“The doom lies in yourself, not in your name.”
After several false starts on this essay, I have decided the solution lies in what Wayne Thomas Batson would call “Chapter Mitosis”—the splitting of one section into two. This particular essay will therefore deal with Turin’s life up to his arrival at Nargothrond, while the second half, “Of Turambar,” will stretch from Nargothrond to his death.
The tale of Turin, unlike the story of Aragorn, emphasizes names that mark an incident in his life, especially tragic ones. And Turin’s life is full of tragedy.
Turin’s father, Hurin, is captured by Morgoth, the Dark Lord, in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad ("Battle of Unnumbered Tears"). When Hurin will not give Morgoth the information he demands, Morgoth sets a curse upon his bloodline.
Thus, though Turin is a great warrior and of the bloodline of great heroes, everything he does turns to ill. Whether this is the result of Morgoth's curse or Turin own headstrong recklessness is left to the reader to determine.
(Summery courtesy of Tolkien Online)
Because of the invading Eastlings, Turin’s mother Morwen sends him to Doriath, under the protection of Thingol and Melian. While Turin is still on his way, Morwen, who remained behind in Dorlómin, gives birth to Turin’s sister Nienor.
Turin lives in Doriath until age eighteen, when he asks for weapons and goes out to join the struggle against Morgoth. Three years later, he is in Doriath to repair his weapons when an Elf named Saeros taunted Turin and his family. The next day, Saeros attempts to kill Turin, but Turin overpowers him and …set him to run naked…then Saeros fleeing in terror before him fell into the chasm of a stream. In fear for his life, Turin flees Doriath and joins a band of outlaws, where he takes the name Neithan.
Neithan, the Wronged, is the first chosen name of Turin. But as the Elf Beleg says later, it “is a name unjust,” for Thingol judged Turin innocent of wrongdoing. Yet Turin refuses to return to Doriath and be pitied. Instead, he leads the band of outlaws against orcs, and later, with Beleg’s aid, claims the land as “Dor-Cuathol,” the Land of Bow and Helm. He therefore names himself “Gorthol,” the Dread Helm, in honor of the Dragonhelm his father once wore.
But as the Lay of the Children of Hurin says,
“Morgoth was a king more strong/
then all the world has since in song
And if all the Elf-Kingdoms were powerless against Morgoth, what hope would a band of outlaws have? Eventually, Turin is betrayed and his men slain, but Beleg escapes. With the aid of an Elf named Gwindor, Beleg rescues Turin from the orcs who captured him.
But as Beleg cuts Turin free, his blade pokes Turin in the foot. In the darkness of night, Turin leaps free and slays Beleg Cúthalion thinking him a foe…there came a great flash of lightening above them, and in its light he looked down on Beleg’s face.
After Turin recognizes what he’s done, he retreats into silent madness for a time, but Gwindor leads him to Nargothrond. On the way, Turin is healed of his illness by the waters of Eithel Ivrin. When Turin and Gwindor reach Nargothrond, Turin stops Gwindor from telling his name, calling himself Agarwaen son of Úmarth; the Bloodstained, son of Ill-Fate.
Agarwaen son of Úmarth. Indeed, Turin is stained with blood—Saeros, Beleg and many orcs. And his father Hurin might well be deemed Ill-fate, for Morgoth’s curse of doom lay heavy on all his kin.
Turin’s names—Neithan, Gorthol, Argarwaen—are a list of sorrows. Yet his latter names—Adanedhel, Thurin, Mormegil, and Turamber, are interwovern with worse griefs. Well does Tolkien say this is called “the Tale of Grief, for it is sorrowful.’