Listen to Nicol Williamson's 1974 reading of his abridged The Hobbit

There’s no need to wait for Peter Jackson’s third entry in The Hobbit franchise — The Battle of Five Armies — in order to return to Middle-earth. You can do it right now, by listening to the great late Nicol Williamson’s audio take on the classic fantasy story.

Forty years ago, in 1974, Argo Records released a dramatized four-record LP audio abridgement of The Hobbit, and the narrator and performer of this abridged dramatization of is none other than Nicol Williamson — who would later play the role of the legendary sorcerer Merlin in director John Boorman’s 1981 quintessential King Arthur movie, Excalibur.

In the late 1970s, Boorman was involved in a collaborative attempt with United Artist to produce a Lord of the Rings film. This, of course, fell through, but Boorman repurposed much of his imagery and concept in Excalibur

The script is apparently notorious among fans because of the liberties it planned to take with J.R.R. Tolkien's work, and you can read an excerpt here.

Now, back to The Hobbit dramatization.

In the early 1970s, Demi Demitriou from Decca Records (the parent company of Argo) approached Williamson to see if the Scottish actor would undertake and authorized audio recording of The Hobbit. According to Nicol Williamson’s official website, the actor had a great love of Tolkien’s work, and he paired up with audio producer and Argo managing director Harely Usill on the project.

Williamson re-edited the original script for the abridgement, getting rid of many incidences of “he said”, “she said,” as he felt that an over-reliance on descriptive narrative would not give the desired effect.

The end result is a recording of around three and a half hours, with Williamson voicing all the roles, including another certain famous wizard. Since it’s been long out of print, copies of the LP are now quite rare and expensive. Bur now it is available on the Internet Archive, under Creative Commons license — Atribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. 

Have an awesome listen (the whole thing should play, chapter by chapter):

Here's the link for the Internet Archive right here (just in case).

(via The One Ring)

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