Adapted for BBC Radio 4 by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell
My article on Fellowship Of The Ring was my moment to praise this series to the high heavens. I shall be blunt. I never intended this series of articles or any others to be impartial and if you have any issues with my bias get off the figurative train immediately for this article and the next article on The Return Of The King.
As previously mentioned, this series is very close to me personally. But The Two Towers is my personal favourite of all three adaptations. Everyone and anyone knows the story I’m sure. Lots of adventures with The Riders Of Rohan, Treebeard, Gollum and Helm’s Deep. All that adventure and battle. This allows me to be a bit less verbose.
The execution of the adaptation continues to be very well planned. Stephen Thorne as Treebeard and Peter Howell as Saruman The White are perfectly cast. Saruman ‘Of Many Colours’ is absolutely vile. The voice is slimy and one very worthy of someone used to getting what they want or one used to being able to manipulate those they see as beneath them. On the other hand Stephen Thorne as Treebeard is excellent. His voice is wonderfully dramatic and sonorous. One worthy of an Ent Lord. He sounds the perfect mix of the intelligent and wise teacher and the world weary old man who has one last great deed in them.
Another masterstroke is King Theoden as portrayed by Jack May. Early on he sounds tired and like he’s given up completely. Letting his ‘advisors’ with their forked tongues lure him into inaction. But once he is shown the error of his folly he becomes a stout warrior king defending his people at The Battle Of The Hornburg.
Aside from the glorious character portrayals there is even more wonderful leitmotifs courtesy of Stephen Oliver and nightmarish Nazgul sounds and Black Speech of Mordor courtesy of Elizabeth Parker and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I can promise you that the music and various sound effects are integral to the experience of this particular radio drama.
You also have a version of Tolkien’s storytelling masterpiece that is as close to the book as is possible. Certain events are of course omitted in all three books for the sake of a dramatisation. What events are cut out are often minor or at least discussed so it is as though the events occurred in some fashion. The only outright removal of which I can think was that of Tom Bombadil in Fellowship but all other major occurrences are faithfully dramatised. Brian Sibley, Michael Bakewell and company have found a good balance between loyalty to the source material and comprehensibility to the listener. An example of this is the additional in character dialogue placed at the beginning and end of all three dramatisations staged as though Frodo is remembering the tale while writing the ‘Red Book.’ This is the dialogue that I quoted at the beginning of my last article. To the best of my knowledge this was not part of the original radio broadcast but added for the cassette tape release which I owned when growing up and kept for all future releases.
This article is considerably shorter than usual because I wish to try and discuss different topics in the three different intended articles on Lord Of The Rings. I once again highly recommend trying out the radio dramas either on physical CD or digital download courtesy of Audible although I’m sure the digital version could potentially be attained elsewhere. I know that the Orkney Library has copies of the physical CD version should you wish to find some locally.
“Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!