Adrianna's Reviews > The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Mar 08, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: audio, classic, fantasy
Recommended to Adrianna by: Ventura County Library Staff, Ventura, CA
Recommended for: Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, Fans of radio dramas
Read from January 05 to February 20, 2012 , read count: 1

I was really excited when I discovered this BBC audio dramatization of Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was highly recommended by a staff member at the Ventura County Library in Ventura, California. Even though sections from the original books had been cut and altered for the dramatization, she said that it was an experience that any Tolkien fan would enjoy.

The box and the CDs are beautiful! They have images, maps, and other useful information about the trilogy and author on each case. On the back of the box it reads:

This stunning dramatized BBC production of Tolkien's classic is presented in thirteen hours on thirteen compact discs. Starring Ian Holm and featuring a cast of 25 performers, specially composed music and sound effects, this beautifully packaged boxed set is a perfect gift for every Tolkien fan.

This introduction and every colorful display on the CD cases kept my excitement high as I listened through the entire series with my husband during our long car rides. It didn't take long to breeze through the discs.

One aspect that made the experience less enjoyable was the fact that the library copy contained badly scratched CDs. Often, the car player wouldn't recognize that there was a CD in it, and we would spend countless minutes cleaning them until they could be played. Ventura library should invest in a DVD doctor or a similar device. Since this collection is so popular, they need to maintain the quality of the discs.

I enjoyed the dramatic presentation more than my husband, who kept comparing it to Peter Jackson's films. In all honesty, this audio book cannot compare to the films. Thus, it's really important not to expect a similar Hollywood/movie experience. Otherwise, you will not enjoy the dramatization. I kept thinking about radio dramas and radio shows. That constant reminder made it easier to get wrapped up in an auditory experience where my imagination roamed free.

All the actors in the production were amazing! I especially liked Frodo, played by Ian Holm, and Sam, played by William Nighy. My least favorite actor was Peter Woodthorpe, who played Gollum. The problem wasn't the actor, per say, but the way that Gollum was presented to the listener. The character mumbles a lot, screams, and makes other random noises that make it difficult to determine what is happening in the audio drama. Too much sound can be a detriment, and that was the case with Gollum. We paused the production numerous times to ask each other questions about what was going on with Gollum. These moments happened at important points in the story too, which was unfortunate. For example, at the end of the book, the characters are on Mt. Doom. Gollum's actions during this section was very confusing! Luckily, we knew what was going to happen because of the films. Gollum's actions and speech were equally unclear. In order to understand what Gollum was saying, we had to go back to previous tracks and put the volume up really loud to understand his mumbling.

The sound effects were spectacular! I really felt drawn into the story, as if I was on the journey with Frodo. The music, however, was hit or miss. Most of the songs weren't as good as we had hoped, especially compared to the epic score from Jackson's films. We both agreed that Sam's singing was the best; he also had the best lyrics for his songs. There was one song that was sung by a single young boy that was really moving. The music at the end was decent too. My favorite score was the one they played when introducing and ending each disc, which is probably why they reused it so often.

As I haven't read the original books in a long time, I can't comment on how authentic the dramatization was in comparison nor indicate where the sections were altered and cut. My husband did complain that there wasn't enough narration and that there was too much character dialog. From what I know about radio dramas, this is often the case. The listener wants to hear the voices of the characters rather than being read a story. However, more narration would have made it easier to understand what the characters were doing. Unfortunately, they mainly used the narrative sections as an opportunity to transition segments of the story and to show the progression of time rather than as a tool for telling the story.

The breakdown of the CDs compared to the original books is as follows:

CDs 1-6: The Fellowship of the Ring

CDs 7-9: The Two Towers

CDs 10-13: The Return of the King

The division was perfect, and our favorite section was the fist book, CDs 1-6. The end felt drawn out, but this is also how I felt when I read the books. So, I wasn't as surprised as my husband.

When it comes down to it, there are a lot of reasons to listen to this audio book. First, from what I have read, it is the best radio drama on Tolkien's infamous trilogy. The drama provides another way to experience the books; this one was produced in 1999. Peter Jackson's first film wouldn't be made until 2001. Second, the actors did a stupendous job! Ian Holm is the star, as he received top billing, but every voice actor provided a new, dynamic element to the dramatization. Third, the music. Even though it's hit or miss, some of the songs were moving (absolutely loved Sam's song about The Shire). Finally, how can you not want another production of Tolkien's trilogy, especially with one as artfully created as this was? The production received numerous awards, such as the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (2009) and The Big Read, BBC (2003). These awards were not given to a sub-par production!

Even with all this praise, there are still some cons to consider before you listen to the audio dramatization. First, make sure you have high quality CDs! Our low quality discs really soured our listening experience. Plus, it was just plain frustrating having to stop the CDs so often in order to clean them. Second, be forewarned that some of the actors might be difficult to understand. For us, it was Gollum. However, there are other characters that might be difficult to hear or understand with all the dramatic special effects and music. Third, it's not an unabridged version. If you are a stickler for unabridged reading experiences, you will not enjoy this rendition. Lastly, if you are not a fan of Tolkien or fantasy novels, I recommend viewing Jackson's films over listening to this audio book. There are places where the history of Middle Earth will cause the drama to lull. A lot of these moments are not included in Hollywood's rendition.

Overall, I am happy that I took the time to listen to this book, and I would listen to it again if I owned a copy of it. In fact, I wonder how better my experience would be if I had an undamaged set (Perhaps some of the audio sections would be easier to understand too). I would love to own this as part of my literary collection. Unfortunately, I don't think my husband was as thrilled or that he would listen to it again with me. It's definitely not for everyone.
2 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Lord of the Rings.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

02/03 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by James (new)

James Great review! You are right, tnere is not supposed to be a lot of narrator in an audio drama. That's how they did it back in the radio days of the 40s and 50s. I have read the trilogy and the Hobbit at least three times so I think I would like this. Sounds like you were having more problems with the quality of the CDs. Excellent, detailed review.

message 2: by Adrianna (last edited Mar 11, 2012 05:14AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Adrianna James wrote: "Great review! You are right, there is not supposed to be a lot of narrator in an audio drama..."

That's what I tried to tell Jason as well, but he wanted the experience to be more about the story and less about the character dialog/acting. I could understand his frustrations. There were a lot of details glossed over in lieu of the interactions between characters.

I definitely recommend this collection! You could listen to it the next time you go on a long trip.

Yeah, the quality of the CDs lowered the rating by purely because it affected the quality of our experience. If things had gone more smoothly, I probably would have rated the audio drama a +4. Even with all the difficulty, it was a lot of fun to listen to!

Michael Caught this when it first went out on the radio 30 or so years ago in the 1980s. Really adored it. It was in half hour episodes then. I kept wearing the tapes I made out. Had to beg borrow and steal new copies from college friends. And I used the tapes ruthlessly to hook my younger sister on Tolkien. She used to freak folk out by doing Peter Woodthorpe impressions at random.
Glad I have the CDs now. Think they got re-released in 1999 to cash in on the Peter Jackson buzz that was building up.

Adrianna Michael wrote: "Caught this when it first went out on the radio 30 or so years ago in the 1980s. Really adored it. It was in half hour episodes then. I kept wearing the tapes I made out..."

I bet this was an exciting experience when it was first released on radio. I wish my copy had been better. I'm thinking about asking for it as a Christmas gift, so that I can experience the magic again. I still prefer the books, though, but this is a great way to get someone interested in Tolkien's writings!

Thanks for reading and liking my review, Michael!

message 5: by Thea (new)

Thea Marlowe I have not heard this before, and just by reading the reviews I'm slightly confused. Is this not just someone reading the books? Is there a difference between this and reading it by ones' self (aside from the technical aspect of not physically reading it)? As a side note, I completely recommend the audio version of LOTR that is narrated by Rob Ingles

message 6: by James (new)

James Thea wrote: "I have not heard this before, and just by reading the reviews I'm slightly confused. Is this not just someone reading the books? Is there a difference between this and reading it by ones' self (asi..."

An audio dramatization is different than just someone reading the books. You have actors, sound effects, etc. I haven't heard this set, but I have heard a lot of this type of thing. It's similar to the old radio days from the '40s and '50s, clearly a lost art.

Check Galaxy Press for some amazing audio books. For LOTR, probably Amazon.

back to top