I’ve recently discovered audiobooks due to a lengthy commute, and though I could do very well without my long drive, I’m glad of it because it forced me to find ways to make the time pass more quickly. I reread The Lord of the Rings annually, and decided to listen to it this year. Rob Inglis’ interpretation of the classic story is a celebrated achievement in the field of recorded books and I was looking forward to starting it. I was not disappointed.
I hardly need to give a plot summary for such a work as this. Tolkien sets the stage for his epic in the humble reaches of the Shire, where a hobbit, Frodo Baggins, is given a momentous task that even the strong fear to undertake. He is aided in his quest by members of Middle-earth’s various and distinct cultures, Elves, Dwarves, and Men (as well as some of his folk, the hobbits). Across the hundreds of miles between the Shire and the East lies a terrible power, unspeakable in its malice and nearly invincible in its power. Frodo’s task is to destroy the one thing the Enemy needs to fully dominate Middle-earth — yes, the Ring of Power.
Middle-earth is peopled with various distinct cultures, each with its own history and customs, and brushing up against these different worlds (represented in both the various characters and in legends and songs) is one of the joys of this work. I appreciated Inglis’ efforts to differentiate the characters and their respective cultures.
I thoroughly enjoyed Inglis’ interpretations of the characters’ voices, which he does very well with the exception of the female voices. He tries, but it’s hard for a man with such a deep voice to convincingly voice Goldberry and Galadriel. He does a very good job with Gimli and most of the other male characters, however.
Inglis is very ambitious in his attempts to set music to and sing the assorted songs Tolkien included in the narrative. For the most part Inglis’ melodies are passable, though I thought Tom Bombadil’s song especially good. But some of the others were not quite so memorable or did not seem to fit the lyrics very well. Still, I give him full marks for trying! Writing music for all the songs in The Lord of the Rings is no small project.
The only thing I lament about this audiobook is how it does not include Tolkien’s classic prologue “Concerning Hobbits.” Readers familiar with the book will know that this prologue is a somewhat lengthy discourse on the history and habits of hobbits, and traces the three main families as far back as their settlement. I know it isn’t essential to the story, but fans like me who eagerly drink up every word Tolkien wrote will be disappointed at its exclusion. Perhaps Recorded Books was afraid no one would ever get past the first disc if they included it. They underestimate us!
I’m thankful my library saw fit to purchase the entire work in three volumes on audiobook. This installment was 16 discs, over twenty hours of listening. But I enjoyed every word. I recommend this reading to Tolkien fans who would like to experience the work in a new way. But it’s a bit of a commitment — make sure you have time for it! ( )