, gathering companies to fight Orcs upon the borders. He stopped wielding Gurthang and fought rather with a spear and a bow.
Meanwhile Morwen and Nienor dwelt in Doriath, but when the news of Nargothrond's destruction had reached them, they rashly went to look for Túrin, aided by a small company of Elves. Glaurung, who now lived in the ruined halls of Nargothrond, descended into the river so that a fog rose and enmeshed the company. Morwen was lost, but Nienor met the dragon and was enspelled by him, forgetting her past. Eventually she fled from both the Elves and the Orcs that pursued her and reached Brethil.
Turambar found her at Finduilas's grave, naked, unable to speak and remembering nothing. He named her Níniel, "Maid of Tears", and took her to Ephel Brandir. There she was healed by Brandir, who fell in love with her; however, Níniel and Turambar came to love each other. Túrin asked her in marriage, but Brandir managed to dissuade her, foreboding evil; yet when Turambar had vowed to forsake war for her sake, Níniel finally married him. Turambar broke his promise when Glaurung sent Orcs to assail Brethil: taking the sword up again, Túrin drove them away, taking control of the Folk from Brandir. Next year Níniel conceived; however, soon Glaurung attacked Brethil himself.
Turambar decided to ambush the Dragon as he crossed the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras and to try stabbing him from beneath. He took two companions with him, Dorlas and Hunthor, but the first deserted them and the other was slain by a stone. Turambar mortally wounded Glaurung with Gurthang, but was hurt by the venom of the Dragon's blood and fell in a swoon. When Níniel came to search for him, Glaurung with his last words undid his spell, and she remembered who she was and realized that Turambar was her brother. Horrified, Nienor cast herself over the brink of the ravine into the river Taeglin and died.
Brandir witnessed this, and when Turambar awoke, he told him what had happened. Refusing to believe and in wrath on his fate, Túrin slew the defenceless Brandir and ran in madness towards Finduilas's grave. There he was met by Mablung of Doriath, who confirmed the words of Brandir were true. In despair Túrin fled back to Cabed-en-Aras and cast himself upon the point of his sword Gurthang.
Túrin was buried in a high mound near the brink of Cabed-en-Aras, together with Gurthang which had broken asunder. A great stone was set upon the grave, upon which the Elves wrote in Cirth, the runes of Doriath:
Tolkien also wrote several contradictory versions of a prophecy about Túrin's fate after his death: see Concept and creation below.
Tolkien was not consistent in describing Túrin's eyes. According to some texts "he had the beauty of his mother and the eyes of his father", which were blue, while in other Túrin is said to have inherited the grey eyes of his mother. It is also stated that his eyes were bright, and that "few indeed could challenge the eyes of Túrin in set will or in wrath." Thus it is possible that he inherited the "elven-light ... hard to endure" of his mother's eyes.
As a child of five years, Túrin is described thus:
He was dark-haired as his mother, and promised to be like her in mood also; for he was not merry, and spoke little, though he learned to speak early and ever seemed older than his years. Túrin was slow to forget injustice or mockery; but the fire of his father was also in him, and he could be sudden and fierce. Yet he was quick to pity, and the hurts or sadness of living things might move him to tears.
A similar reference to this last trait of Túrin's character is found in Finduilas' words: "He is not yet awake, but still pity can ever pierce his heart, and he will never deny it. Pity maybe shall be ever the only entry." His reserved nature is also said to have resulted from Morgoth's curse; thus during Túrin's sojourn in Doriath "...it seemed that fortune was unfriendly to him, so that often what he designed went awry, and what he desired he did not gain; neither did he win friendship easily, for he was not merry, and laughed seldom."
Túrin is said to have been greatly affected by the deaths of his friends; thus after overcoming pestilence himself and the death of Lalaith, Túrin's character was hardened and he became even more reserved. Tolkien also stated that Túrin ever after "sought in all faces of women the face of Lalaith," that he did not love Finduilas because "his mind and heart were elsewhere, by rivers in springs long past," and that Túrin did fall in love with Níniel because she reminded him of Lalaith. The grief that he had slain Beleg "was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded"; early Tolkien's writings add that after this time "wild and black was his hair yet streaked with grey, and his face was pale and marked as with deep sorrows of the past."
Tolkien gave another Túrin's trait which differed him from others: "his speech and bearing were that of the ancient kingdom of Doriath", implying that he used a more archaic and 'noble' variant of the Sindarin language.
Túrin was a cousin of Tuor Eladar, father of Eärendil the Blessed. There are many parallels between the circumstances of their lives (both lost their fathers in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, were raised in part by Elves, spent time as outlaws, were war-leaders in great Elvish fortresses and survived their downfall), but the outcome of Tuor's life was quite different. Even Túrin's colouring was dark, enhancing his resemblance to the Noldorin Elves but further setting him apart from his fair-haired cousin. The two never actually met, but Tuor did once see his cousin in passing at Eithel Ivrin.
Túrin is one of the few characters in Tolkien's writings to have committed suicide, and several of the others – Aerin, Nienor, and Húrin – are connected to his story.
After leaving Doriath, Túrin usually tried to conceal his curse and, consequently, his true name. When he first appeared among the outlaws, he called himself Neithan, "the Wronged", as he thought that he had been expelled from Doriath. Later he took the name Gorthol, "the Dread Helm" (S. gor- 'horror', thôl 'helm'), since he wore the Dragon-helm then. When Túrin came to Nargothrond, he hid his identity under the epithet Agarwaen son of Úmarth, "the Bloodstained, son of Ill-fate", but soon became generally known as Adanedhel, "Man-Elf", since he greatly resembled Elves in manners and looks. Finduilas also called him Thurin, "the Secret", and after the reforging of the black sword Gurthang and because of his prowess with it, Túrin was known as Mormegil, "the Blacksword" (S. mor- "black", magol or megil "sword"). When he first met the Men of Brethil, Túrin presented himself as the Wildman of the Woods, but soon took the name Turambar when decided to settle there. He was also entitled Dagnir Glaurunga, "the Bane of Glaurung" (S. dagnir 'slayer').
There is the Children of Húrin, the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Níniel – of which Túrin is the hero: a figure that might be said (by people who like that sort of thing, though it is not very useful) to be derived from elements in Sigurd the Volsung, Oedipus, and the Finnish Kullervo.
Túrin is mainly based on Kullervo, a character from the Finnish folklore poems known as Kalevala, who was also "cursed" in a sense, seduced his sister, brought ruin upon his family and slew himself. Sigmund, the father of Sigurd in the Volsunga saga, also resembles Túrin in the incestuous relationship he has with his sister. In Richard Wagner's opera Die Walküre (also drawn in part from the Volsung myths), Siegmund and Sieglinde are parallels of Túrin and Nienor. (One notable resemblance of Túrin to Siegmund is that in the first act of Die Walküre, Siegmund gives his name as Wehwalt, just as Túrin tells the Elves of Nargothrond his name is Agarwaen "blood-stained".) Túrin further resembles Sigurd himself, as both achieve great renown for the slaying of a dragon of immense power and magic.
Túrin shares some similarities with Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné, who is also based on Kullervo. Both are anti-heroes who wield sentient black swords (both one of a pair — though this detail is not yet present in the earliest version of Túrin's story written in 1910s), unwittingly kill friends or lovers with them, and are killed by them. The first Elric stories were published before The Silmarillion, so the detail of the black sword(s) may have been conceived independently by both writers.
Tolkien was hesitant about the exact Elvish translations of names: in various texts the later Turumarth appears as Turumart, Turmarth, or Turamarth; Mormegil as Mormagli(r) or Mormael in Gnomish/Sindarin and as Mormakil in Quenya. The original form of Agarwaen "Bloodstained" was Iarwaeth, and Thurin "the Secret" supposedly originated in Thuringud "the Hidden Foe". In early texts Tolkien usually interpreted Turambar as "the Conqueror of Fate".
In the earliest outline preserved, where the tale is drafted only cursorily and with many elements missing, a reference already appears to "purification of Turambar and Vainóni [original name of Nienor] who fare shining about the world and go with the hosts of Tulkas against Melko [Morgoth]." In the finished manuscript of The Tale of Turambar and the Foalókë this is elaborated into a story that Túrin and Nienor were not at first admitted to Mandos because of their deeds; but after their parents' prayers, they were permitted to enter the "bath of flame", where the Sun replenished its light, "and so were all their sorrows washed away." A new detail is introduced, that "in the Great Wrack" Túrin would fight Morgoth's dragons with his renowned sword.
In later Tolkien's writings no reference to Nienor's fate appears, but Túrin's destiny is made even more prominent. The notion maintained for a long time was that Túrin would take part in the Last Battle fought before the End of the World, when Morgoth would return and make the final assault upon the Valar and the Children of Ilúvatar. In an early text it is "the spirit of Túrin" who came back and fought, while in the revision of the Quenta Noldorinwa carried out in 1937 the battle is described thus:
In that day Tulkas shall strive with Morgoth, and on his right hand shall be Fionwë [precursor of Eönwë], and on his left Túrin Turambar, son of Húrin, coming from the halls of Mandos; and the black sword of Túrin shall deal unto Morgoth his death and final end; and so shall the children of Húrin and all Men be avenged.
In the same text it is said that to Túrin "a place is given among the sons of the Valar"; however, both the concept of the Children of the Valar and Túrin's ranking among them were removed in later revisions. The idea that Túrin tarried in Mandos for an immeasurable time was seemingly also discarded: instead Tolkien referred to Túrin as "returning from the Doom of Men at the ending of the world;" the precise implications of this phrase are unclear. In addition, he introduced Beren Camlost as likewise returning from the dead. It was also stated at this stage that when Varda set the constellation of Menelmacar, she intended it to be "a sign of Túrin Turambar" and "a foreshowing of the Last Battle.
However, in a late note Tolkien presented an entirely different conception: Túrin had indeed remained in Mandos overlong, but only for some 50 years, not for the whole lifespan of the World. According to the prophecy of Andreth, during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age Túrin "should return from the Dead, and before he left the Circles of the World for ever should challenge the Great Dragon of Morgoth, Ancalagon the Black, and deal him the death-stroke. Thus the original idea that Túrin was to fight dragons reemerged, but it would have required of Tolkien serious revisions if he had intended to replace Eärendil with Túrin as the slayer of Ancalagon. Because of these and similar discrepancies, Christopher Tolkien decided not to include any references to the Last Battle or to Túrin's ultimate fate into the published Silmarillion.