The history, origins and descent of the main characters are given as the leading paragraphs of the book, and the back story is elaborated upon in The Silmarillion. It begins five hundred years before the action of the book, when Morgoth, a Vala and the prime evil power, escapes from the Blessed Realm of Valinor to the north-west of Middle-earth. From his fortress of Angband he endeavours to gain control of the whole of Middle-earth, unleashing a war with the Elves that dwell in the land of Beleriand to the south.
However, the Elves manage to stay his assault, and most of their realms remain unconquered; one of the most powerful of these is Doriath, ruled by Thingol. In addition, after some time the Noldorin Elves forsake Valinor and pursue Morgoth to Middle-earth in order to take vengeance upon him. Together with the Sindar of Beleriand, they proceed to lay siege to Angband, and establish new strongholds and realms in Middle-earth, including Hithlum ruled by Fingon, Nargothrond by Finrod Felagund and Gondolin by Turgon.
Three centuries pass, during which the first Men appear in Beleriand. These are the Edain, descendants of those Men who have rebelled against the rule of Morgoth's servants and journeyed westward. Most of the Elves welcome them, and they are given fiefs throughout Beleriand. The House of Bëor rules over the land of Ladros, the Folk of Haleth retreat to the forest of Brethil, and the lordship of Dor-lómin is granted to the House of Hador. Later, other Men enter Beleriand, the Easterlings, many of whom are in secret league with Morgoth.
Eventually Morgoth manages to break the Siege of Angband in the Battle of Sudden Flame. The House of Bëor is destroyed and the Elves and Edain suffer heavy losses; however, many realms remain unconquered, including Dor-lómin, where the lordship has passed to Húrin Thalion.
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 and there his emotional journey begins.
This is the story of the tragic hero Tùrin and his tragic deeds…
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