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When it comes to the ultimate in fantasy literature, there is only one book that springs to mind in my opinion. The Lord Of The Rings was the first fantasy series I ever read when I was sixteen. From then on I have been a massive fan of Tolkien and also various other fantasy writers. To be honest I rarely read anything in any other genre. Since reading the books around fifteen years ago we have also had Peter Jackson's epic trilogy of movies which although not quite true to the books, were still a staggering achievement and I've seen the movies countless times. For me though the books are where the real magic is. I've read them twice and for something a little different I've also listened to the audio CD's. Listening to audio books is not something I tend to make a habit of, I much prefer to sit down and actually read a book. However, I thought this was a chance to enjoy Tolkien's masterpiece from a different perspective, so listen I did. It's of note that this review is actually for the CD's, in total there are a massive 46 CD's in this collection and the price is certainly not cheap, you are looking at paying something like £70 for the entire collection. These days I would of course recommend getting the digital versions of the book, much cheaper and much easier to handle. The reality is though that these three books are very long and drawn out, so it's going to take you weeks to listen to the whole thing. The version of this I listened to is read by Rob Inglis. I like Rob's voice as it reminds me of an old English gentleman, just right for Tolkien. His voice is easy to understand and his pronunciation of words sounds very accurate. He does not have one of those voices that will send you to sleep, he alters his pitch and pace very well and puts proper emphasis on words that he should. You can tell he is enjoying the story and he is reading it. I have heard other people read Tolkien and there are probably voices that I do slightly prefer, but this one was more than good enough and you soon forget about the reader and just concentrate on the story in question. So what about that story? Well nowadays with the movies having all comes out it is a very well known story indeed, but if you are unfamiliar with the LOTR here is a brief overview. The story is split into three separate books, first is The Fellowship Of The Ring, then comes The Two Towers and finally we have The Return of The King. The story starts in a small corner of Middle Earth known as the Shire. Here we are introduced to Hobbits and more importantly, Frodo Baggins. Frodo is an unassuming character who lives a quiet life, all that suddenly changes though when he inherits his uncle Bilbo's magic ring. It turns out that this ring is the most powerful of rings in all of Middle Earth and it has the power to turn all the world to darkness. The Dark Lord himself, Sauron, is searching for this ring and he will stop at nothing to find it. So now Frodo with the help of some new friends must travel across Middle Earth to the slopes of Mount Doom where he can destroy the ring and put an end to the evil of Sauron. The book moves a long at a swift pace and although it starts out much like a fairytale, it soon becomes a lot more involved and far darker. There are various subplots going on all the time and the story jumps from one to another as we follow different lines of story. Tolkien has an incredible way of knitting all these lines together though and you never feel lost in the story. It sucks you in and gets you involved, you soon find yourself identifying with each of the characters and almost developing a relationship with them. One of Tolkien's greatest skill is simple yet descriptive language. He has a way of conveying his vision onto paper that few writers have ever been able to match. Along with that his charming use of the English language really is spellbinding and keeps the reader enthralled hour after hour. The way we see the main characters develop throughout the story also impresses and again Tolkien has a knack for this that few others have matched. When you see the Lord Of The Rings movies you can't help but be impressed by the scale of the whole thing. But in reality the books are actually far more impressive, there are major sections that Peter Jackson left out of the film, for instance the charming character Tom Bombadill who makes an appearance early in The Fellowship Of The Ring. He takes up a good few chapters and although not really integral to the story, he was a surprise omission in the films. I've read the books a few times, I have seen the movies countless times and now I have listened to the story as well. For me personally nothing matches sitting down and reading the books. The audio CD's are very good and I found that sticking them on in the car sometimes was really good fun and I enjoyed listening along, but somehow I didn't enjoy this as much as reading the words on paper. Rob Inglis certainly does a very good job of the reading but I think if you were considering buying the set for £70 or whatever it is, then I would recommend looking for the digital version or just saving yourself some money and buying the actual books. Reading The Lord Of The Rings back when I was sixteen really did make a massive impression on me. It really defined my taste in literature and got me involved in the world of fantasy fiction. Since Tolkien really brought the genre to the masses many other writers have tried to match his success. There are some truly great fantasy writers out there, but for me, none of them have ever matched Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord Of The Rings.
My boyfriend is a massive fan of Lord of the Rings and recently we have just been to see the Hobbit. Bringing us back to Shire and Lothlorien made me recall the audio collection that we own. It was a present for my boyfriend to listen to but I borrowed the collection for my daily travels to work. Lord of the rings has had many facelifts over the years but it still warms the hearts of its fans. Whether you love Peter Jackson's blockbusters on the big screen or whether you love the original J R Tolkien books; you will find it hard not to be impressed by the audio adaptation. I have never been too hooked on audio books writing them off as only good for the ill educated that could not read. I was very wrong though and there are many reason why you might prefer this edition. For one, and the main reason I liked it, is because I could drive and hear the story at the same time. I enjoy the small sound effects, the voices, intonation and I enjoy feeling part of the story. Audio books are attracting more and more fans and this is a great medium to enjoy the famous books. The series contains 14 CDs and as one ends there is no introduction to the next, you can just play the next one and continue the story. There are a couple of adaptations of the audio book and the one I picked was the recent one when I bought it. I thought it made a lovely gift for my boyfriend one year as he was such a fan. It comes well packaged with a gorgeous pull out map and booklet. Each disc is black with gold script telling you what episode it is and which disc number you are on. ==Worth the cost== The collections costs £70 and you may find it cheaper second hand but you really are getting a lot for your money. You have 14 discs and the story is told so beautifully, the narration is excellent and if you have any misgivings about an audio book, ten minutes in and you will be hooked. This was made in 1999 and it still has all the charm of when it was first produced. The music on the discs is fantastic and really brings you into the picture. The sounds create all the emotions and feelings that you get at the cinema, it paints the pictures really well and it is utterly convincing. ==Cast, sounds and narration== The cast are amazing and I take my hat off to their outstanding performance. Frodo Baggins is played by Ian Holm and he really pulls Frodo off, in my opinion he is better than the on screen version. Gandalf the Grey is played by Michael Hordern. This casting is fantastic and Gandolf sounds mysterious and very wizard like. Bilbo Baggins is played by John le Mesurier. Samwise Gamgee is played by William Nighy. I love Bill Nighy and find his voice utterly interesting. Gollum is played by Peter Woodthorpe. He sounds pathetic and annoying just like Gollum should. Aragorn is played by Robert Stephens. He sounds noble and again, sounds just like Aragorn should. The book which has been voted the nations favourite on Amazon.co.uk was finished in 1949. It is the follow up to 'The Hobbit', and is set in the mysterious lands of Middle Earth. The story is about a golden ring which was found by Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit and hidden from Gollum. In 'The Lord Of The Rings', the true nature of the ring is discovered, and Bilbo's heir, Frodo has to destroy it in order to save Middle Earth. The tale has much more to tell but you need to buy the audio books to hear more. As someone who has read the book, seen the film and heard the audio books, you will notice a few small errors in the audio book, notably a certain character is missing. This does not detract away from the story though and it really is a good listen. It is not something you will play all the time, but it is a lovely keepsake and one that you can lend to friends and family. ==Finally== I would recommend it and as it was a gift, it means a lot to my boyfriend so he wants to look after it. I love Frodo and Arragon and I find them to be my favourite characters, obviously I love Gandalf too, but they really make it for me. I find that I get tense when the momentum picks up and I can't wait to hear more. It makes really pleasant listening, you do not need a big Hollywood cast to make it work and these actors do a marvellous job of portraying their characters and keeping the listener thoroughly engaged.
Who would have thought the J.R.R Tolkien epic could be any more enthralling than simply reading the book itself? One of the most famous stories of all time - everyone will have experienced at least one version of this magical tale - and this Audio CD gives the listener a fantastic experience. The reading voice is genuinely pleasant and easy to listen to, the diction is superb (as would be expected) and the pace of the storytelling is spot on for anyone looking to kick back and enjoy the ride. It peaks and troughs in the right places, keeping the listener on the edge of their seat throughout. Along with this, it conveys the wondrous rollercoaster of emotions experienced throughout in a very convincing fashion and keeps the listener involved from start to finish. For anyone who thinks they have experience all of Lord of the Rings there is to experience, I urge you to give this a try, an altogether smashing experience!
The first time I came across the Tolkien was many years ago at primary school when one of my teachers used to read to us in the afternoon, and one of the books he read was 'The Hobbit'. From the first chapter I was hooked, and I used to wait eagerly for the next chapter every day. It was a couple of years later that managed to find the time to work through 'Lord of the Rings'. It is a huge story, not just because it takes three volumes to tell it, but because it covers big themes like, friendship, courage, heroism, loss, and redemption. However this is not intended as a review of the books, but of the audio version. This audiobook is fantastic. The BBC have a strong history of producing this type of adaptation, and this time I think they have excelled themselves. This 1981 version really makes the story come alive. The only problem is the length of the book. If you listen to it while travelling, you may well miss your train station or bus stop, as the story is so absorbing.
I have read The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, I have seen The Fellowship of The Ring and The Two Towers, I have also seen the cartoon version of The Lord of The Rings. Despite this I am not as obsessed with Tolkiens work as you may think. Up until September last year I was the most sceptical person when it came to anything remotely related to Tolkiens masterpiece. My parents raved about it, my friends bought posters and memrobilia left, right and centre.... I of course rebelled against this craze that was sweeping the nation, until in the end I thought, 'well I may as well give it a try'. I bought the audio version as the book looked scarily large to me at the time. Within five minites I was inthralled. Here was something that captured the imagination, something that made you drift away from the world and become Bilbos shadow, following him around as he finds the ring, becoming Frodo and Gandalf as their turn comes in the story. After listening to the tape i went and bought the film, and the rest as they say is history....
i didn't have time as a kid to read the books...i liked real things not fiction..and then the magic happened! I listened to the night time tapes that made a person fall to sleep! Magic. I loved learning about the little Hobbits and Golum (i know I'll get corrected on the spelling) but my point is...the tapes are great! The story is wonderful..the movie is great. Go on the journey with the little guys and fight their battles...and then let's get back to the real world.
The lord of the rings, not so much a book as it is a series. It is composea of three wonderful volumes, The fellowship of the ring, The two towers, and the Returns of the Kings. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who knows enough of the english language to read it. Tolkien was far before his time, writing a tale that still enthralls to this day. This is probably the only book that i think everyone should read. You might want to read THE HOBBIT by tolkien beforehand. It;s an excellent story to learn the background of the hobbits, elves, Etc. Especially when it comes to learning about the great bilbo Baggins, one of the most famous literary characters to date. If you plan on reading this book, you should read it soon. After all, the movies are coming out soon, and you do want to be able to pick out the mistakes don;t you?
The best present I've ever had (and I have had some very very good pressies.) - Advantages: Absolutely riveting - Disadvantages: Don't listen to it on a bus; you'll miss your stop., Some parts can be scary when you're walking down a dark lonley road at night.......
Back in 1981, the BBC undertook a particularly challenging project: To bring Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings" to the listening masses. This is a huge piece of work, spanning 13 hours of listening time. If you missed it first time round, tapes and cds of the recording are availble - Amazan has the cds for about fifty eight pounds. Better still however is the news that radio Four are running the series again (You've missed the first two, but there is time to catch up.) This January onwards, you can hear the classic serialisation at 2.30pm every Saturday, in hour long blocks. ( 92-95 longwave or 198 fm) Well worth catching if you can. Radio Four has a website devoted to the series, with message boards, competions, photos of the original cast, a full cast list and lots of useful information. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/lordoftherings/ to have a look for yourself. If you don't know about the original books, I'm not even going to try to do justice to them here. Basically, the story is high fantasy, following a small group of humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits and a magician as they attempt to destroy a powerful magical artifact (A ring) and save Middle Earth from the grip of an evil tyrant. There are numerous sub plots and many characters. There are struggles between good and evil, there are magical beings and strange powers, chases, fights, betrayals, daring rescues and tragic demises. It's a very full and rich text. Have a look at the beeb website or read some reviews on the book for more detail. It's a book that deserves a whole reivew, and really what I wanted to do was talk about the audio version. The recording: Remarkably faithful to the book (although Tom Bombadil and the barrow whights are absent) this takes you slowly through the narrative, making time for detail, characterisation and the like. It tends to run chornologically, rather than following the book, which cuts back now an d then - I find this following time rather than the book makes it easier to follow. The cast is very strong, with the likes of Michael Hordern, John le Mesurier and Ian Holm (who went on to play Bilbo in the recent film). The only problem is, there are some huge battle scenes in the book, which don't come across that well as audio, and you do have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. (I love this about audio work, but many people are unused to responding only to voices and to imagining the settings.) The recording does use music to good effect - a very stirring and memorable theme, some nice hobbit songs, and some moody ambient sound - remarkably atmosphereic given how little they actually have to work with. Most sound effects are convincing. The language in this version is consciously high brow, but that said, I first heard this when I was about four, and I managed to take most of it in - you have to give it your full attention, but it is well worth the effort. It takes me a while to get into the language sometimes, and if you lack patience, you might be put off by this. Some people find that when first encountering pure audio, they struggle to follow the different voices and to tell between them. You may find at first that everyone sounds the same - hobbits are all alike, etc. Believe me, with time your ear will adapt and you will find yourself able to follow the narrative and distinguish between voices. To maximise your chances, try to lsiten to this when you don't have any other distractions. You really do have to give it your full attention for best effect. You do not need to know the story at all in order to follow the audio version - the plot is well handled, and its a good way into the text if you don't have time or patience enough for the book. Paying out the best part of sixty pounds might seem like a lot, but it is good value for money - 13 hours of listening (think what 13 music cds would cost!). It does stand multiple listenings, and is a great way of occupying children on long car journeys. (I know, I was thus occupied when small)A thumbs up fro me. I will admit, I don't own a copy myself, and have been following it on the radio instead, which has been a delight. I do know people who own copies, and have listened to extracts, so I can vouche for the quality being good, and the packaging beeing decent as well.
Have you ever read a book that pulls you in so completely that you become completely attached to it? When you read it, you feel good about yourself, but when you finish it, it's somewhat depressing – something is missing from your life. This, however, just causes you to read it all over again! This is what I found with the Tolkien classic 'The Lord Of The Rings'. But now can you imagine the same book, but in a fully radio-dramatised form? All your imaginings brought to life before your very eyes, um, ears? - The roots of obsession My love of 'The Lord Of The Rings' unsurprisingly started with me reading the book. Sure, it took me an age to do it, but I was so totally enthralled by the whole thing that I just kept reading and reading until I reached the end. I felt so terrible when I'd actually finished it, I realised I needed some sort of fix, and after I'd read every appendix, prologue and epilogue I could find, I came to the radio dramatisation. I'd heard bits of it before, and loved it, but I'd never actually listened to it all the way through. My father, a fellow Tolkien lover, had recorded the BBC's adaptation when it was first aired on Radio 4, and I decided it was time to listen all the way through. I was amazed. This version captured everything I'd ever known about the book, and more, and it's a testament to its quality that I've listened to it so many times since. It wasn't until just over a year ago when I discovered the existence of a CD version of the adaptation, and I knew one day I would have to have it. Sure, it wasn't exactly cheap, but it would certainly be worth it. Thanks to Ciao and Dooyoo, this day came sooner than I had expected, and after saving £80 of my earnings, I was able to purchase my very own copy. And so a little part of my history was made. - The story The book, written by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was completed in 1949. It is the follow-up to the comparatively small book 'The Hobbit', and tells the tale of a small hole-dwelling folk and their adventures in the lands of Middle Earth. Those who have read 'The Hobbit' will know of the small golden ring discovered by Bilbo Baggins (a hobbit), and hidden away from the disgusting and loathsome creature called Gollum. This ring forms the key concept in 'The Lord Of The Rings', where the true nature of the ring is discovered, and Bilbo's heir, Frodo is sent to destroy it, for the sake of the whole of the land of Middle Earth. I can't say much more about the story without spoiling it for everyone who hasn't read it, but let's just say that they're a lot more to it than just that! - The adaptation It must have seemed like an almost impossible task when Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell were faced with the challenge of dramatising a thousand page book like 'The Lord Of The Rings'. Not only that, but it is such a popular book, that any mistakes would cause uproar, and so they had to get it just right, or they'd be trouble! Brian was the one that initiated the project – he'd had another idea for a radio dramatisation, and the BBC turned him down for that, but was asked what other books he might like to dramatise. After reading LOTR and becoming a huge fan, this was one of the books he put on his list of possible projects. And so the story began. The story was split into 26 thirty minute episodes, although this is trimmed down to 13 longer episodes for the CD version – two episodes being merged on each CD. There's no noticeable join, and each CD finishes in an appropriate way, and, more often than not, with a tense cliffhanger. The CDs are arranged in such a way that each has around five or six tracks, which, in a way, represent 'chapters' of the story – each CD and track is appropriately named relating to the part of the stor y it contains. There is no gap between each track – the action crosses over between them – it's just a good way of splitting the CD up, and most helpful if you haven't the time to listen to a whole CD all at once. Also included in the CD version of the adaptation is a CD of the music from the story (that's 14 CDs now!), a large scale map as drawn by Tolkien in the book, and a booklet explaining a little of how the adaptation came about. It contains all sorts of interesting fact, such as the way Christopher Tolkien (the son of the author) was sent the manuscripts for him to check over, and how he sent back a tape with all the Middle Earth pronunciations for the series! It makes quite a good read, and has sections written by both Brian Sibley and Jane Morgan (the director), so you get a real insight into how it all happened. - Who played who? According to the booklet, some of the casting was a lot easier than others – take a look at some of the main characters and see if you recognise anyone!: » Frodo Baggins (Ian Holm) The main character in the story, and Holm's diverse portrayal shows both the purely hobbit-like and more adventurous side of the character. » Gandalf the Grey (Michael Hordern) Gandalf the wizard needed an old but wisen voice with an authority, but also a kindly tone at times. Hordern manages all these, and sounds exactly as I would expect Gandalf too. This is probably one of the best castings. » Bilbo Baggins (John le Mesurier) The hobbit from the book's predecessor, and a familiar voice if you don’t know any of the others (Wilson from Dad's Army if you don't know!). » Samwise Gamgee (William Nighy) Loyal but the kind of person who is likely to trip over his own feet if he's not careful, Nighy plays Sam brilliantly. » Gollum (Peter Woodthorpe) Apparantly, Woodthorpe played Gollum in an animated version of LOTR, and he was immediately picked up for this version. The untrustworthy sneaky and pathetic creature that is Gollum is given life by Woodthorpe's portrayal. » Aragorn (Robert Stephens) Stephens gives Aragorn a practical but slightly noble tone, which is exactly what is required. - Atmosphere's everything With this sort of dramatisation, it makes a big difference to make it seem real. This requires a good amount of authentic sound effects, and, to a certain extent some quality music. The LOTR dramatisation has both. As you can imagine, it's quite difficult to describe sound effects, but I'll do my best! The battle scenes have lots of roaring and shouting, and the clash of steel against steel, while some of the more moody scenes, like those in Mordor and Moria have a deep rumbling throughout, making it a lot more foreboding. Horses actually sound like horses, rather than just two coconut husks, and you certainly know when something is evil! However, I thought the sound effects for Shelob the spider were a bit off, and, as craiggy_boy informed me, made her sound a bit like Mr. Blobby! Not that we remember such things… The music is equally important, and composed by Stephen Oliver. The main theme is superb and very well suited to the tone of the story – I always get a tingle of excitement when I hear it, which shows its quality. Most of the incidental music is superb, but I find the music that plays a main part in the story – the actual songs – are, for the most part, a little annoying because of their operatic style. They work for what they are, and can't really be avoided, but I wasn't that keen on them in the book, so it doesn't help when they turn up here! The more poetic rhymes of Bilbo and Frodo, such as 'The Road Goes Ever On', are much more listenable, but the choir-boy 'Seek The Sword That Was Broken' is too ear-piercing for my liking! Well, if you DO like the music, it's pretty much al l on the separate music CD, which is nice to listen to once in a while. - Packaging The collection itself is packaged in a small A5 size folder type arrangement, inside a black cardboard sleeve. Inside the folder (it's like an A5 pad turned on it's side), there are 16 cardboard wallets, each with a small picture and a caption on it in gold, and these contain the 14 CDs, as well as the fold-out map and booklet. It's all quit nicely presented, although I handle it with much care – I'd kill myself if it got damaged! Each CD itself is black with gold lettering, telling you the name of the episode and each track name too. - Emotional attachments The main problem I have with LOTR is the emotional attachments I form with it! The start of each episode is greeting with a rush of adrenaline on my part, and the last few minutes of the story have never failed to bring a tear to my eye. Yes, I know I'm soft, but that's the way I am! I'm pulled deep into the story, feeling anxiety when there's trouble, joy when something good happens, and excitement when there's an action scene. I've felt little like it. And there are few parts of the story that bring me more joy than the reading of the verses that follow, spoken superbly by Michael Hordern: "Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all, And in the darkness, bind them. In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie." - Spot the missing bit Any LOTR veterans will notice the absence of the character Tom Bombadil in this adaptation. For those who don't know, he comes and saves Frodo in the Barrow Downs between Ho bbiton and the small town of Bree. It causes some uproar when people found out, but really, it is one of Tolkien's older characters that he just squeezed into Middle Earth for no real reason other than he wanted the character in the story – it doesn't really fit in that well, but people miss him anyway. Just so you know! - Summary Overall, I would kidding myself if I gave this any less than 5 stars – while it has it's downfalls, these are duly outweighed by the immense advantages of the product. Sure, I spent £80 on it, which is a bit steep, but when you think about it, you get 14 well presented CDs for that price, and the simple fact that I bought it at this price should tell you just how good it is. Some of the songs can get annoying sometimes, but these are easily avoided, and the superb characterisations and detail brought to the story make it all the more worth the while. This is a superb version of Tolkien's classic book, and one that I will continue to listen to for years to come – well worth the price.
When Brian Sibley was given the opportunity to write a radio play of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings his reaction must have been one of - in equal measure - excitement and panic. The three volume epic is without doubt one of the classic fantasy novels of all time but, well, it's a three volume epic! Even with thirteen hours of Radio 4 airtime to play with, a lot was going to have to be cut. Some diehards will be miffed by the dropping of 'minor' characters such as Tom Bombadil, but it must be remembered that to dramatise the entire book 'uncut' would have been totally impractical; it will be interesting to see how the three upcoming films deal with the problem. So leaving that aside, what do we have? Firstly, probably one of the most impressive casts ever assembled for a radio play: Ian Holm as Frodo, Michael Hordern's Gandalf, Peter Woodthorpe's slimy, creepy Gollum/Smeagol, and the wonderfully talented late John Le Mesurier as Bilbo are just some of the excellent actors involved. The language of Middle Earth is complex, and there are probably as many pronunciations of names especially as there are readers of LotR. Christopher Tolkien, son of JRR, assisted with this and indeed this dramatisation has probably played a big part in 'defining' the dialect. Music also plays a big part, and is especially well composed and sung. It cannot be denied that a complex plot such as that found in LotR can be tricky to follow, even in a cut down format. This is not light listening, especially if you haven't read the book. Also, the nature of a fantasy beast is the contrast in sound levels - from soft whispers to crashes and screams. My advice, therefore, is to put time aside especially to listen, rather than doing other things simultaneously as you might with other audio books or the radio. You won't regret it! So, what's the catch? There's only one: the price. At £50 for the tapes or 75 big ones for a CD version, this doesn't come cheap, but there are far worse places to put your hard earned cash - I've lost count of the number of times I've listened all the way through.
I should make it clear from the outset that this is NOT intended to be a review of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy 'Lord of the Rings' - rather it is specifically a review of the B.B.C audiobook of the series. However, for anyone who has not read the books, I will start by giving a brief summary of the story. The books are set in Middle Earth, a long lost world, inhabited by Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Tree People, Orks and - most important of all - Hobbits.'Lord of the Rings' is the sequel to Tolkien's 'The Hobbit', in which a magic ring, with the power to render it's wearer invisible, comes into the possession of hobbit Bilbo Baggins. The ring is sought by the dark Lord, Sauron, who needs it to increase his evil power. 'Lord of the Rings' commences at the 111th birthday party of Bilbo Baggins, at which he charges his young nephew, Frodo with preventing Sauron from obtaining the ring. The books are the tale of his adventures. I bought the audiobooks as a Christmas present for my husband, hoping to settle our constant in-car entertainment dilemna. We both have completely different tastes in music and have reached a compromise - whenever we travel toether, we listen to an audiobook. We had both previously enjoyed the audiobook of 'The Hobbit' - and had also both read 'Lord of the Rings'. The audiobooks comprises 14 cassettes adapted for broadcasting by the B.B.C. (it has previously been broadcast in 26 half hour and 13 one hour long episodes on B.B.C. Radio 4). At first glance, the cast list appears impressive, with many well known names taking the leading roles. (Michael Hordern, John le Mesurier, Simon Cadell and Ian Holm to name but a few). The 'book' features music performed by members of the New Chamber soloists, which, I have to admit, is beautifully composed and adds to the atmosphere of the recordings. The tapes are in Dolby stereo and, by and large, the sound quality is superb. So, I'm going to give it 5*'s and a glowing reccommendation, then? Well...not quite. Our biggest problem in listening to the tapes has been following the plot. Almost all the actors reading the parts have very similar sounding voices and, despite the best efforts of narrator Gerard Murphy, it is frequently very difficult to know exactly who is speaking.This is especially difficult since readers of the book will know that characters often have different names. Gandalf the wizard, for example, is known as Mithrandir by the elves and Gandalf by the hobbits. In addition, characters are usually intoduced as *****, son of ***** from the kingdom of ***** - which is an awful lot of names to keep track of. The one exception to this rule is Gollum (aka Smeagol), ably spoken by Peter Woodthorpe, who's toadying, sibbillant tones are instantly recognisable and bring some much needed comic relief to the tapes. Sadly, though, even Gollum tends to lapse into a very Dick Van Dyke cockney accent at times. Another problem with the audiobook is that there are considerable variations in volume - one minute you're struggling to hear a whispered conversation, you finally realise you're going to have to turn the sound up, when lo and behold a pitched battle at full decibels suddenly flattens you to your seat. The sound effects, though, are generally excellent. Horses sound like horses, rather than two coconut shells being clapped together. The sleeves of the cassettes contain a mine of information. Each one has a 'glossary' of the people and places which feature on the cassette and there are also several little gems to add interest to the saga, such as an account of how the series was actually made. From these notes we learn that final approval for the project was given by Tolkien's son.Also included is a pen and ink map of Middle Earth - helpful when you're trying to follow the journey of Fro do and his companions on their mission to defeat the Dark Lord. I am astounded by the fact that the tapes are clearly marked 'Children'. I would have expected children to be terrified by some of the more ferocious battle scenes and feel that it would take a child with a brain the size of a planet to actually follow the plot - and the staying power of an Olympic marathon runner to sit and listen to it in the first place. However, that said, it is a beautiful recording of a classic book. The words - poetic and strangely Welsh sounding as they are - easily evoke the image of times gone by and of a land populated by good and evil beings. Tolkien weaved a magical fantasy and listening to the words, (which are very close to his own) being spoken places you right slap bang in Middle Earth. I would reccommend it to anyone with 14 or so hours to while away, although I do think that it would be better, (if not essential) to read the books in traditional form first. Sorry, did I say 14 hours? Well, by the time you have constantly rewound the tapes to backtrack and pick up the story again, you could probably double that.I love it, my husband loves it...if only we didn't keep losing the plot!