Dwarves, elves, goblins, trolls, dragons and wizards - these are the ingredients of J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful fantasy, the prelude to The Lord of The Rings, now the subject of a major feature film series. The hero of the tale is Bilbo Baggins, a home-loving unambitious hobbit who is suddenly thrust into what turns out to be the biggest adventure of his life. Guided by Gandalf the wizard, Bilbo and a company of dwarves set out to destroy Smaug the Magnificent, a ferocious dragon who guards a treasure hoard. Their journey contains many dangers, and in facing them the reluctant Bilbo's great resourcefulness and courage surprises everyone - not least himself! Since it was first broadcast in 1968, this BBC Radio 4 dramatisation has become a classic in its own right, perfectly evoking Tolkien's magical other world and its enchanting, fantastic inhabitants.
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I've been reading the Hobbit to my oldest son. We were taking a drive into the country so I went online looking for an audio version. I usually limit myslef to unabridged versions, but that is simply not what iTunes carries and I didn't have much time before we left. I read the reviews of this dramatized version by the BBC and the more recent NPR dramatization and selected this one as it had much better reviews. It may be better by comparison, I don't know, but it is hardly ideal. Perhaps it is the age of the recording, made in 1968, but it is very hard to understand what the actors are saying. A creative approach that has the characters talking over one another makes an already muddy presentation even worse. There were four of us in the car and I was the only one who could understand what was being said. We turned it off after 10 minutes.
One for There and Back Again
To be completely honest, this particular dramatization didn't really appeal to me straight away- still BBC, but without the same team that had done The Lord of the Rings (though it was still a sight better then the effort by NPR). However, as I settled into the tale, I came to appreciate it's true genius; this adaptation makes no attempt to stick rigidly to the text, rather, it seeks to evoke the senses and gently lead one by the hand onto a an enchanted path to wonder. Tolkien's great humor finally gets a proper airing, and in the hands of some great British vocal talents, shines out brightly at last. The music is probably my favorite of all the Tolkien audio adaptations- evocative and deftly used, without being ponderous or dour. Nothing is omitted and the story tears along at a grand pace, making this a great story for kids to listen to while in the car or a similar journey.
If you want to buy the unabridged reading by Rob Inglis, then it's best to go hunting, since as of this review, iTunes shows no inclination to picking up these great recordings. In the meantime, you could do a lot worse the picking up this wee gem.
I love this book, it is the fondest memory of my childhood and if i did not have such a deep love for tolkien's books that memory would have been crushed. The casting was so distinctly terrible, gandalf is depicted with a high pitched, whiney voice. The names of many characters have been horrible butchered (Thorin pronounced as TORIN, Gollum as GOLOOM). There was even changes in pivital plot points(Bilbo and the trolls, Thorin and the wood elves). And as the for the music...the obvious kazoos left me laughing as did the off-key singing and dastardly horrible compilation of the music's score. I have truly never been more disappointed in the BBC, I could not even complete it i was so disgusted. I highly recommend the other version of the Hobbit that can be found on iTunes. DO NOT waste your money.