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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

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I get many different reactions when I talk to people about J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This surprised me because I thought the books were universally loved! I mean, this is J.R.R. Tolkien we're talking about. Who couldn't love this story with its hobbits and wizards and the One Ring to Rule Them All (my precioussss)?

Of the people who've read the books, there are two extremes. At one end are those who say that reading Tolkien is like wading upstream. It's boring and tedious, they say. I know one person who said it took years for him to finish the trilogy.

At the other end are the folks for whom Tolkien has had a significant impact. Life-changing impact for some. They live for everything Tolkien, digesting his Silmarillion and many other books full of the mythology of Middle Earth that have been published since his death.

Where do I fall along this spectrum? I'm firmly in the middle on this one. Like lots of kids, I first read the trilogy in high school. Though I liked the books very much, they didn't stir in me the desire to dig further into the mythology of Middle Earth, or to explore Tolkien's invented languages, but I've always considered the books a treasure. The story of Frodo Baggins and the fellowship never left me.

Today's readers want a quick pace; event upon event, building on each other, rapidly reaching a resolution so they can move on. In refreshing contrast, Tolkien takes his time. He lingers often and the result is a richer, more fully realized world. I love these books.

So, with a movie in the wings, it was my pleasure to listen to three audio versions of the saga:

The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King From Recorded Books, read by Rob Inglis:
The Fellowship of the Ring, unabridged, 20.5 hours
The Two Towers, unabridged, 17 hours
The Return of the King, unabridged, 15.5 hours

Here is the entire trilogy, unabridged. Rob Inglis does a masterful job reading all three volumes. His energy is maintained throughout, and it is not difficult to discern character from character as he reads. He sings the songs as well! This is simply a superb performance.

The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, A BBC Dramatization starring Ian Holm, Michael Hordern, Robert Stephens, and Peter Woodthorpe. 13 1-hour episodes.

In 13 hour-long episodes, the entire Lord of the Rings saga is played out in this BBC dramatization. The entire cast performs wonderfully -- Ian Holm does an excellent job as Frodo, and Peter Woodthorpe performs an astounding Gollum. The production is enhanced with music and sound effect. I found the whole production remarkable and will listen to it again when I get the chance. The 13 CD set is packaged beautifully, as well.

J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, Harper Collins, excerpts read by the author, 3 hours

Made in the summer of 1952, these recordings include both prose and poetry from Middle Earth, read by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. There are four cassettes in the set; the first two contain excerpts and poetry from The Hobbit and all three volumes of Lord of the Rings. The third contains Poems and Songs of Middle Earth, (poems in English and Elvish from the various books) and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The final cassette, read by Tolkien's son, Christopher, is from The Silmarillion. I enjoyed hearing Tolkien himself read his work. I also enjoyed hearing Elvish spoken aloud for the first time.

NOTES

For those in the holiday mood, try out Patrick Stewart performs Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's available from Simon and Schuster -- Stewart is brilliant in this 2-hour abridged reading of the classic Christmas fantasy.

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

Copyright © 2001 Scott Danielson

Scott discovered the world of SF audio years ago, when he spent two hours a day in his car. His commute has since shortened considerably, but his love for audio remains.


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