Throwback Thursday: J.R.R. Tolkien Reads from The Hobbit (Circa 1953)

Back in April I shared audio of J.R.R. Tolkien reading from The Lord of the Rings. This rare treat was thanks to the Professor’s enjoyment of recording personal readings of his work on some of the first home-use tape recorders after being introduced to them by a friend in 1952.

These short stretches of audio are wonderful, capturing the particulars of the speech and dialects he created for his stories. You really get to hear the sound and roll of language that was so important to Tolkien both professionally and personally as a professor of language and literature. And coming from an age when author readings were rarely recorded, they are double treasures without question.

With that in mind, I am very pleased to share another audio clip of J.R.R reading his work. This time, the subject is a passage from Riddles in the Dark, the fifth chapter of The Hobbit. Whereas the previous sampling of audio in April encompassed many small passages plucked from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this one is focused entirely on a single passage from that book.

It’s just as enjoyable as the first. As I’ve said before, Tolkien must have been a world-class bedtime story reader! He was a devoted father of four, and this is made very clear in many memoirs and recollections about him. The fact that The Hobbit is a work of juvenile fantasy, in my opinion, is good evidence that it evolved at least partly from a role he relished; that of a storytelling father. One needs look no farther than his twenty two years of letters from Father Christmas, crafted only for his sons and daughter, for harder proof of this.

The Hobbit remains a wonderful book to read to children. I’ve had the honor to do so on one occasion and would do so again. But I’m sure, as is evidenced here, that no one could read it at a bedside better than J.R.R could. :-) It’s wonderful to hear the life he puts into the prose, and the voice he gives to Gollum here I’m sure helped to inspire Andy Serkis’s portrayal of him in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

For my Tolkien fans out there, I hope you all enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: J.R.R. Tolkien Reads from The Hobbit (Circa 1953)

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  1. Reblogged this on The Slavic Polytheist and commented:
    This is amazing. I do love getting to hear Tolkien read his own work, it’s somehow far better than just reading it (which is wonderful in itself). I do love hearing an author read their own work though, somehow it just makes the world itself come more alive and brightens all the details. And his Gollum here is just excellent. If you’ve got about 10 minutes, check out the blog & take a listen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reading of Tolkien is one of my favourite. I really like listening to him.

    Incidently, I’m doing a readalong of Tolkien’s main work with my reading community. I’m enjoying it so much, since it’s been quite a long time since last I read any of his books. We started with The Hobbit back in July and I really really enjoyed it. Given that the first time I read The Hobbit I didn’t really like it (but I was 17) my love of today is quite surprising.

    We have nearly finished The Fellowship of the Ring. Such a work of beauty. When I read the episode of Moria at the begining of the week (my absolute favourite in the book) I had to give in and watched the film trilogy, which also I hadn’t watched for years. Finished last night. Now I remember why I love that film trilogy so much. I hated the Hobbit films.

    We will read The Lord of the Ring, then The Silmarillion and then (on my request ;-) ) The Children of Hurin, which is one of my favourite Tolkin stories. We should be done by the end of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always so heartening to hear that something I’ve discovered and shared turned out to be very meaningful to someone! So glad you enjoyed. :-)

      I am almost convinced that Tolkien is, like Shakespeare, even better listened to as spoken word. His command of language is so beautiful and strong. It refines the tongue as it delights the ear.


    1. Tolkien casts a long shadow on modern fantasy. He’s an inspiration to me as well, but I also feel that too many try to emulate his work too closely. It’s important that every author let their own voice speak their personal truth, and not simply rephrase another’s… no mater how successful his was.

      Liked by 1 person

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