Tolkien fans, tell me: were you disappointed with the first installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film trilogy? Did you find it as lumbering and clumsy as a trio of cockney trolls, or as ugly as a bug-eyed and be-wattled goblin king? Pining away for the days when The Lord of the Rings films were the go-to pop-culture fantasy references—before, say, Twilight harshed that buzz? Well, I could recommend to you some of the fan-made films that stepped in to fill the LOTR void in recent years. There’s the not-very-good Born of Hope and the very much better The Hunt for Gollum. I’ve seen them both because, well…. I just needed to is all.
But there is another way. I know it’s perverse, possibly subversive, and maybe, just maybe, even dangerous. Turn off the computer and open the books up again—your yellowed, crumbly paperbacks, your Barnes & Noble economy re-issue editions (I won’t judge), hell, turn on the Kindle. Savor the languages Tolkien invented and the English that he re-invented, immerse yourself in a literary world at once utterly fantastic and perfectly morally serious. Do that, and your craving for spectacle may vanish, maybe replaced by a craving for more Tolkien—like his retelling of events in the Norse Edda saga in his Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.
And while you’re reading up on that one, listen to the audio above of Tolkien himself reading from Chapter IV of The Two Towers. The richness of his English voice makes me wish we had recordings of him reading all three novels, but we must work with what we’ve got, and it is good. Enjoy.