Review: Tales of the Perilous Realm Dramatization re-released by BBC AudioBooks America (10.11.08 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Exciting times it must be for BBC Audiobooks America. For the first time in the US they will release The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Tales from the Perilous Realm in audio format this year. All are being released on Audio CD and all have some very nice extras.

Have a look here to see all audio editions to be released in the US this year.

Now let us have a look at the BBC dramatization of Tales from the Perilous Realm, which has been released on October 7, 2008 by BBC Audiobooks America.

BBC Tales of the Perilous Realm Dramatization by BBC AudioBooks America
The newly released edition of the Tales from the Perilous Realm Radio Dramatization comes as four stories on three disks, each containing elements of fantasy and faerie, or in total 3hrs of listening pleasure. It has exactly the same size as the Hobbit dramatization, so they fit well together on a shelve.

The other two dramatizations did give an extra, like the Hobbit had an extra CD with music and a Tolkien interview, The Lord of the Rings also had an extra music CD and a map. This collection has no extra's, still... it holds one of my favorite stories of all times, but more on that later.

Type: Audio CD
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America

Edition: Unabridged edition
Release Date: October 7, 2008

Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602834784
ISBN-13: 978-1602834781

tolkien's ability to enliven a narrative with words is arguably unparalleled in the genre. So it was with great delight that I listened to the recordings of this Audio Dramatization, for the lively narration brought added depth to something already outstanding.

That said, this dramatization produced by Brian Sibley and starring Michael Hordern (as Tolkien) is well worth your time and money.

Included are Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooten Major, and the wonderful Leaf by Niggle, the most neglected pearl by Tolkien. There's also The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, which is a small treat for Tom Bombadil fans, who have aired their displeasure at seeing this important character excluded from the Peter Jackson film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

BBC Tales of the Perilous Realm Dramatization by BBC AudioBooks America
So what we have here are four dramatized stories (on 3 CD's), each reflecting an aspect of what Tolkien himself called The Perilous Realm of Faerie. Dragons, magic and Hobbits abound in tolkien's wonderful adventures.

Michael Hordern, who was Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings Radio Dramatization, and narrated an abridged reading of The Hobbit, here plays Tolkien and tells the introductions, with Brian Blessed (Farmer Giles), Paul Copley (Smith of Wootton Major), Nigel Planer (Frodo), Alfred Molina (Niggle) and John Fleming (Parish) among the supporting cast.

The collection is called Tales from the Perilous Realm, which has recently been released as a hardback illustrated edition (but with Roverandom added to the collection).

All tales have been dramatized by Brian Sibley and on this Audio book are coming together all small tales written by Tolkien, all special in there own ways, and most often neglected by people who only read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings; however all are wonderful and if you don’t find time to read them, which you should, you could maybe find time to listen to them, which you could!

Farmer Giles of Ham

Farmer Giles of Ham did not look like a hero. He was fat and red bearded and enjoyed a slow, comfortable life. Then one day a rather deaf and short-sighted giant blundered on to his land. More by luck than skill, Farmer Giles managed to scare him away. The people of the village cheered: Farmer Giles was a hero! His reputation spread far and wide across the kingdom. So it was natural that when the dragon Chrysophylax visited the area it was Farmer Giles who was expected to do battle with it!

It is a merry tale with all elements of fairy in it. While adults can enjoy the book version best, because Tolkien has added in many linguistic jokes, I believe the dramatized version will appeal a lot to the younger listener. Since it was published in 1949, it has been released in various editions and is a tale that any Tolkien fan will enjoy.

The Radio dramatization of Farmer Giles of Ham was aired in two parts, the first on August 16, 1992, and the second on August 23, 1992. Next to a brilliant Farmer Giles of Ham, by Brian Blessed, we also hear a wonderful giant, performed by Brian Sibley himself.

At first I was a bit annoyed by Garm, done by Jonathan Tefler, but in the end after having heard the tale for several times I have started to like his portrayal of the dog, who is one of the key characters in the tale and who is much to blame for most of the events happening to his boss.

Smith of Wootton Major

tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major takes us to Fairy and introduces us to the King and Queen of Fairyland, something he never does in any other story, Fantasy or Fairy tale. This story shows us a glimp in the 'real Middle-Earth', as it must have been believed to exist around the year 1000, during the Middle Ages. Even in The Silmarillion we never hear the High King of the Elves,say a single word. He is only a distant figure, a name buried in legends. And there are no elves or fairies in "Farmer Giles of Ham". Even Roverandom reduces fairies to ephemeral creatures, and grants us only a quick glance at the shores of the enchanted world. Tolkien uses metaphor in “Smith” quite noticeably, which is an unusual motif for him. He resorts to symbols and symbolism only occasionally, preferring to be straightforward with his references in most stories. So Smith of Wootton Major too is a story for both adults and children, appealing to the sense of wonder on two levels.

The Radio Dramatization of Smith of Wootton Major was broadcast a week after Farmer Giles of Ham, on August 30. All key characters are very well presented and the voices by Paul Copley (Smith of Wootton Major), James Grout (Nokes) and John McGlynn (Fairy King) fit very well the characters they bring to life. I enjoyed very much this dramatized edition. The sound effects are very well done and fit the tale. If only my kids would understand English, I’d probably would have them listen to it; but until they do learn some I think I will enjoy it myself on several occasions to come!

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is the dramatization of Tom Bomdabil's scenes with the four Hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring, rather than a retelling of the events of the poems The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.
Brian Sibley had expressed some pity in not including it in his radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, and decided to include it here [read more here].

Tom Bombadil is indeed a merry fellow and Ian Hogg does a great job bringing this mysterious figure into the tale. Also Goldberry, by Sorcha Cusack, comes along very wonderful and when you hear the tale here dramatized, you could nearly feel how it would have looked in the Lord of the Rings movie adaptation by Peter Jackson.

It was a big thrill to hear the account that was cut out from the BBC Lord of the Rings Radio dramatization, and hoped that the same actors would do the voices for the Hobbits, but that was not the case. But after my first (small) disappointed I actually kind of like the new voices and stepped right with them into the trap of old man willow, got rescued by Tom Bombadil and then got lost again in the Barrow-downs.

I very much loved the dramatization of the event, but sometimes had the idea that newcomers to the tale would not always know what exactly was going on. Also, I very much liked the songs inside the tale, the poetry that finds a place and the great voice talents at work here.

The Radio Dramatization of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil was, just like Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, aired in two parts, on September 6 and September 13 1992.

Leaf by Niggle

The story, Leaf by Niggle, was originally written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1938-39 and first published in the Dublin Review in January 1945. It can be found, most notably, in tolkien's book titled "Tree and Leaf". This is notable because the book, consisting of a seminal essay by Tolkien called "On fairy-stories"and "Leaf by Niggle" as example, offers the underlying philosophy (Creation and Sub-Creation) of much of tolkien's fantastical writings. It can also be found in many other books where it is combined with other (short) stories and/or essays & poems by Tolkien. Here it is however only the tale Leaf by Niggle that has been dramatized and just as the book itself it is a true gem. Of all the Radio Dramatizations I very much like The Lord of the Rings, but this one I believe to be even better.

Although J.R.R.Tolkien was against allegory, he probably wrote Leaf By Niggle as an allegorical tale. An allegory, remember, is a "symbolic story," a kind of disguised representation for meanings other than those indicated on the surface. As he mentions it it arose from his own pre-occupation with the Lord of the Rings, the knowledge that it would be finished in great detail or not at all. To think further on that sentence, the hidden meaning could be that Tolkien himself is Niggle. JRRT was compulsive in his writing, his revision, and his desire for ultimate perfection in form and in the "reality" of his invented world, its languages, its chronologies, its existence and history. Like the painter Niggle, Tolkien came to being absorbed by his personal "Tree", Middle-earth. And like Niggle, Tolkien had many duties that kept him from the work he loved to complete. Even if for the sake of Tolkien we do not try to find any hidden meaning inside Leaf by Niggle, it still remains a little brilliant short story, which captures the readers completely once start reading, and in this Radio version listening.

Alfred Molina as Niggle and John Fleming as Parish bring the story alive in such a fabulous way that at certain moments I simply had to laugh or at moments almost cry and most of the time was completely taken away. I always loved the written version, but the dramatized version can easily compete with it. The sounds effects, the supporting voices, the tale itself,… I don’t know what is the key to its brilliancy. It is a true gem.

The Radio Dramatization of Leaf by Niggle was originally aired on September 20, 1992 and one thing is certain, I will listen it for many times to come.

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