A Detour to Tolkien on Vinyl

I just wanted to let you know that I am now on Twitter – @ToMordor – Feel free to follow my antics there as well.

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100 Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100
Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Our hobbits and Strider continue their tiring trek south of the Road, moving away from Weathertop. “It was a cheerless land.”

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Since Sundays are generally the slowest of the blogging days, and because there’s not much to talk about as the Funky Four + 1 trip trap away from Weathertop, I’ll do a little bit of show and tell.

Some Tolkien bloggers like to show off their first edition books or their limited edition Frodo action figures, but since I have neither, I’d like to show you a few records.


In 1967, J.R.R. Tolkien went into a studio and was recorded reading a handful of poems – enough to fill a little over a side of a vinyl LP. This became Poems and Songs of Middle Earth, and was released by Caedmon Records. Side A is simply Tolkien reading some poems from the Adventures of Tom Bombadil collection, while Side B is made up of piano music and bombastic singing that, quite honestly, sounds like a parody of something.

Then, in 1975, Caedmon released a 1952 recording of Tolkien reading and singing selections from The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Rings, Two Towers, and Return of the King. Here, it is just his voice.

The first record, containing sections from The Hobbit and Fellowship, is quiet and the audio quality is lacking. But it’s still wonderful to hear Tolkien do the voice of Gollum.

The second, which makes up the rest of the recordings, is of much better sound quality.


What’s interesting about these recordings is that they were made in 1952, two to three years before the release of Lord of the Rings. Because of this, there are a few differences, including the poem “The Mirror of Galadriel,” which didn’t make it into the final draft.

Then, in 1977, to accompany the publication of The Silmarillion, Caedmon Records released a recording of Christopher Tolkien reading most of chapter 19, “Of Beren and Luthien,” as well as “The Darkening of Valinor” and “The Flight of the Noldor.” These are, unsurprisingly, of much better sound quality.

These are incredibly important recordings, and thus incredibly important records. You digital folks can get them on The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection CD, but I’ll keep my vinyl, thanks.

The first person who I heard read Tolkien was Rob Inglis, who, for my money, absolutely nailed it. Also, Martin Shaw’s rendition of The Silmarillion was pretty spot on (with less mispronunciations that you might imagine).

Obviously, the professional voice actors are going to do a better job at dramatic readings than either Tolkien or his son. These are professionals and they really bring the books to life. That said, hearing Tolkien read and sing brings the writing to life in ways that no voice actor could.

A Few Notes:
I’m actually missing the second Silmarillion record and am still on the hunt for it. Maybe someday, it’ll wind up in my collection.

When I first heard the recordings, to be honest, I was sort of turned off. Tolkien seems to read too quickly and it’s not very dramatic. But listening to them now, I think I like them. It’s something you’ve got to settle into.

About the Photo
This photo was taken by Sarah of my turntable and jackalope decanter (plus a few cameras). The negative was reclaimed by me and the weird smudges are from the bleach used in the process.

  • Day 54
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 261
  • 199 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,518 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: South of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)