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Thread: Audiobooks (Books on CD)

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Hello Planet, I know its probably faux pax for a newbie to post a new thread, so I submit to any torture that's in store for me. Wink Smilie I searched the site for this topic (THANKS for getting Search back up), and was surprised that no one mentioned the audiobooks. I felt compelled!

How many of you have listened to the Rob Inglis audiobooks of LotR and The Hobbit (unabridged)? They are not cheap but they are available for purchase. And if you are even the slightest bit a Tolkien fan, it is money waaaay well spent. I have some thoughts and questions to those who have heard it...

First of all, can you imagine how how long it must have taken to record?? Seriously... open a few random pages tonight and read it aloud to yourself. How long does it take to get through two pages? How many times do you stumble? As for myself the answer is several. And I'm big into public speaking and so forth. Now, imagine reading it aloud with emotion and slipping in and out of dozens of characters on the fly. It must have taken incredibly long, even if Inglis is a master reader and performer and hardly makes mistakes. But stop for a minute and truly imagine what it took to read and record. There are hundreds of unique words to learn and pronounce properly. There are dozens of characters per scene in some cases (Council of Elrond), and he gives each character their own voice. Then there are the songs. I don't know if there is a canonical book out there that gives the tunes to the songs, but if not, Inglis or someone had to invent the tunes for the words. And he sings it, and its mind blowing. I used to (I'm ashamed to admit) skip a lot of the songs the first few times I read it. They just didn't "speak" to me. But now, I love to read them (and listen to them). Like when Gandalf overcomes Wormtongue and "possessed" Theoden in the Golden Hall.... I used to think it was kind of cheesy that Gandalf partially "defeats" them with a song. But having heard it performed, an given its emotional impact, when Gandalf sings "Galadriel, Galadriel!" it actually sends chills up my spine. His reading is terrific.

He gives inflections in all the right places. When I read the books I now hear his voice in my head. He says everything with such panache. I mean, wow. And with the audiobook, you can "live" in the secondary universe virtually anywhere. In the car, while hiking in nature, at work, while playing a LotR video game or board game. Listen to your favorite chapters over and over, or maybe learn to appreciate passages in new ways. I for one was never really that wild about the second half of TT. A lot of 3 characters talking and wondering around without much in the way of plot development or action. I mean, how long do they sit in front of the Black Gates talking about what to do next? But the audiobooks made me appreciate that stuff even more, especially when Faramir gets involved, and REALLY especially Shelob's Liar. And the way Inglis voices Sam in The Choices of Master Samwise, as poor Sam is debating within himself and later kicking himself... its all rather touching.

Another question... how much do you think Inglis got paid?! GIven how long it must have taken, how many words to read, how many unique words to memorize, how many characters to perform... I mean, how much do you think he got?? I imagine quite a bit. Perhaps those of you in the UK are very familiar with who he is, but, I mean, is he a genius? Or did he really just take his time, read it multiple times, make corrections? Is he a savant or something? I'm sure there are other audiobooks, but Inglis's is the definitive one as far as I know. Any others to recommend?

Anyway, I just had to start this topic because truly it is mindblowing and something every fan should hear. We  need to talk about it. Wink Smilie

wow. I cannot conceive of doing this myself, I applaud the gentleman. I think I  nearly fell asleep twice just reading your account of him! That would be something to have about just anytime you felt like it. I am seriously looking in to this. thank you.

I personally love audiobooks. I think in some ways they help you visualize the scene in your mind. I listened to the chapters I like over and over, like "Many Partings". I love listening to them when I go to bed. It's like having someone to tell you a story until you fall asleep, as if you were a child.

About the voice reading LOTR, I cannot say I love it as much as you do. It's "too dark" for me. I love voices expressing the pain and sorrow of the characters, but this one is maybe "too old", I don't know how to explain... but anyway it's still better than the voice reading the Children of Hurin: since this is absolutely my favorite Tolkien book, I listened to the complete audiobook (and re-listened to some chapters many time, like "The Death of Beleg" or "The Death of Turin"Wink Smilie but, again, the voice sounds too old. I cannot listen to a probably 50/60-year-old-man with a deep voice telling about the deeds of a beautiful, young and strong Turin, if you take my meaning.

But I love listening to audiobooks anyways. Especially because they help me with my English: not only I learn new words, but they also tell me how to pronounce them! Smile Smilie

The narrator is the bard, merely the teller of the story. What does the age have to do with it? You can just listen and then go in your mind and give your hero or heroine his or her 'own' voice if you will. In days gone by a very old man perhaps would wander through the kingdom and would be welcomed into the very King or Queen's castle. There he would enchant all the listeners and it was not uncommon for him to walk away with a huge gift from the ruler, much money and certainly increased fame. Noone I think cared whether he was old in years or young, for it is the story, not the teller so much that sweeps one away. However, if the voice is irritating or just incompatible in some way, I think I can see what you mean. Hopefully someone else will undertake the mammoth work that you find inspiring and thrilling.

Most of Tolkien's writings are, or have been, available in audio format; beginning in the 70s with long-playing records (LPs) of the man himself reading extracts from TH, and LotR, and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The latter also has songs; that is, some of Tolkien's poems set to music by Donald Swann. The music scores are available in book form; 'The road Goes Ever On'.

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned the name of the narrator of The Children of Hurin. This is none other than Sir Christopher Lee himself; and I think he makes an excellent job of it. The only performance I'm not too keen on is Martin Shaw's reading of TH. Too low-key fro my taste. But Shaw makes an excellent job of reading The SIlmarillion. I like Nicol Williams'  reading of The Hobbit, too (abridged though is may be).

Sir Derek Jacobi has recorded The Father Christmas Letters; and Roverandom; and also a compilation tape of Farmer Giles of Ham; Smith of Wootton Major and Leaf by Niggle. All of these productions are unabridged; and they are magical. Brian Sibley adapted FGH, SWM and LBN for the radio many years back; these are (or were) available on tape. Brian Blessed plays farmer Giles with gusto. Leaf by Niggle is a favourite of mine; both in both the play and esp. in the unabridged  reading by Jacobi - that phrase 'a little gentle treatment' is very moving.

The list goes on; and it's not restricted to Tolkien's fiction. I have here two tapes of Tolkien's translations from the Middle English - 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'  is one one set; and 'Pearl' and Sir Orfeo' is on the other. Both have cover illustrations by John Howe. And both covers are autographed by the narrator; Terry Jones of Monty Python fame - he's an English scholar, too.

The rarest of the all is Tolkien's own recording of his poem 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son'. Tolkien recorded this on his own tape recorder, at home in Sandfield Road, Oxford. he makes a very good actor. he did the sound effects himself; hooting like an owl, and moving furniture to imitate the sound of the cart. With headphones on, one can hear the ticking of the clock, and a car going by outside the window.

Sorry to double post; the previous one was going on for a bit.

I have to say something on the topic of Rob Inglis' readings. I think these are absolute gems. I first came across Rob's work in 1992, when he gave his one-man performances of  The Lord of the Rings, during the Tolkien Centenary Conference. Then we saw his performance again in 1993, when he brought his show to a theatre near us. A lovely man to talk to.

To answer a couple of points - as Shadowfax says, Rob does all the voices in his readings of TH and LotR. I have a copy of a magazine article called 'Producing Audiobooks - How do they do it?' by Jo Carr,  from The Horn Book, March-April 1991, in which we're told that Rob had recordings of his voices for various characters to which he could refer when necessary. The team also had help from Tolkien's son, according to Carr (I suppose they meant Christopher). Rob worked six hours a day, six days a week. LotR runs to some 53 hours;  the article didn't say how many weeks or months both jobs took.

As Shadowfax says; one can tell the difference between the characters' voices; so you know who's speaking at any time during a conversation. Which is a good trick when, for example, you have Merry, Pippin and Frodo talking together. it's not actually a trick; Rob trained as an actor, and actors have to do different voices. He played with various theatre companies in his time, including the Royal Shakespeare , and the National Theatre Companies. He made up the tunes for both productions himself.

This is what I find a bit odd, on sites like ToRn, when folk say they couldn't imagine anyone else playing the parts of  (pick any of Tolkien's characters) other than the ones they'd seen in Jackson's movies. It's all down to acting; and on radio, or on audiobooks, the pictures are in the mind, and the voice is all the actor has; and in my view any classically trained British actor ought to be able to read any of Tolkien's characters with skill and conviction. Michael Gambon and Ian Mackellan for example, certainly could. Which is not to take away anything from Rob's performances, which are masterly.



wonderful information Geordie. Thankyou! I do not have any audio on any Tolkien works except for a single cd on the riddle between Bilbo Baggins and Gullum. This was done by JRR Tolkien himself. I loved his voice, but honestly, the way he spoke I was actually frightened and stopped listening half way through. He made the scene so sinister and disturbing that I freaked out. I will listen again one day, one bright and sunny day with everyone in the house with me! I admit I was shocked,for I read it without a twinge. Just something in the way he did Gollum. shiver.

The only audios I have are some of the works of Sherlock Holmes. The gentleman that does them is unbelievable . He does all the voices, and ladies even sound rather like ladies, if slightly affected. He is so enchanting I could listen to him forever.And then I have the entire of The Last Battle by the BBC and I think David Suchet is in it. It is very well done and I love the background noises and such. I long to have the works of Tolkien in audio. What a thrill that would be.

Wow, Geordie, thanks for the intel!  I can't believe that Inglis wrote the melodies to the songs himself, and that he worked 6 hours a day, 6 hours a week.  The stamina that "old man" has is just incredible.  As a 29 year old, I doubt I could have done the same.   As much as Rob Inglis probably loved narrating LotR, I can only imagine he said to himself, "why did I ever take this job.... its so daunting!" several times.  No matter how trained and prepared he could have been for it, no doubt there were days where he dreaded coming in and doing 200 pages of heavy reading/performing.  But I'm so glad he did.

I wonder if they would ever consider doing a "stage" version audiobook.  If say they hired an ensemble of actors (please, no Orlando Bloom or Elija Wood.... PLEASE) to do the various character voices, and maybe some sound effects and/or classical music in key points.  You know, a dramatization.  Something like the old Hitchhiker's Guide BBC sessions.  I'd buy it.  They did something similar with Dune, and its darn good.

As for Inglis's "old man" voice, I'm not going to pile on who said that.  They are entitled to their opinion.  I just think it's wrong.  Smile Smilie  I love his voice, and I think it's like Gandalf or Bilbo, or even JRR himself narrating.  I think it would be way worse if it was read by a young person like (God forbid) Elija Wood or Sean Astin.  Christopher Lee or Ian McKellan or John Reys Davies would be great, though.  As far as helping you learn english... wouldn't it be best to learn from a proper "old" Englishman?!  And as far as a "bed time story" goes, his older, gentle voice is great for that!  

But he also changes his voices up, and isn't just "an old man" throughout.  His voice for Strider/Aragorn/Elessar for instance, it's superb.  I imagine that voice with Vigo's looks and, boom, you have Strider.  Or his version of Legolas.  It is soft and fair, but not all young and naive like Olando's.  His voice for Sam is also great.  A tad on the "slow side," ALMOST like he'd been kicked in the head by a mule, but sincere and honest and simple.  His readings of Saruman and the Witch King and Uruks are also standouts.

Incidentally, if you're like me, you love the books WAY more than the PJ films.  However, the films are good for what its worth... as films.  For a mass audience.  "Dumbed down."  But they are still pretty good, although unfaithful to many of Tolkien's key characterizations and themes.  If you're like me, after you saw the movies, you had a hard time replacing the images from the movies that suplanted your original imaginings.  The audiobooks are GREAT for helping you get over this problem.  A few listens to the readings and you begin to forget about the poorly done aspects of the films.  For instance, you can forget (thankfully) about thinking of the hobbits as 20 something hollywood actors (who, in my opinion are all on the whole terrible.  Yes, even Sam (Astin) and Merry (the cool guy from Lost.)   You can think of Frodo as a 50 year old cubby guy again, and forget about Elija.  But you can retain the good images from the movies if you want (some of which are, in my opinion, Elrond, Rivendell, Strider, Gandalf, Shire, Bree, Moria, Anduin, Boromir), and forget the bad.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to slip into a books vs. movie debate.  But if you can't get the images of the movies out of your mind, I think listening to the Inglis audiobooks will help greatly.  You'll rekindle your imagination.

Thanks for the insights to all that contributed! 

Shadowfax wrote:

"and that he worked 6 hours a day, 6 hours a week.  The stamina that "old man" has is just incredible.  As a 29 year old, I doubt I could have done the same.   As much as Rob Inglis probably loved narrating LotR, I can only imagine he said to himself, "why did I ever take this job.... its so daunting!" several times. "

Yes, it's a punishing schedule, but then British actors of his day came up through the repertory companies, which would tour the country doing several plays every month. And often, this would include two performances per day, six days a week. Here's what the Horn Book article has to say on Rob's working methods:

"...Rob Inglis needed to work six hours a day, six days a week. He would record all morning and then take a lunch break. After he had rested on a mattress in a loft in the studio (which he called his eyrie) he would continue recording until it was time to eat, go to his room, and prepare for the next day's taping. The staff plied him with Black Berry Forest tea and Pepperidge Farm cookies. In return, he inspired them to join him in doing headstands every morning to warm up for the rigours of the day".

As for a stage dramatisation - well that would work, but it's already been done, in Brian Sibley's adaptation of LotR by BBC radio in 1981. Ian Holm played Frodo.