The Lord of the Rings

J. R. R. Tolkien, Author , adapted by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell, read by a full cast. BBC Audiobooks America $49.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-60283-492-7

Originally broadcast in 1981 on BBC Radio, this full-cast adaptation of Tolkien's epic trilogy is justifiably regarded as a classic; unfortunately, in 2008, it faces inevitable comparison with Peter Jackson's films. While Jackson had stunning visuals, purists may find this simpler adaptation more to their taste. The radio version remains, in some ways, more faithful to the original trilogy. The extensive cuts to the narrative mean that much of Tolkien's poetic description and a degree of emotional resonance are lost, but narrator Gerard Murphy gives what remains the appropriate gravity. Most of the dialogue is pure Tolkien, and the fine cast does it justice. Ian Holm (who appeared as Bilbo in the films) offers a mature, nuanced portrayal of Frodo that is far truer to the text than Elijah Wood's wide-eyed innocent approach. (On the other hand, Sean Astin's accent and inflections as Sam are so similar to the audiobook's Bill Nighy's, one might suspect that Astin studied this recording before filming.) The 12th CD is devoted to a selection of songs from the books, set to original music. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 11/24/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
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