Seven Ages Of Books (4)
In the first part of this series, we went all the way back to my first decade and looked at the books and authors that influenced my very early years. In the second part, we moved forward into my teens, when I first discovered fantasy, a genre that is still one of my favourites today. In part three, I was in my twenties, and heavily in to science fiction. In my thirties, I returned to fantasy and, in many people’s opinion, the Grand Master of the genre, J R R Tolkien.
Hard-backed copies of his wonderful Lord of the Rings trilogy that sit on my shelf, with the dust covers carefully preserved in sticky-backed plastic, date from the 1970s, but it was in 1981 that the BBC aired a full dramatisation of the trilogy in 26 episodes. Starring Ian Holm as Frodo, long before he took up the film role of Bilbo, and Michael Horden as Gandalf, it has become for me the definitive interpretation of this magnificent work.
Like many people, I have watched the three Peter Jackson films, several times. I have Howard Shore’s music on my iPad. I even enjoyed the three films they managed to make out of the much slimmer prequel, The Hobbit. But once again, I find the radio version better, because I can decide for myself what the various creatures look like. A balrog that I conjure up in my mind is always going to be scarier than anything on the screen, even with CGI. Andy Serkiss was brilliant as Smeagol/Gollum; but I prefer my own interpretation of what that poor creature looked like.
For many years, before I became a full-time author, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and much of my time was spent in Russia and the former Soviet Union countries. Places where there were no TV programmes in English; and where any British or American films often had a Russian sound track recorded over the top of the original, making both languages unintelligible. Many times, I have lain in bed after a long day auditing or training, listening to episodes of the BBC dramatisation before drifting off to sleep, to dream of Frodo, Sam and of course, the wonderfully heroic Aragorn, who didn’t look anything at all like Vigo Mortensen.