In The Children of Húrin by Tolkien (and edited by his son), Húrin is bound to a stone chair at a high place on Thangorodrim by Morgoth. This is to force him to watch his children — especially Túrin — do various awful things, like killing their friends, and eventually committing incest with each other and then killing themselves.

But it seems to me that the effort Morgoth expends to achieve this end is enormous; he even sends Glaurung, one of his greatest servants, to his death, so as to torment Húrin. Why does he use so much of his time and power just to torment one man, even if that one man defied him? Isn’t that just overkill? And couldn’t he use that power to a better end?

  • 2
    Morgoth: Did someone say "overkill?"
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 4:25
  • The answer to the other questions answers why this wasn't overkill perfectly. Both questions are also asking why Húrin was cursed, although this one might get into the more specific "Why so much of his resources", as per meta the specific is closed for the more general
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 6:57
  • @Edlothiad Thank you, but I don’t think it does answer it; the question was ‘why keep him alive’ and the answer in that case was ‘cruel revenge’... I want to know, ‘why cruel revenge, and why so thorough?’ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 7:01
  • You've ignored the Gondolin half of the answer, finding out where Gondolin is is a huge player, and breaking down someone enough to do so requires great investment.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 7:09
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    I linked it as a dupe as I began to answer your question, but realised I was writing a carbon copy of that answer, as it answers your question accurately. The motives for torturing Húrin were his knowledge of the Elven realms and his/his families closeness to the Elves. The reason for being so "throrough" as you put it is because of Morgoth's revenge for insulting him. Morgoth doesn't "half-ass" anything, he's hell bent on destruction and corruption, not domination. And as so invests entirely into destroying and corrupting everything he encounters. Morgoth releases him to reveal Gondolin
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


I think there are two aspects to this. First, Húrin was the mightiest human warrior of all time. Before he was captured, he slew so many of Morgoth's minions that his battle-axe "melted" under the strain. Húrin was not the greatest hero among the Secondborn; his son Túrin and Beren Erchamion certainly outrank him in accomplishments, and perhaps Tuor and others as well. Morgoth, however, by the time of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, had lost much of his subtlety. So the Great Enemy could recognize martial might, but little more, in his enemies. Having taken such a great hero as Húrin alive, Morgoth probably felt he had captured his greatest human foe; and who would be better to torment than that?

Second, and alluded to above, Morgoth's sadism toward Húrin (and likewise toward Maedhros hundreds of years before) was emblematic of how much Morgoth's goals had decayed. Mightiest of the Ainur, Melkor had originally, before the First Music, wanted to create a world according to his own design. Then he wanted to warp Arda to his will, but when this proved impossible, he was reduced to despoiling and stealing the great works of others. As this happened, his power and puissance dissipated. He lost the ability to take any form but that of "a dark lord, tall and terrible," nor could he recover from mere bodily wounds inflicted on him by Fingolfin. By the end of the Elder Days, he was reduced to pointlessly tormenting humans, so far had his powers and aspirations fallen.

  • 1
    In other words, "Because I can." Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 8:45

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