Audio/radio versions of LotR

Yesssss, my dears, We were hoping that ssssomeone out there could help usss solve a riddle. We likes riddles, doesn't we, my preciousss?

OK enough with my bad Gollum impression. But I do have a riddle that needs solving, and it is with regards to audio versions of the LotR. I, personally own two versions. The first (as were so many of my Tolkien treasures) was a Christmas present from my long-suffering and empathetic Mater. I saw it in a bookstore and was enchanted by its wooden crate. Of course, I had to have it. At the time I had heard only part of a wonderful production on NPR. In my innocence, I assumed that this was it. So my Mom shelled out the moolah and when Christmas came I locked myself in my room and took a vacation to Middle Earth. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this was not only not the version I had heard on NPR, but it was really embarrassingly bad. The production values were pretty good. The performances were tolerable. The voices took some getting used to, as they were all American. Actually, this was probably a brave departure. And I quite liked the taciturn, New England drawl that they gave to the Gaffer. But somehow the whole package just didn't really do it for me. And, of course, I could never tell me mother-- she was so pleased with herself. (By the way, this production was from The Mind's Eye-- out of California I believe-- and was narrated by Bernard Mayes, I think)

So, time passed, as it has a way of doing, and I made do. I listened to my doggerel version of the LotR and I kept hoping that my NPR station would re-run that scintillating production I had heard. I was 1983 to the best of my knowledge. And I remember clearly that it was a BBC production and that it was narrated by a British woman with a lovely voice. But, alas, it was never re-run in my area.

More time passed and I graduated from college armed to the teeth with my BA in English Literature (wouldn't the Professor have been proud?) and walked straight into a powerful job in publishing. (I got a job at a bookstore. Psst! Hey, buddy! Wanna score some books?). So, I made good use of my employee discount and eventually a new version of the LotR was released on tape. And, lo and behold, it was a BBC production! Well that baby wasn't on the shelf long enough to cast a shadow before I had it in my hot little hands. I whipped out my newly acquired credit card and carved myself a little nook in the credit card debt Hall of Fame. It was mine. We had it in our handsesss! And we could take it home and make it tell us storiesss! No one could take it from us now, not even the thief, Bagginses!

Sorry, I got carried away.

So I got home and eagerly consumed it. And it was good. It was very good. But it wasn't The One. This came as four white vinyl boxes, with four tapes in each one. The first was The Hobbit and I couldn't have been more pleased. The only other version I had heard was from The Minds Eye and had given the Elves that Bilbo meets on his way out of the Shire voices like the Dolphin on Seaquest. This one was very well done. The other three boxes of course were the LotR. And they really were quite good. To this day I listen to them with pleasure. But I'm still unfulfilled. And confused. This package is a BBC production-- but in cooperation with the Mind's Eye. (I'll admit that they have redeemed themselves a bit in their association with this fine production, but it can't be more than a lucky accident). And now there is a new (???) production released by Bantam Books. As a completist, I'd like to have this one too. But I'm broke. And I've been hurt before. I want to believe, but I'm afraid to commit. You can see my quandary.

Can anybody help me? Does any one else remember that first wonderful version, or was it all some fever-induced delusion? Has anyone listened to the Bantam Books version and is it any good? Are there yet more audio versions of the LotR? To my mind, listening to a good audio version is the second best thing to Being There, because the words are still His, but the images are all my own. But a really bad version is even worse than that Baskin & Robbinss travesty (my pet name) The Return of the King. I'd sure appreciate some help with this.

Sorry for rambling on so. Maybe this will spark some interesting comments.

Contributor: Michael Carr <>

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Last modified: Sat Aug 19 19:20:39 1995