The Children of Húrin

The Children of Húrin
The Children of Húrin  
The Children of Hurin cover.jpg
Front cover illustration
Author(s) J. R. R. Tolkien;
Christopher Tolkien (ed.)
Cover artist Alan Lee
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) High Fantasy
Publisher HarperCollins in UK,
Houghton Mifflin in USA
Publication date April 16, 2007
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 320
ISBN ISBN 0618894640
ISBN 978-0618894642
OCLC Number 78790549
Dewey Decimal 823/.912 22
LC Classification PR6039.O32 N37 2007

The Children of Húrin is an epic fantasy novel which forms the completion of a tale by J. R. R. Tolkien. He wrote the original version of the story in the late 1910s, revised it several times later, but did not complete it before his death in 1973. His son, Christopher Tolkien, edited the manuscripts to form a consistent narrative, and published it in 2007 as an independent work.



The Children of Húrin was published on 17 April 2007, by HarperCollins in the United Kingdom and Canada, and by Houghton Mifflin in the United States. Alan Lee, illustrator of other fantasy works by J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) created the jacket painting, as well as the illustrations within the book. Christopher Tolkien also included an excursus on the evolution of the tale, several genealogical tables, and a redrawn map of Beleriand.

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote that the setting is intended to be our Earth several thousand years ago,[1] although the geographical and historical correspondence with the real world is tenuous. The lands of Middle-earth were populated by Men and other humanoid races: Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, as well as divine beings, Maiar and Valar. The story concentrates on a Man of the House of Hador, Túrin Turambar, and his sister Niënor Níniel, who are cursed along with their father Húrin by the Dark Lord Morgoth. The events take place more than 6,500 years before the War of the Ring.

The Children of Húrin takes the reader back to a time long before The Lord of the Rings, in an area of Middle-earth that was to be drowned before Hobbits appeared, and when the great enemy was still the fallen Vala, Morgoth, and Sauron was only Morgoth's lieutenant. This heroic romance is the tale of the Man, Húrin, who dared to defy Morgoth, and his family's tragic destiny, as it follows his son Túrin Turambar's travels through the lost world of Beleriand...

——The Tolkien Estate


The history 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.


Húrin and his brother Huor visit the hidden Elvish city of Gondolin. After a year, they swear not to reveal its location and are permitted passage to Dor-lómin. Húrin marries Morwen Eledhwen and they have two children, a son Túrin and a daughter, Lalaith. Lalaith dies almost in infancy, but Túrin grows to boyhood with a thoughtful nature. A kind woodworker in Húrin's employ, Sador becomes his first friend.

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 Húrin 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. Shortly after Túrin's unwilling departure, Morwen gives birth to a second daughter, Nienor. In Doriath, Túrin is taken as foster-son by King Thingol and becomes a mighty warrior, befriending the Elf Beleg Strongbow, and living more often with him on the marches of Doriath than in Thingol's halls. At one point during his life with Beleg on the fringes of the forest Túrin returns to Thingol's court, where his wild and unkempt appearance draws the scorn of Saeros, a proud Elf who believes that Men should be kept out of Doriath. After Saeros hurls a snide insult directed at Túrin's mother and sister, Túrin throws a dish in Saeros's face, injuring him. Saeros, angry over what happened in the hall, attacks Túrin from behind in the woods the next day. Túrin overpowers him, however, and strips him, forcing him to run naked through the woods shouting for help as Túrin pursues him. The Elf Mablung follows them, crying for Túrin to stop, but Túrin continues chasing Saeros until the terrified Elf attempts to jump a gorge too wide for him, and falls, dying in the water below. Mablung, having witnessed only the chase through the woods and not Saeros's original assault upon Túrin, believes that Saeros was humiliated without provocation and wishes to bring Túrin back to trial in Doriath. Túrin's pride restrains him from either correcting the misunderstanding or submitting to trial, and he chooses rather to leave Doriath and become an outcast.

Thingol holds an absentee trial for Túrin, and as the only evidence is that Túrin humiliated Saeros without cause, Thingol is on the verge of outlawing him from Doriath until he should choose to return and ask for pardon. Just as the King's judgment is about to be put into effect, however, Beleg rushes in late accompanied by an Elf-maid named Nellas, who witnessed Saeros's assault upon Túrin from her vantage point in a tree. With Nellas's evidence taken into account, Thingol grants Túrin a full pardon, and Beleg leaves Doriath to find Túrin and bid him to return to Doriath.

Túrin meanwhile joins a band of outlaws in the wild, the Gaurwaith or "Wolf-folk", who live by raiding and pillaging the property of the few Men left in the land. He kills one of their members by throwing a stone, then offers to take his place. Soon afterward Túrin kills the leader of the band to prevent him from killing a young woman from a nearby homestead, and the leaderless outlaws promote Túrin to the position of captain. Beleg traces the signs of Túrin's band, gathering news of Túrin from those who had seen or heard of him, but the outlaws repeatedly throw off his pursuit.

After a year in the wild he succeeds in overtaking the band at a time when Túrin is absent. Mistrusting Elves in general and having become cruel through long lives of self-centered crime, the men mistreat Beleg in an attempt to elicit any information he might possess. After being tortured by the lawless gang for several days, Beleg is on the verge of death when Túrin returns. Túrin is horrified to see his friend so maltreated by his own men, and while tending Beleg Túrin vows to forsake the evil and cruel habits he has fallen into while among the lawless men, recognizing that his band's senseless cruelty towards the innocent Beleg can be traced back to his own lax standards. When Beleg recovers, he is able to deliver to Túrin the message of the king's pardon; Túrin is torn, but in spite of Beleg's pleas refuses to humble his pride, and will not accept the pardon and return to Doriath. Beleg then departs in order to participate in battles upon the north-marches of Doriath, in spite of Túrin's request that Beleg stay by his side.

Some time later, Túrin and his men capture Mîm the Petty-dwarf, who ransoms his life by leading the band to the caves in the hill of Amon Rûdh, where the ancestral home of the Petty-dwarves is hidden. Despite the unfortunate death of Mîm's son at the hands of one of Túrin's band, Mîm grows to respect Túrin, and the outlaws set up a permanent base in the caves. In Doriath, Beleg decides against his better judgment to return to his friend, and arrives at Amon Rûdh to a loving reception from Túrin. The other outlaws resent Beleg's presence, however, and Mîm, who had earlier proclaimed his enmity towards the Elves, grows to hate him bitterly. Nevertheless everything proceeds smoothly for a while, the outlaw band gradually increases to a great number (though only the original fifty men are allowed entrance to the hidden caves of the Petty-dwarves), and becomes more daring and successful in the warfare against Morgoth's troops. At length, Túrin and Beleg even establish the realm of Dor-Cúarthol, and word spreads that Beleg and Túrin, long unheard-of, have appeared again as the captains of a great host.

However, Mîm's hatred towards Beleg eventually reaches a breaking point, and he approaches a band of Orcs with an offer to lead them to the outlaw's headquarters on Amon Rûdh, in return for the promise of monetary compensation. (A footnote explains that there is another version of the tale in which the vital information is tortured out of an unwilling and captive Mîm; but the canonical version seems more likely, considering Mîm's later conduct.) Mîm lays down several other conditions, among them the demand that after the Orcs depart from Amon Rûdh, Beleg must be left behind, helpless, to Mîm's own mercy. The Orcs agree to all of Mîm's conditions, without the intention of fulfilling any of them except for that regarding Beleg. The dwarf leads them to the hidden caves, and Túrin's company is taken unawares. They retreat to the top of Amon Rûdh to defend themselves, but the entire band are eventually killed, excepting Beleg and Túrin, whom the Orcs want alive. They bind Túrin and carry him off towards Angband, while leaving Beleg wounded and helpless, chained to a rock. Mîm approaches him after all the Orcs depart and is on the verge of torturing the Elf to death, when Andróg, one of the outlaws, who is wounded and had appeared dead, rouses himself enough to drive Mîm away and release Beleg before succumbing to his wounds. Beleg remains in Amon Rûdh until his own wounds are healed, and then, knowing that Túrin is not among the dead and must have been taken captive, follows the company of Orcs.

In pursuit of the Orcs, Beleg comes across a mutilated elf, Gwindor of Nargothrond sleeping in a forest. Gwindor had been an Elvish lord before being taken captive and forced to serve in Angband for many years, and Beleg remains with him. They see the Orc company pass by, and entering their camp that night find Túrin sleeping, and carry him away from the Orcs. When at a safe distance they stop, and Beleg begins to cut Túrin's bonds with his sword Gurthang, which Beleg had been warned was an evil blade which would not stay with him long. The sword slips in his hand and Túrin is cut; and Túrin, mistaking Beleg in the dark for an Orc who had come to torture him, leaps to his feet and kills Beleg with his own sword. When Túrin sees Beleg's face in a flash of lightning and realizes what he has done, he falls into a kind of frenzy, not speaking or weeping, but refusing to leave Beleg's body. In the morning Gwindor is able to bury Beleg, but Túrin remains crazed and witless with grief.

Gwindor leads Túrin through the wild for months, and Túrin remains in a fixed state of grief and guilt, not speaking, but doing only what Gwindor bids him. At length, however, the two reach Eithel Ivrin, where Túrin finally weeps for Beleg, and is healed. Having regained his senses, he and Gwindor proceed to Nargothrond, where Gwindor lived before his long imprisonment in Angband. There Túrin gains favour with King Orodreth and earns the love of his daughter Finduilas, although she was previously engaged to be married to Gwindor, and Túrin does not reciprocate her romantic feelings. After leading the Elves to considerable victories, Túrin becomes the chief counsellor of Orodreth and effectively commander of all the forces in Nargothrond. This fuels Túrin's pride, and he begins giving extravagant orders which are arrogant and ill-thought-out, and eventually hasten the doom of Nargothrond.

Messengers sent from Círdan warn Túrin to hide Nargothrond from Morgoth, but Túrin refused to retract his rash and prideful plans for full-scale battle, and treats the messengers rudely. However, after five years Morgoth sends a great force of Orcs under the command of a dragon, Glaurung, and defeats the army of Nargothrond on the field of Tumhalad, where both Gwindor and Orodreth are killed. Easily crossing over a great bridge which Túrin had had built against all counsel, Morgoth's forces sack Nargothrond and capture its citizens while its forces are engaged on the field of battle. Túrin returns just before the prisoners are led away by the Orcs, and in an attempt to prevent this, Túrin encounters Glaurung. The dragon, wielding the evil power of Morgoth, enchants and tricks him into returning to Dor-lómin to seek out his mother and sister instead of rescuing Finduilas and other prisoners, which, according to the last words of Gwindor, is the only way to avoid his doom.

When Túrin returns to Dor-lómin, he learns that Morwen and Nienor have long been sheltered in Doriath, and that Glaurung deceived him into letting Finduilas go to her death. An enraged Túrin incites a fight among the Easterlings who now inhabit Dor-lómin and is compelled to flee once more. He tracks Finduilas's captors to the forest of Brethil, only to learn that she was murdered by the Orcs when the woodmen attempted to rescue the Elvish prisoners. Almost broken by his grief, Túrin seeks sanctuary among the Folk of Haleth, who maintain a tenacious resistance against the forces of Morgoth. In Brethil Túrin renames himself Turambar, or "Master of Doom" in High-elven, and gradually overrules the gentle, lame Chieftain Brandir.

Meanwhile, in Doriath, Morwen and Nienor hear rumours of Túrin's deeds at Nargothrond, and Morwen determines either to find Túrin living or hear certain news of his death. Against the council of Thingol she rides out of Doriath alone, and when the king sends a group of Elves to follow and protect her, Nienor conceals herself among the riders and rejoins her mother. Mablung, leading the group, does not wish to proceed with Morwen's mission, but feels compelled to protect her and Nienor. When they approach Nargothrond, Mablung leaves Morwen and Nienor with a group of riders, and takes the rest to explore the ruins of Nargothrond in the hopes of finding information about the fall of the city and of Túrin's fate. There they encounter Glaurung, who has established himself in the ruins of Nargothrond, and he scatters Mablung's force before proceeding to the hill on which the women and Elves are waiting. His coming drives all of horses mad, and in the frenzy Nienor is separated from all the others. When she regains the hilltop alone, she comes face-to face with Glaurung, who, upon discovering her identity, enchants her so that everything she knows is lost, and her mind is made blank.

When Mablung returns to the hill alone, also separated from his company, he finds her waiting on the hill like a lost child, and is forced to attempt the long journey back to Doriath on foot, leading Nienor by the hand. The two of them become stranded in the wilderness, and only the arrival of a few of the other Elves from the scattered group prevents them from starving to death. The few Elves continue their long journey to Doriath, but in an affray with a band of Orcs Nienor runs into the woods and is lost. Eventually she collapses near Brethil on the grave of Finduilas, where Túrin finds her and brings her back to the town. There she gradually recovers the use of speech, although she has no memory of any past life. Brandir falls in love with her, but though she feels a sisterly affection for him, she and Túrin develop a strong mutual attraction; Túrin has never seen her, and she remembers nothing of what she once knew about her brother, and not realizing their kinship, they fall in love. Despite the counsel of Brandir, they soon marry, and Nienor becomes pregnant.

After some time of peace, Glaurung comes to exterminate the Men of Brethil. But Turambar leads a perilous expedition to cut him off, and stabs the dragon from beneath while he is crossing the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras. Meanwhile, Nienor and several other of the people of Brethil leave the safety of the town and, wishing to know what transpired between the men and the dragon, join the scouts waiting for Turambar's return on a hill a short distance from where the dragon was stabbed. As Glaurung is dying on the bank of the ravine, Turambar, who is now alone, pulls his sword from the dragon's belly, and the venomous blood spurts onto his hand and burns him. Overwhelmed with pain and fatigue, he faints. Nienor eventually comes to the place of the battle, followed by Brandir hobbling on his crutch. She takes Turambar's swoon for death and weeps over him, as with a last effort of malice Glaurung opens his eyes, and informs her of the fact that she and her husband are in reality brother and sister, taunting her with her incestuous pregnancy. Glaurung then dies, and his spell of forgetfulness passes from her, and she remembers her entire life. Forced to acknowledge that the dragon's words were true, she throws herself off the nearby cliff into the river Taeglin, and is washed away, as Brandir watches helplessly. When Turambar wakes and returns to the hill where the scouts are waiting, Brandir bitterly informs him of Nienor's death and of hers and Turambar's true relationship as siblings, concerning which he overheard the dragon's words. Believing that Brandir has concocted the story as a lie stemming from jealousy of Nienor's love for Túrin, Túrin kills Brandir, who declares before dying his hope that he will rejoin Nienor across the sea, which only further infuriates Túrin. However, running crazed into the wild, Túrin meets Mablung, who has been seeking Nienor for years; as well as Morwen, who was never found after Glaurung's scattering of the Elvish company. Mablung, without knowing anything that has transpired since Nienor was lost in the woods, innocently confirms Brandir's tale. After Túrin has learned all the terrible truth from Mablung, he returns to the place where Nienor threw herself from the cliff, and takes his own life upon the sword, Gurthang, which killed Beleg so many years before.

The main part of the narrative ends with the burial of Túrin. Appended to this is an extract from The Wanderings of Húrin, the next tale of Tolkien's legendarium. This recounts how Húrin is at last released by Morgoth and comes to the grave of his children. There he finds Morwen, who has also managed to find the place, but now dies in the arms of her husband with the following sunset.

Concept and creation


Túrin's resemblance to figures from Classical and Medieval tales can be confirmed by a letter which Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman, a publisher from HarperCollins, concerning the fate of his works:

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.[2]

The story is mainly based on the legend of Kullervo, a character from the Finnish folklore poems known as Kalevala. Túrin also resembles Sigmund, the father of Sigurd in the Volsunga saga, in the incestuous relationship he had 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. Túrin further resembles Sigurd himself, as both achieve great renown for the slaying of a dragon of immense power and magic.


A brief version of the story formed the base of chapter XXI of The Silmarillion, setting the tale in the context of the wars of Beleriand. Although based on the same texts used to complete the new book, the Silmarillion account leaves out the greater part of the tale. The Silmarillion also includes the essay Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, which tells the story of The Lord of the Rings in a much-compressed form and from an Elvish point of view, which could serve as a basis for comparison.

Other incomplete versions have been published in other works:

None of these writings forms a complete and mature narrative. The published Children of Húrin is a synthesis of these sources, and other texts not previously published.

Editorial Process

With the publication of The Children of Húrin, Christopher Tolkien quotes his father's own words on his fictional universe:

"once upon a time... I had in mind to make a body of more or less connected legend... I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched."[3]

Christopher Tolkien gives this apology for his exercise of his authorized editorial function to produce this work of his father:

" has seemed to me that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of the Children of Húrin as an independent work, between its own covers, with a minimum of editorial presence, and above all in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions, if this could be done without distortion or invention, despite the unfinished state in which he left parts of it."[4]

Ethan Gilsdorf reviewing The Children of Húrin wrote of the editorial function:

"Of almost equal interest is Christopher Tolkien's task editing his father's abandoned projects. In his appendix, he explains his editorial process this way: "While I have had to introduce bridging passages here and there in the piecing together of different drafts, there is no element of extraneous 'invention' of any kind, however slight." He was criticized for having monkeyed with his father's text when putting "The Silmarillion" together. This pre-emptive strike must be meant to allay the fears of Tolkien's most persnickety readers."[5]


The initial reviews following the publication of The Children of Húrin were mostly positive. Likening it to a Greek tragedy, The Washington Post called it "a bleak, darkly beautiful tale" which "possesses the mythic resonance and grim sense of inexorable fate".[6] A positive review was carried by The Independent (UK) ("dry, mad, humourless, hard-going and completely brilliant").[7] Bryan Appleyard of The Sunday Times (UK) set The Children of Húrin above other writings of Tolkien, noting its "intense and very grown-up manner" and "a real feeling of high seriousness".[8] Maurice Chittenden of The Sunday Times, said that "it may merit an X-certificate" due to the amount of violent deaths.[9]

The book received negative reviews from the Detroit Free Press ("dull and unfinished"),[10] Entertainment Weekly ("awkward and immature", "impenetrable forest of names ... overstuffed with strangled syntax"),[11] and The Guardian ("a derivative Wagnerian hero ... on a quasi-symbolic quest").[12]

Other critics distinguished two audiences. Tom Deveson of The Sunday Times said that "although J.R.R Tolkien aficionados will be thrilled, others will find The Children of Hurin barely readable".[13] Kelly Grovier from The Observer, on the other hand, stated that it "will please all but the most puritanical of his fans", referring to the scepticism about Christopher Tolkien's involvement.[14] Jeremy Marshall of The Times generally echoed: "It is worthy of a readership beyond Tolkien devotees," although he thought it was flawed ("occasionally the prose is too stilted, the dialogue too portentous, the unexplained names too opaque"). He also presupposed that: "In The Children of Húrin we could at last have the successor to The Lord of the Rings that was so earnestly and hopelessly sought by Tolkien’s publishers in the late 1950s."[15]


The Children of Húrin debuted at number one on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list.[16]

According to Houghton Mifflin, the U.S. publisher, already 900,000 copies were in print worldwide in the first two weeks, double the initial expectations of the publishers.[17] HarperCollins, the U.K. publisher, claimed 330,000 copies were in print in the U.K. in the first two weeks.[17]


  1. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #211, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  2. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #131, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 
  3. ^ J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, The Children of Húrin, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2007. ISBN 0618894640, p.9
  4. ^ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, editor, The Children of Húrin, p.7
  5. ^ The Boston Globe Book Review of The Children of Húrin by Ethan Gilsdorf, April 26, 2007.
  6. ^ Hand, Elizabeth (2007-04-27). "The Return of the King". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  7. ^ Boyce, Frank Cottrell (2007-04-18). "Spreading the elfish gene". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2007-05-20. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  8. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (2007-04-08). "What took them so long?". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  9. ^ Chittenden, Maurice (2006-09-24). "X-rated Tolkien: it's not for the kiddies". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  10. ^ Salij, Marta (2007-04-18). "Just kick the hobbit and don't suffer 'The Children of Hurin'". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  11. ^ Giles, Jeff (2007-04-17). "The Children of Húrin". Entertainment Weekly.,,20035310,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  12. ^ Crace, John (2007-04-24). "The Children of Húrin by JRR Tolkien". The Guardian.,,2064264,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  13. ^ Deveson, Tom (2007-04-15). "Away with the fairies". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  14. ^ Grovier, Kelly (2007-04-27). "In the name of the father". The Observer.,,2067804,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  15. ^ Marshall, Jeremy (2007-04-14). "Tolkien, before Bilbo". The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  16. ^ "The New York Times: Books-Best-Seller Lists". The New York Times. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  17. ^ a b Italie, Hillel (2007-05-01). "Sales soar for new Tolkien novel". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 

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