I just recently discovered this, and had no idea that such a treat for Tolkien fans existed!
In 1952 Professor Tolkien encountered one of the first home-use tape recorders via a friend. In short order, it would seem that he fell in love with the device… using it to record readings of his work and the particulars of the speech and dialects he created.
1952 was also the year that he finished his manuscript for The Lord of the Rings. In a great boon to latter fans of his works, and in an age when author readings were live events and rarely recorded, Tolkien made private recordings of passages from his manuscript.
More so than hearing other works read by their authors, this compilation was really wonderful to me because the sound and roll of language was so important to Tolkien. That’s something that is easily lost without points of reference reading his work. He also embellishes his lines with details of voice and character that are gems to be heard.
I hear in his voice a man that loves the worlds and stories he has created. It’s also crystal clear that Tolkien, as a dad, would be hard to surpass as a bedtime story reader! He was a devoted father, as is made evident by his Father Christmas Letters that he created for his children. He took great care crafting each missive, making accompanying illustrations and envelopes that included North Pole stamps and postage marks designed by Tolkien himself.
He did this for over twenty years, each Christmas: A unique gift for his children that he never intended to go any farther than the family. Fortunately for the rest of us, the letters were collected and published posthumously not long after his death so that the world may enjoy them as well.
Having heard this recording of Tolkien, I can now imagine him vividly reading these letters to a family assembled for Christmas with his inflections and voices. I bet the professor was a fun dad. One of those fathers that, under all the adult trappings, understood kids because he kept the child alive within himself.