by J.R.R. Tolkien, Narrated by Rob Inglis (for Recorded Books)
Length: 11 hours, 8 minutes
I have a confession to make. I was never been head over heels in love with Tolkien’s writing. I’ve loved fantasy and science fiction literally as long as I can remember anything, but reading Tolkien didn’t do that much for me. I could tell that the stories were interesting, but the dryness of the prose and plot didn’t fire up my imagination the way other fantasies did. I read The Hobbit in high school and struggled through it. I read The Lord of the Rings in college and forced myself to finish it.
I loved loved loved Peter Jackson’s movies. So much so, that after Fellowship of the Ring came out, I took a friend’s advice and gave The Simarillion a shot. I managed to get through that one too, and like the others – there was stuff I liked in there, but it took a lot of dedication for me to discover it. Maybe Tolkien just wasn’t my bag, and I should just enjoy the movies for what they were?
So when The Hobbit came out, I made a conscious decision NOT to listen to the book ahead of time, so I wouldn’t compare the plots and events and bemoan what was cut. And I’m glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie – I think I could watch Jackson do another 10 movies set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
What really surprised me, was that when I did listen to The Hobbit (about a week after I saw it), I absolutely fell in love with Tolkien’s words for the first time. It was love at…fourth sight. And I could not stop listening to it.
A lot of praise obviously goes to Rob Inglis’s reading of the book. Inglis is a natural storyteller. He gets the adventure, the magic, and the humor. Dude, you think putting thirteen dwarves with thirteen different actors in a movie and allowing the audience to tell them apart is difficult? Try thirteen dwarves in a book with one reader. And yet, Inglis pulls it off effortlessly.
But, of course, Inglis only gets some of the credit. Tolkien wove together an exciting, charming quest, and gave us a cast of memorable characters in Bilbo, Gandalf, Gollum, and some of the dwarves. (I still couldn’t tell you all their names.)
Tolkien and Inglis are a perfect match of author and reader and storytelling.
I know a lot of people adore Tolkien’s prose in and of itself. But as someone who has never truly been able to do that before, I’m thrilled that thanks to this audiobook, I understand a lot better the charms of this story, and why it’s become such an iconic piece of fantasy fiction. And for the first time in my life, I’m really looking forward to reading some more Tolkien.