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Old 02-09-2008, 10:57 AM   #1
davem
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Microphones in Middle-earth...the BBC Lord of the Rings


So...Mithalwen & I have decided that the BBC Radio series of Lord of the Rings deserved its own thread, & that we would take an Episode by Episode approach, along the lines of the Chapter by Chapter read through & the Scene by Scene watch through (or whatever the term is).

The plan is to start soon - I'm putting something together to post on here tomorrow (hopefully), setting things up, giving a few bits of background info on how the series came to be made & why its the best adaptation of the book ever......

But as a starter, here are a few links which those unfamiliar with the series may find of interest.

Wikipedia entry on the series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lor...adio_series%29). Very good overview.

A very good & informative review by Elen Brundige http://www.istad.org/tolkien/sibley.html

And Wellinghall - http://www.tolkienradio.com/ - a site dedicated to the series, containing pictures of the cast, a full transcript of each episode, sound clips, etc.

All welcome. Hopefully we'll get enough interest to make this worthwhile.

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Old 02-09-2008, 11:18 AM   #2
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Wow!
Great stuff, davem!
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Old 02-10-2008, 06:08 AM   #3
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And so to begin... Episode 1: The Shadow of the Past

This is by way of an introduction to the series, with some comments on Episode One. Feel free to jump in with any thoughts of your own....

(Some of this is taken from the booklet which accompanies the CD set, some is bits & pieces of trivia picked up over the years, but most from a recording I've heard of an event to launch the series at the Church House Bookshop, on March 5th 1981. Present were Brian Sibley & Michael Bakewell (the adaptors), Penny Leicester (one of the Directors), Stephen Oliver (the composer) & Peter Woodthorpe & David Collings (who played Gollum & Legolas).

The BBC adaptation of LotR was the most expensive radio production the BBC had made up to that time. It cost something around £100,000, & the cast & crew had the luxury of spending between one & a half & two days per episode.

The BBC had decided on 26 half hour episodes (ie six months worth) which would be broadcast on Sunday lunchtimes & repeated on Wednesday nights. It was later edited & re-broadcast as 13 hour long episodes, & that's the form in which its now generally available on CD. Of course, the adaptors, Brian Sibley & Michael Bakewell, soon realised this would not be enough time to encompass the whole story, & that cuts would have to be made. Bombadil went. In the main, though, the cuts were small - but Sibley notes that there were many such 'small' cuts. All the scripts were sent to Christopher Tolkien in France for approval, & he kindly provided a tape of pronunciations & was available to answer any question sent to him. One cut that Sibley was pressed to make, but refused to do, was the Scouring of the Shire - its cut down in this adaptation, but its there. Sibley felt that Tolkien had put the Battle of Bywater in for a reason - that it had to be shown that the great events of the War of the Ring had to be echoed in the Shire - blood had to be spilled there too.

They managed to attract some big name theatre actors - Michael Hordern (Gandalf), Robert Stephens (Aragorn), Ian Holm (Frodo) - because theatre actors like radio drama: they can earn money in the studio during the day, & still tread the boards at night.

Sibley & Bakewell realised fairly soon that they would need a narrator, but what kind of narrator was the question. Should it be 'Tolkien', or an 'abstract voice'? Or maybe one of the characters? They decided against the latter (among other reasons because that would give away to anyone not familiar with the story whether that particular character survived or not!) & in the end went for a narrator somewhere between Tolkien & an abstract voice, but one who would be involved, & 'feel along' with the characters, & 'be involved' in the story.

Of course, radio drama by its nature imposes a problem on adaptors - if you don't hear a character speak you don't know they're there - as Bakewell put it, you may not notice if a character in a book doesn't speak for 100 pages, but in a half hour radio episode you have to have each character say something at least once.
The other problem is that you need to have someone ask questions to move the plot along. Bakewell says he usually chose Pippin. This lead Christopher to ask Bakewell 'Why is Pippin so stupid?'

New things were added as well as cut - a whole section from Unfinished Tales was added in - as was a scene in the first episode, where Sam brings some post to Bag End to save the postman another journey. Sibley commented that Christopher would be quite critical of such changes, but that he was also very supportive of their difficulties.

Another problem they had was in finding a way in to the story. They couldn't dramatise the Prologue & make it work. Sibley originally went for something along the lines of the Bakshi movie, giving an over view of the history of the Ring, but neither he, Michael Bakewell, or the Producer, Jane Morgan, were happy with the result. Then Morgan suggested that they begin with Gollum. Sibley wassn't sure, but tried putting something together & eventually came up with the beginning we have - a brief statement about how the Ring was made & lost, & how Sauron was defeated, & then straight to Gollum's capture & torture by the Mouth of Sauron.

Another problem they had was Sauron. Bakewell decided Sauron should not appear directly in the drama & his presence only be felt through the other characters. He felt that no other character in the story is 'absolutely evil' but only instruments of evil, & that absolute evil must be kept at a remove if it was to be credible.

And battles- on radio! As Bakewell noted they tend to sound like (in his words) 'Cloink-ouch-boink!'. Their solution was to use a mixture of words, music & stylised effects to create a mood & give the production 'its own sound'.

The music was by Stephen Oliver (Morgan had originally wanted Sir Malcolm Arnold). Oliver decided that he didn't want anything that sounded 'too grand', as most of the audience would be listening to it on small radios. He chose to use almost exclusively Violas & Cellos (the only real exception being Boromir's horn). Oliver commented that he found Tolkien's lyrics 'poor' - except for the alliterative verse, which he thought brilliant. The approach he took to setting them to music was quite practical - if it was a walking song he would use a walking rhythm' dum-dum-dum.

Peter Wodthorpe's (also Bakshi's Gollum) take on Gollum is interesting, & different to the one Andy Serkis took. For Woodthorpe, by the time Gollum loses the ring he is 'half animal' (as opposed to Serkis' 'addict'). You'll also notice that Woodthorpe's Gollum is never a 'tragic' figure as he is in the movie when he is a nice little Hobbit, suddenly overwhelmed by the power of the Ring. Here, he is Tolkien's 'mean little soul' - he wants the Ring when he sees it & simply throttles Deagol for it. Woodthorpe commented that this was central to his portrayal - Gollum was 'degraded & defeated' but he was also this 'half-animal'.

One thing you may notice in this production is the way Sibley & Bakewell avoid a fault that Shippey pointed out about the movie - that the audience already knows from the start that Bilbo's ring is the One Ring, so that it is not a shock to the audience when Gandalf discovers it. In this adaptation all we are told is

Quote:
Three rings they hid from him. But the others he gathered into his hands, hoping to make himself master of all things. Then was an alliance made against the Dark Lord, and Sauron was, for that time, vanquished. But at length, his dark shadow stretched forth once more, and he sought again for mastery over the Rings of Power.

One ring had come into the possession of Gollum, a slimy creature as dark as darkness, who kept it secret unto himself in the nether-most depths of the mines beneath the Misty Mountains. There it was hidden, even from the searching eye of Sauron, the Lord of the Rings.
We're told that one of the rings comes into the possession of Gollum, but not which one. We find that out when Frodo does (and for those of you who are interested, the sound effect used for the Ring in this production was made by running a wet finger around the rim of a wineglass).

So, to episode one. Your thoughts? Did it work well as an adaptation? Did it capture the spirit of the book? Did you feel you were in Middle-earth?
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Old 02-10-2008, 07:27 AM   #4
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The odd thing about listening to a radio adaptation is how you get drawn in completely. At first you fidget, wondering where the pictures and/or words are, but after a few minutes you are absorbed in it. You have to concentrate. What this makes me think of is how blind readers who use reading software like Jaws remember details in books so well - all their powers of concentration are bent on one source or sense alone. In fact my old boss who is blind much prefers the radio version to the films as in his words, the films are "just a lot of noise" but the radio version is vivid and clear.

That's the first thing you notice, how clear it all is. If I say "see" when it ought to be "hear', just ignore that, I really do "see" it. The medium demands that speech is well-delivered, that characters have distinctive voices, that any extraneous nonsense is cut away. An odd thing, considering how lush and layered Tolkien's work is. In this format, it's really Northern, like a saga being read to you in front of the fire. Lovely.

Nothing is lost of the magic and grandeur though. In this episode you get to see something that was sorely missed from the films, when Saruman reveals himself as Saruman of Many Colours - it's great. Nor is a lot lost of the detail. You also find yourself listening to Sam cutting the garden in the background. And the clatter of the tobacco jar.

My only disappointment with the first episode is that there just isn't enough of the Long Expected Party. Although Frodo is much better - he isn't the permanently bewildered child he seemed to be in the films; he's clearly a bit impish, as Gandalf challenges him over not fiddling with the fireworks, but he's also the correct age and sounds it, too.

And how creepy does Gollum sound? And a little Welsh too?
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Old 02-10-2008, 07:55 AM   #5
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I'm listening to the BBC radio adaptation for the first time now. I thought about buying the CDs some time ago, but it was simply too expensive (would have to be imported). I didn't know it's available on Youtube. I'll try to listen to it and enjoy it on its own - without making too many comparisons to the movies. It probably won't be easy.

Of course it is easier for a radio play to transport oneself to Middle-earth since you can enjoy your own images. To someone who has read the books, the fact that it's more restricted than a movie ironically makes it more effective. But I wonder how it works for people who haven't read the books: Are they able to create those images on their own only from listening? Do we have anybody here who was introduced to Middle-earth by the play? That would be interesting to hear more about.
I think it's interesting to observe that on the third, visual, dimension the movies did very well, while on the first two dimensions, acting and writing, it had its highs and lows. So far, the radio adaptation is very well-written and -acted, at least in my opinion.

The beginning was interesting. I didn't expect it to start with Gollum entering Mordor. But it was very effective in capturing the listener's attention while presenting important facts. I thought Gollum's voice was too deep, but maybe I've become too influenced by Serkis' Gollum. I don't think I like the idea of Gollum being a "half-animal". By what I've heard of him yet, I wouldn't have gotten the idea. (an aside: I didn't like the "addict" too much either - it made it too easy to pity him.) I'll reserve my judgement until I have heard more of him in the later episodes.

I, too, liked it that the dialogue between Gandalf and Saruman was closer to like it is in the book, but I would have wished for a little more suspense. It's clear from the beginning that Saruman is not on Gandalf's side and it is clear that Gandalf won't accept his offers. What is left is very nice and atmospherically dense, but regrettably unsurprising dialogue.

I also think that the Sackville-Bagginses are much nicer integrated than they were in the Jackson movies, but that's a minor thing.
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Old 02-10-2008, 08:40 AM   #6
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If its easier for anybody, for quotes & help in remembering what happened, a transcript of the entire episode is here: http://www.tolkienradio.com/shadow.html.

I did like the way we were first taken into the Ivy Bush to meet the Hobbits over beer & pipes. We first encounter 'typical' Hobbits, rather than the atypical ones - Bilbo & Frodo. When we do meet them, in the next scene (which, as I noted, has been invented in part in order to introduce Sam into the story, but mainly so that Bilbo & Frodo will have a scene together at the start), things have been set up well - the atmosphere is quiet & domesticated, but the underlying mystery about Bilbo has been captured perfectly.

I think most listeners who are familiar with the book will also have noticed that John Le Mesurier get's Bilbo's 'half as well as you deserve' line wrong!

I think what i liked most about this production was the way they used so much of Tolkien's words - both dialogue & description in the narration. It roots the adaptation so much more deeply in Tolkien's world. And even a little thing - like having Gandalf & Frodo discussing the Ring on a fine, bright morning (as opposed to the movie, where it happens at night) - makes you feel you're in the right Middle-earth. Of course, this the other advantage of a production that is so dependent on words - you can convey so much more information to the listener:

Quote:
Gandalf: He doesn't grow, or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end permanently invisible, and walks in twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings.
Explains far better & much more clearly the effect of the Ring on a bearer than all the rushing about & histrionics we saw in the movie. All in all, its a very good effort at setting up the story, the listener will know far more about the world of Middle-earth than they would at this point in the movie - even though it takes about the same amount of time to get to the same point - & this is something else I've heard - that Jackson didn't have as much time to tell the story as the adaptors of this production did. That's simply not the case - this is a thirteen hour production, & if you take the SEE editions of the Jackson trilogy they total about the same amount of time.
Finally the climax is a perfect cliff-hanger - we get to see the capture & imprisonment of Gandalf as it happened, rather than in flashback at the Council. Once again, the advantage of an adaptation dependent on words rather than images means that we learn much more about the characters of both Gandalf & Saruman. It may not be clear as yet, but Peter Howell's Saruman is a very accomplished piece of acting - the way he flips between the charming, solicitous counsellor & the vicious, self-righteous traitor in the Voice of Saruman episode is perfect.
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:23 PM   #7
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Many thanks to Davem for bringing this long held aspiration in to the world - or at least the Downs! I hope to make a proper contribution tomorrow when I have a little more time. I dont' know how many participants we will get but, at least, I hope it will bring some understanding to those who wonder what we are on about when we get misty-eyed about this production.

It isn't perfect - some of the sound effects are a bit ropey - I always think Gollumis being tortured with an empty stapler and later Legolas' bow string will have a very rubber band-like sound - but it has a great many strengths and I have listened to it often since I bought the tapes 6 years ago. I had the tape of the music from when I heard it on the radio in the 80's but wore it out!!!
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:37 PM   #8
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Haha I've lost one, one! tape from this and I am completely gutted. It was my favourite (probably that's why I lost it) cause I used to take it out on its own. Cause it had Sam's singing that brilliant version of The Fall of Gilgalad. If anyone has a linky to that I'll be eternally grateful.
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Old 02-10-2008, 12:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mithalwen View Post

It isn't perfect - some of the sound effects are a bit ropey - I always think Gollumis being tortured with an empty stapler and later Legolas' bow string will have a very rubber band-like sound !
They are. And yet it doesn't matter. I think that you get so drawn into the drama that it hardly registers on you that the effects aren't quite convincing. In a production like this the effects aren't as 'in your face' (in your ears?) as in the movie, as long as you get the idea they've served their purpose. That said, apparently they spent a good deal of time & effort on them.

As an aside I'll just point out that one of the things I'm grateful to this series for is that I can now recall whole chunks of Tolkien's dialogue, because I've heard this so many times & they took so much straight off the page.
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Old 02-10-2008, 08:35 PM   #10
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They are. And yet it doesn't matter. I think that you get so drawn into the drama that it hardly registers on you that the effects aren't quite convincing.
Obviously it does matter and you did register, otherwise Mith would not have commented and if she did your reply would have been "really? I did not notice"
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Old 02-11-2008, 07:27 AM   #11
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Looking through the booklet that accompanies the LotR stageshow cast recording I noticed that, while not endorsing the production, the Estate had given the official translator complete access to all Tolkien's linguistic writings to use in his work. Taken along with the great efforts CT went to in helping the adaptors of this production, its clear that they are not the over-possessive 'ogres' they are sometimes made out to be as far as the use of Tolkien's material is concerned. JRRT may only have sold the movie rights to LotR & TH, but in this series Sibley & Bakewell used a section of Unfinished Tales & Christopher approved this (well, to the extent that he approved the scripts before they started production). OK, the radio rights are different to the film rights, but CT clearly had no problem with his father's other works being used

The recording CT made (I've heard the first few minutes of it) is interesting, & shows that he had an appreciation of the difficulties of dramatisation & wanted to help out as much as he could in making this a faithful adaptation of his father's work.

BTW, this recording is the only acknowledgment I've come across that the 'infamous' mistake on the original LotR map - which has the name Hithaeglir for the Misty Mountains spelled 'Hithaeglin' - was down to Christopher: one of the words Sibley had asked him to pronounce. Christopher acknowledges it was his fault. An interesting bit of trivia about the production then - Sibley must have been using the first edition map, as the mistake was corrected for the Second Edition, where it appears correctly as Hithaeglir.
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Old 02-17-2008, 09:11 AM   #12
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Episode 2 The Black Riders

The transcript of the episode can be found here http://www.tolkienradio.com/blackriders.html.

We ended the first episode with Gandalf imprisoned at Orthanc & Frodo making preparations to move to Crickhollow, & this one will take us as far as Bree.

I suppose the first thing many will notice is the introduction of an entirely new scene: Gandalf coming before Theoden & requesting a horse, & being told to take one & begone. And the second thing is the introduction of an episode from The Hunt for the Ring from Unfinished Tales. I don't know whether Brian Sibley (the adaptor) asked permission from Christopher Tolkien to use this episode beforehand, or just took the chance & included it. Either way Christopher approved its use & its in there. Whether for good or ill is a matter of personal opinion - it opens up the story certainly, & introduces the Black Riders not as mysterious figures coming out of nowhere to hunt down the Hobbits, but as a group with a definite agenda. What the scene also makes clear is that Saruman does not fear them, & goes so far as to send them off with a flea in their collective ears. What this addition also does is to add to the sense of urgency - Gandalf has just escaped Orthanc & is headed north to the Shire on Shadowfax, & the Riders are just behind.

So there is new material, but there are also some omissions - Fatty Bolger is missed out, as is Gildor - though originally Sibley included him. Unfortunately, time constraints meant that either Gildor or Farmer Maggot had to go, & Sibley felt that the incident with Maggot enhanced the drama & gave more background information to the listener, so Gildor had to go. And, of course, the major omission is the whole Old Forest/Bombadil/Barrow Downs episode - again, time constraints meant it could not be included (though Sibley came back to the episode some years later & dramatised it, once again for BBC radio).

One nice thing about this adaptation, & something that makes it feel more 'authentic', is the presence of the poems & songs. Another is the extent to which the adaptors have tried to stick as far as possible to Tolkien's original storyline. Merry & Pippin are introduced into the story as they are in the book, & the Crickhollow/Conspiracy Unmasked storyline are kept.

Also kept are Gwaihir (a nice touch which brings home that the Great Eagles of Middle-earth are not just big birds - a failing in the movie), & Gandalf's letter & most of the Bree episode. This is a much more authentic Bree, pleasant, comfortable - a haven from the night: as Tolkien intended. And, as with Nighy's Sam, I think James Grout's Butterbur is the definitive portrayal of that character.

So, did Sibley & Bakewell succeed here? Did they capture the spirit of the book - did their 'opening out' of the story to include Gandalf's escape & the Rider's arrival at Orthanc draw you in, or should they have kept to Tolkien's slow revealing of the background?

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Old 02-17-2008, 09:22 AM   #13
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Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Tex!

Isn't posting this material on Youtube a copyright violation? And linking to it a violation of Forum rules?
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Old 02-17-2008, 09:32 AM   #14
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Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Tex!

Isn't posting this material on Youtube a copyright violation? And linking to it a violation of Forum rules?
Well, not that I was aware. I think the BBC do have a You Tube section & put stuff on there legally. However, I'm happy to remove the links till I know one way or the other.

If the transcripts are also illegal I'll remove them. If anything else is illegal I'll remove that. In fact if anyone wants to point up anything I do, have done, or am likely to do at any unspecified point up to, including & after my death, I will happily act upon it to the extent that I am able.

It would be nice to have the offences (if such they are) pointed up politely though, rather than doing the cowboy thing.....

EDIT Here we go, the BBC's OFFICIAL You tube section http://uk.youtube.com/user/bbcworldwide. Now, you see the problem - if the BBC are putting some of their stuff on YT themselves its a bit difficult to tell, if you find BBC stuff on the site, whether its there legally or illegally. If someone can confirm the LotR series is there legally I'll restore the links.

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Old 02-17-2008, 02:12 PM   #15
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I loved how this episode began with some very bad sound effects for poor Gwaihir! An unintentional laugh But then something struck me which I've never really thought about before. When Saruman mocks Radagast as "Radagast the bird-tamer" I'd just registered this as a dig at Radagast's Bill Oddie tendencies, but really, this is a dig at Radagast's comradeship with the Eagles! I must go back to the book now and see what else Saruman mocks him for because I can't remember the full line...

Grima here sounds much more realistic as a King's adviser or counsel. He's not so overly oily as Grima in the films (much as I enjoyed Brad Dourif's uber-Goth Grima ) and this seems much more realistic to me; you can imagine a King choosing this man as his closest adviser. The Nazgul also sound less animalistic; we hear the Lord of the Nazgul talk and he just sounds like a Man, not a cat yawling because someone's stood on his tail (or like a pig being slaughtered, which is what the Nazgul sound like in the films...). Butterbur is just great...check out The Box Of Delights which the same actor is in.

I was pleased with the music in this episode. It sounds so much more like genuine folk music than some of the horrid New Age stuff in the film soundtrack (most of it not by Howard Shore but by Enya - sorry, she's totally not to my taste). And like English music instead of Celtic music too.

And there was another funny moment where the Gaffer is being interrogated by one of the Nazgul and he pauses as though he's about to say "P.... Off" but then doesn't! If you listen to it you will know exactly what I mean!
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Old 02-17-2008, 03:02 PM   #16
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One thing you may like in a later episode is the way the adaptors get away with the fact that Merry doesn't get a Barrow sword. He has to confront the Witch King with an ordinary blade, & unlike in the movie the adaptors take this into account.
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Old 02-19-2008, 11:52 AM   #17
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This is the best adaptation, to any medium, ever.

I agree that the sounds effects are weak, but fortunately the series is dependent on the dialogue, rather than the special effects. And the dialogue is VERY strong, lots of it right out of Tolkien, as has been pointed out.

Which episode are we on? 2?

I think Jack May is awesome as Theoden.

I also really appreciate the inclusion of some of Tolkien's poetry, as well as the musical settings, which become, for me, definitive.

Let's see...

Aragorn is terrific in his first episode. Robert Stephens has such a cool voice, and very distinctive, too, which works awfully well for Aragorn.
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Old 02-19-2008, 01:14 PM   #18
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We are on Episode 2, & listening to an episode each Saturday or Sunday.

What I've noticed is that while we've had quite a few views for this thread we've got very few participants. I'm assuming that's because not many Downers have the recordings, or have ever heard the production.

We plan to go on listening (eleven episodes to go) & will carry on posting as long as there's interest. If nothing else we're hoping this will serve as an advert for the series, & that some who haven't listened to it yet will take the plunge & buy a copy.
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Old 02-20-2008, 05:36 AM   #19
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A question; how many adaptations of LOTR did the BBC make? I believe there was another made in Tolkien's lifetime. It seems the good Professor didn't like it much(he was criticising it in the Letters of JRRT).
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Old 02-20-2008, 07:06 AM   #20
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A question; how many adaptations of LOTR did the BBC make? I believe there was another made in Tolkien's lifetime. It seems the good Professor didn't like it much(he was criticising it in the Letters of JRRT).
There have been two BBC adaptations. The first (which Tolkien didn't like) was in 1955 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lor...adio_series%29 ). The second, from 1981 - which we're discussing here - he obviously wouldn't have gotten to hear, but knowing his attitude to adaptations of his work he probably wouldn't have liked this one either! As I stated, Christopher approved the scripts, but whether he liked (or even heard) the adaptation I don't know. What I can say is that those who have heard it consider it to be the best adaptation of the book yet produced.

There's also another radio adaptation, made for American Public Radio in 1979 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lor...adio_series%29, which I haven't heard, but doesn't have a good rep - though it did include Bombadil/Barrow Downs. As I stated earlier, Sibley adapted the Bombadil/Barrow Downs episode seperately some years after this one as an hour long drama, using different actors (but with Michael Hordern who plays Gandalf in this adaptation) as the Narrator. What some who dislike Bombadil may find surprising is how effective the episode is when presented dramatically.
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:25 AM   #21
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I have the '79 US adaptation (a present). It's pretty lame, nowhere on a par with the BBC.

The first (50's) BBC version's tapes were wiped, as was standard Beeb practice at the time, and and far as anyone knows no longer exists.
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Old 02-20-2008, 11:16 PM   #22
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I have had these for some time and . . .

I listen to them going back and forth to work probably once or twice a year. I love the adaptation here. I find that the dramatizations of these bring out a more visual representation in mind, then listening to the books on audio (which I own and also listen to in the car).
My children from about age 8 up (especially my son whom I have successfully raised and a Tolkien fan) prefer the dramatizations to the movies! It is the dramatizations that got my children to read the book from beginning to end.

My one critique, and I'm sure I'll hear about this, is Ian Holm's version of Frodo. Overall, I really admire and like his representation. There are parts though, were I thought he came across almost like a spoiled teenager, and they stick out to me.

I wish that Peter Jackson had followed along with the flow of the script in the movies that the BBC presentation/script had. I felt they edited the parts that they needed to, while still retaining truer to the story than the movies. Overall, like I have said, I am very, very happy with the production.

One last note. If your looking for them to listen to, check your local library if you live in a semi-decent metro area. Most libraries have or can get a copy to check out.

In terms of knowing what you can and cannot post on a place like YouTube, I would invite anyone to understand and know the Fair Use Laws of the U.S. This site from Texas provides some basic guidelines:

http://www.utsystem.edu/OGC/intellec...y/copypol2.htm

Cheers,

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Old 02-22-2008, 12:30 PM   #23
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While it was definitely interesting to hear those parts from The Hunt for the Ring (Saruman again was great: I'm really looking forward to the end of Book Three by now), from my point of view it did more harm than good. The mystery of the Black Riders is one of the key elements of the First Book for me. This mystery is now entirely gone, and somehow this leaves me with an incomplete impression. Of course we are told the Black Riders are scary, and we hear the Hobbits are frightened, but while the reader is scared, too, the listener here is not (or at least I am not).

It has been said earlier, that the BBC adaptation proves Peter Jackson wrong in claiming that he didn't have enough time to tell the whole story. I think this is a little unfair, considering the different media. A radio adaptation is all dialogue and all plot, and I don't think a screen adaptation this dense could have worked. The screen has other benefits the radio has not. I'm not saying that Jackson didn't waste a horrible amount of time, but his argument remains valid.
However, one thing the this episode showed was, that it is possible to include the Crickhollow section into the adapted story in reasonable time, thus giving Merry and Pippin a decent introduction. I really liked this part and missed it very much in the Jackson Trilogy.

One thing that was a bit of a let down to me in this episode were some of the voices, which all seemed to be perfect in the first episode. I'm afraid, I think Gwaihir sounds involuntarily funny, the Witch-King simply fails to be scary, and the praised Aragorn absolutely doesn’t fit my mental image.
I agree that Butterbur was excellent, though.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:56 PM   #24
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One thing that does irk me about the BBC is that the Ringwraiths apparently spend all their time chanting the Ring-verse over and over and over...
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Old 02-22-2008, 01:07 PM   #25
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One thing that was a bit of a let down to me in this episode were some of the voices, which all seemed to be perfect in the first episode. I'm afraid, I think Gwaihir sounds involuntarily funny, the Witch-King simply fails to be scary, and the praised Aragorn absolutely doesn’t fit my mental image.
I agree that Butterbur was excellent, though.
Well, what should a talking eagle sound like? I know what
you mean though. Perhaps its something that can only work in a book. I have to admit that I've listened to the series so many times now that I just accept the voices without thinking about whether they sound right or not...
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Old 02-22-2008, 02:57 PM   #26
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Well, what should a talking eagle sound like? I know what you mean though. Perhaps its something that can only work in a book. I have to admit that I've listened to the series so many times now that I just accept the voices without thinking about whether they sound right or not...
I guess that everybody has a certain voice that he hears inside his head while reading the books, just like everybody has a mental image of the characters. But Tolkien usually described the looks in a little more detail than he described the voices, so the sounds of the voices are inevitably much more subjective. Considering that, it's amazing how many voices in this adaptation seem to sound "right" to the majority.

What I can't change, though, is that when I hear a voice that doesn't fit, it makes me feel less like inside of Middle-earth. That's why I'm bringing it up (also to see whether others feel the same). It's definitely much less of a concern than out-of-character behaviour, something which I'm glad I haven't come across in here yet.
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Old 02-22-2008, 03:09 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Macalaure View Post
I guess that everybody has a certain voice that he hears inside his head while reading the books, just like everybody has a mental image of the characters. But Tolkien usually described the looks in a little more detail than he described the voices, so the sounds of the voices are inevitably much more subjective. Considering that, it's amazing how many voices in this adaptation seem to sound "right" to the majority.

What I can't change, though, is that when I hear a voice that doesn't fit, it makes me feel less like inside of Middle-earth. That's why I'm bringing it up (also to see whether others feel the same). It's definitely much less of a concern than out-of-character behaviour, something which I'm glad I haven't come across in here yet.

I, like davem, have been listening to the series for a long time. While some of the voices sounded funny at first (e.g. Aragorn, Black Riders, etc.), I don't even think about it anymore. They sound completely natural to me now.

I think that Robert Stephens, Ian Holm, and Peter Woodthorpe are especially good in their portrayals of their respective characters (Aragorn, Frodo, Gollum).
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Old 02-22-2008, 03:47 PM   #28
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I never heard the dramatisation, just the reading by Rob Inglis...
This is a bit off topic, but as a little girl, I used to listen to my mum's box set of Nicol Williamson reading The Hobbit. I still hear him going "smash the glasses and crack the plates" etc.....and his Gandalf was brilliant.
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Old 02-22-2008, 04:21 PM   #29
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I, like davem, have been listening to the series for a long time. While some of the voices sounded funny at first (e.g. Aragorn, Black Riders, etc.), I don't even think about it anymore. They sound completely natural to me now.
.
This series is very much comfort listening to me. I heard the original broadcasts of 26 half hour episodes back in 1981, then the repeats about a year later, when they'd been re-edited into 13 hour long episodes. I've probably listened to this adaptation as many times as I've read the book, & in a way I see them as complimentary. I'd feel as lost without these cd's to hand as I would if I didn't have the book. I even hear the actors', & especially the Narrator's, voices when I read the book. I remember getting the Radio Times (that's the cover picture in my first post) & reading the article on the series. Sadly that copy has long since disappeared . The artist is Eric Fraser (who, btw, illustrated the Folio Society editions of LotR & TH) - one of the many individuals involved in the production who has since passed away - along with Robert Stephens (Aragorn), Michael Hordern (Gandalf), Peter Woodthorpe (Gollum), John Le Mesurier (Bilbo), Simon Cadell (Celeborn) , Jack May (Theoden) & Stephen Oliver the composer - & possibly others I don't know of....

BTW, I don't know if anyone else has spent a whole day listening to the series all the way through - I've done it twice, & I have to say its a wonderful experience, beginning the Quest in the morning, & ending with Sam's return to Bag End at night.
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Old 02-23-2008, 04:58 AM   #30
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In the first post I posted some links to reviews of/articles about the series, but the best one, by Brian Sibley himself on his own Website, had been temporarily removed due to site being updated. I emailed Brian & asked when it was likely to reappear, & he's very kindly put it back up (sans pics for the moment). Anyone wanting more background on the series can find it here
http://briansibleytheworks.blogspot....uction_23.html

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Old 02-23-2008, 11:55 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Macalaure View Post
I guess that everybody has a certain voice that he hears inside his head while reading the books, just like everybody has a mental image of the characters. But Tolkien usually described the looks in a little more detail than he described the voices, so the sounds of the voices are inevitably much more subjective. Considering that, it's amazing how many voices in this adaptation seem to sound "right" to the majority.

What I can't change, though, is that when I hear a voice that doesn't fit, it makes me feel less like inside of Middle-earth. That's why I'm bringing it up (also to see whether others feel the same).
I agree with you. None of these voices match up to my image of the characters nor are they the voices I hear when I read the book (excluding perhaps the Hobbits). I haven't heard the adaption in full yet, but I do have 1979 U.S. adaption, and I will hold my opinions on it until I start a thread pertaining solely to it (which I plan to do eventually)! Although I will say that I was not too impressed with the voice selection of the '79 adaption, however I was pleased that I liked the voice actor they chose for Boromir.

Concerning the voice selection for this BBC adaption, I think they did a good job with the Hobbits. But I cannot stand the voice actor for Boromir, he is much too old and hoarse sounding. Gandalf sounds unconvincing and Legolas has no elegance to his speech. Gimli sounds like he has consumed too many drugs over the years.

Concerning the overall BBC, which I hope to contribute a little bit more in this thread, it is alright so far.
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Old 02-23-2008, 01:00 PM   #32
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Concerning the voice selection for this BBC adaption, I think they did a good job with the Hobbits. But I cannot stand the voice actor for Boromir, he is much too old and hoarse sounding. Gandalf sounds unconvincing and Legolas has no elegance to his speech. Gimli sounds like he has consumed too many drugs over the years.
.
Well, thanks to Brian Sibley (see my last post) we have a bit more insight into Michael Hordern's Gandalf:

Quote:
As for Gandalf, Michael Hordern - if the truth were told - never entirely understood what was going on! He was, for example, genuinely perplexed by the wizard's seeming demise in Moria during Episode 8, and asked Jane Morgan whether his agent had been wrong about the number of episodes for which he was required! When told that he would be resurrected in Episode 12, he simply grunted: "Splendid! Splendid!" and shambled away.

Nevertheless, by intuition or some other theatrical magic, he became Gandalf: by turn wise, stern and compassionate, a force for good, a constant light in an ever-darkening storm.

(Of course, 'episode 8' & 'episode 12' here refer to the original broadcast of 26 episodes)
I like the idea of him not really knowing what was going on! However, I agree totally with Mr Sibley - his Gandalf is perfect. As for Michael Graham Cox's Boromir (reprising his role in the Bakshi movie, along with Peter Woodthorpe's Gollum, & it would be interesting to know whether they were chosen for that reason) I 'liked' him , & as with Faramir, he is far truer to Tolkien's character than the more 'sympathetic' portrayal of Boromir in Jackson's movie. By coincidence Boromir makes his first appearance in this adaptation in Episode Three, which we're moving on to tomorrow. I don't see that he's too old - in the book Boromir is in his forties.

Still, this is a matter of personal taste. As I stated, I've listened to this series a good fifteen or more times over the years & I now simply accept all the voices without analysing whether or not they 'work'. When I put the CD's on I simply enter into Middle-earth again, exactly as I do with the books.

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Old 02-23-2008, 04:15 PM   #33
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Bit more on the artist who painted that beautiful Radio times cover (I think I read somewhere that Brian Sibley owns the original) can be found here http://buttes-chaumont.blogspot.com/...1902-1983.html

Fraser was 79 when he painted it & if you click on the picture you will see a beautiful enlargement.

Also another review http://www.squidoo.com/audiolotr

And this page has a lovely image taken during the recording, showing William Nighy (Sam) on the left, Ian Holm (Frodo) centre & (I'm almost certain) Peter Woodthorpe (Gollum) on the right.
http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/tv/2006/...he_aftern.html

And one of Michael Hordern (Gandalf) left, John Le Mesurier (Bilbo), centre & Ian Holm (Frodo again) right.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/3...kien_radio.jpg

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Old 02-23-2008, 06:03 PM   #34
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Merry sounds too high pitched in my opinion in the radio adaption for my tastes, but that is only me.
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Old 02-23-2008, 06:50 PM   #35
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As for Michael Graham Cox's Boromir (reprising his role in the Bakshi movie, along with Peter Woodthorpe's Gollum, & it would be interesting to know whether they were chosen for that reason) I 'liked' him , & as with Faramir, he is far truer to Tolkien's character than the more 'sympathetic' portrayal of Boromir in Jackson's movie. By coincidence Boromir makes his first appearance in this adaptation in Episode Three, which we're moving on to tomorrow. I don't see that he's too old - in the book Boromir is in his forties.
Well I was only talking about the voice, not the portrayal. There I would of course agree with you. But Michael Graham Cox does not fit Boromir for me. Here's the thing with him being too old sounding- to be exact, Boromir was 40 years old when The Fellowship set out from Rivendell, and unless his birthday month (which no record is given of) was January or February, he remained 40 until his death. As Boromir was of high Númenórean descent, his life span would have been much greater than normal men. His brother Faramir lived to be roughly 118 years old, as his death date is given in Appendix A as being in the year F.A. 82. Undoubtedly Boromir would have reached a similar age if he was not killed. When looked at this way, Boromir was still in the prime of his life, having lived not even half of what Faramir lived to be. In fact, upon hearing of Boromir’s death, Théoden cried out- “Alas for Boromir the brave! The young perish and the old linger, withering.”

That is why I think M.G.C. was much too old sounding for a young character like Boromir.
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Old 02-24-2008, 02:37 AM   #36
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Michael Graham Cox (another cast member who has passed away - he died in 1995) was born in 1938, so would have been 40 when the Bakshi movie came out, & 43 when the series did.

Again, its a matter of taste & what sounds right to the individual listener. To me he didn't sound 'old', so much as gruff & haughty. As for 40 being 'young', I can only quote Indiana Jones: "Its not the years, its the mileage...."

Quote:
Théoden cried out- “Alas for Boromir the brave! The young perish and the old linger, withering.”
I suspect most people would seem young to Theoden.
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Old 02-24-2008, 08:27 AM   #37
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Just to add yet another ingredient to the mix, an excellent German version of LotR was produced as a radio play some 16 years ago: 30 episodes @ 25 minutes each. I remember hearing as many episodes then as possible, though I don't remember details anymore. I will check out the local library to see if they have a copy to refresh my memory.

I do own the BBC recordings of LotR, Hobbit, and Perilous Realm as well as the JRRT recording. I've been listening to The Hobbit to prepare for the German Tolkien Society's annual seminar in April, of which it is the topic. As the "minor works" were last year's seminar topic, I listened to Tales from the Perilous Realm a lot then. I will make an effort to re-hear the LotR in the next weeks so that I can contribute to this discussion.
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Old 02-24-2008, 10:22 AM   #38
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Episode 3 The Knife in the Dark

Transcript: http://www.tolkienradio.com/knifeinthedark.html

This episode ranges over a wide territory - we begin at Bree, with Merry's reappearance after being rescued by Nob, & end with Frodo's offer to take the Ring at the end of the Council of Elrond. I wondered about the 'two men' he saw stooping over Merry - I'd always assumed them to be Black Riders, but I wonder now if they might not have been Bill Ferny & companion...

Frodo's dream in the Inn I think was handled very effectively & made brilliant use of the medium by having the Black Rider's screech turn into the crowing of a cock. Once again we can see plainly the advantages & disadvantages of the medium in this episode - by this point in the story a listener to the series knows far more about the history & background or the world & characters than a viewer of the movie. We don't simply have Aragorn pointing at a hill & saying 'This is the watchtower of Amon Sul. We rest here tonight.'. We get:

Quote:
No, this path was made to serve the Watchtower of Amon Sûl, that once stood upon its top. It was burned and broken by a terrible enemy, who is now but a servant of the Enemy we face. It is told that Elendil stood there watching for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West.

Pippin: When was that?

Aragorn: Long ago, in the days of the Last Alliance between Men and Elves.
Which leads nicely into Sam singing the Lay of Gil-Galad.

Of course, there are disadvantages - we don't really know what is happening at the Ford (unless we've read the book, of course) - we know something has happened, 'cos there's a lot of background noise & Frodo shouting about falling, but we have to wait till the next scene (originally the next episode) in Rivendell for an explanation of what did happen. It was nice to have Glorfindel there, & to 'see' Frodo's active defiance of the Nazgul, rather than as in the movie where he is (as usual) depicted as helpless victim.

Again, this episode contains a new scene - between Bilbo & Frodo in the Hall of Fire. I've never been sure how well this works. Clearly its there for exposition purposes, & there's not really any other way to do it. Even when you have a Narrator you can't simply hand over great chunks of exposition to him/her, & putting in the form of a conversation often makes it easier for the listener to take in.

As to the Council, I think it was handled far better than the movie, where it seemed to consist of a bunch of people bickering for ten minutes, only to be told in no uncertain terms at the end by Elrond that they only have one option & that is to throw the Ring into the Fire - he could just have sent them a postcard. The main difference here is that, as with the book, the participants have come for counsel regarding their individual concerns & it is shown by the end of the Council that all those individual concerns are part of one much greater concern - the Ring & what to do with it. Once again we see the advantage of the medium in the amount of sheer information that is communicated to the listener.

As I've stated previously, I don't claim this series is perfect - either in itself or as an adaptation of the book. What I do think is that it captures the spirit of the book, & of Middle-earth itself.

Last edited by davem; 02-24-2008 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 02-24-2008, 01:25 PM   #39
Brian Sibley
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I have been fascinated to follow people's reactions and responses to the BBC radio series which I co-dramatised twenty-six years ago.

Thank you for your insights.
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Old 02-24-2008, 02:11 PM   #40
davem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sibley View Post
I have been fascinated to follow people's reactions and responses to the BBC radio series which I co-dramatised twenty-six years ago.

Thank you for your insights.
(davem scans his posts nervously to make sure he hasn't said anything bad......)

And in case anyone is uncertain, this is the real Brian Sibley. As I noted earlier I emailed Mr Sibley the other day to ask if he could put his wonderful essay on the BBC series back on his website & I included a link to this thread so he could have a look at our discussion.

Mithalwen & I have been praising this series on various threads here over the years & I'm sure she will be as thrilled as I am about Brian's appearance here on the Downs.
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