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Losing the plot.
Lord of the Rings (Audio CD)
Member Name: nikkisly
Lord of the Rings (Audio CD)
Date: 30/01/01, updated on 30/01/01 (647 review reads)
Advantages: Beautifully spoken, evocative and poetic rendering of Tolkien's classic fantasy.
Disadvantages: Sometimes difficult to follow
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!
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