In 1981, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatisation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour stereo installments. It followed a previous 13-part BBC Radio version in 1956 (of which no recordings are known to have survived).
Broadcast history Edit
Each of the original 26 episodes received two broadcasts per week - standard practice for many BBC radio serials even today. The first broadcast of Episode 2 was blacked out across a large part of south east England because of a transmitter failure (a very rare occurrence even then).
The 26-part series was subsequently edited into 13 hour-long episodes, restoring some dialogue originally cut for timing (since each hour-long episode is actually around 57 minutes, as opposed to 54 minutes for two half-hour episodes), rearranging some scenes for dramatic impact and adding linking narration and music cues. The re-edited version was released on both cassette tape and CD sets which also included the soundtrack album (noticeably taken from a vinyl copy).
A soundtrack album featuring a completely re-recorded and in some cases expanded suite of Stephen Oliver's music was released in 1981.
In 2002, to benefit from the success of Peter Jackson's movies, the BBC reissued the series in three sets corresponding to the three original volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King).
This version omitted the original episode divisions, and included a new opening and closing narration for the first two sets, and an opening narration only for the last, recorded by Ian Holm.
The re-edited version also included some additional music cues, which had to be taken from the soundtrack album because the original master tapes for the series music had been lost.
The soundtrack, now digitally remastered, was also included with The Return of the King set, with a demo of John Le Mesurier singing Bilbo's Last Song included as a bonus track.
The 13-episode series was also rerun on Radio 4 in 2002.
The series has not been heard on the digital BBC archive station BBC 7, despite frequent requests, reportedly because of copyright issues.
- At one point, Minas Anor and Minas Tirith are referred to as though they were separate cities; these are merely alternate names for the same city.
- Aragorn receives a black standard from Arwen as a sign that he should rouse the Army of the Dead. In a later scene in the book the standard is no longer black but bears the White Tree of Gondor; there is no reference to this apparent transformation in the radio series.
- Part of the Riders of Rohan sequence is described in song by a bard in operatic style rather than acted, which tends to distance the listeners from the action.
- As with the films, the radio series omitted the sequence of the Hobbits meeting Tom Bombadil.
Cast & Crew Edit
- Narrator: Gerard Murphy
- Frodo Baggins: Ian Holm
- Gandalf the Grey/Gandalf the White: Michael Hordern
- Aragorn (Strider): Robert Stephens
- Sam Gamgee: William Nighy
- Farmer Maggot: John Bott
- Barliman Butterbur: James Grout
- Galadriel: Marian Diamond
- Celeborn: Simon Cadell
- Boromir: Michael Graham Cox
- Arwen Evenstar: Sonia Fraser
- Gimli: Douglas Livingstone
- Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry): Richard O'Callaghan
- Peregrin Took (Pippin): John McAndrew
- Legolas: David Collings
- Saruman the White: Peter Howell
- Elrond: Hugh Dickson
- Bilbo Baggins: John Le Mesurier
- Gollum/Sméagol: Peter Woodthorpe
- Théoden: Jack May
- Gríma Wormtongue: Paul Brooke
- Éowyn: Elin Jenkins
- Éomer: Anthony Hyde
- Faramir: Andrew Seear
- Treebeard: Stephen Thorne
- Denethor: Peter Vaughan
- Glorfindel: John Webb
- Ceorl: Michael McStay
- Lord of the Nazgûl: Philip Voss
- The Mouth of Sauron: John Rye
- Shelob: BBC Radiophonic Workshop
- Dramatisation: Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell
- Music: Stephen Oliver
- Radiophonic sound: Elizabeth Parker
- Produced and directed by Jane Morgan and Penny Leicester
Links to other adaptations Edit
Mind's Eye radio serial Edit
There is a second radio dramatisation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, produced by The Mind's Eye, and featuring a different cast. It is sometimes confused with the BBC production, but is distinguished by the fact that the most widely circulated US edition comes in a wooden box, whether on compact discs or cassette tapes.
It was recorded prior to the BBC version, and because its cast recorded their tracks separately (unlike the BBC production which, like most British radio serials, assembled the cast to record their dialogue together)
The cast includes Ray Reinhardt (Bilbo), James Arrington (Frodo), Pat Franklyn (Merry), Mac McCaddon (Pippin), Lou Bliss (Sam), Bernard Mayes (Gandalf), Gail Chugg (Narrator), Bernard Mayes (Tom Bombadil), Tom Luce (Strider/Aragorn). Franklyn, McCaddon, Chugg, Reinhardt, Bob Lewis, John Vickery, Erik Bauersfeld and Carl Hague were credited for "additional voices".
The Mind's Eye version has also been identified as the Soundelux version, and most recently, the Highbridge version. (These name changes correspond to the studios/companies that owned the rights at the time.)
|The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien|
|Books:||The Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers | The Return of the King|
|Movie trilogy:||The Fellowship of the Ring | The Two Towers | The Return of the King|
|Animated movies:||J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings | The Return of the King (TV special)|
|Miscellaneous:||The History of The Lord of the Rings | Lord of the Rings radio series|
- Information on the radio adaptations at the Audio Theater