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Lord of the Rings Revisited
By Hilary Williamson, April 2001

Lately I have been tripping over Tolkien in many different media. We played a wonderful Lord of the Rings cooperative board game over the holidays and I made a millennium resolution to encourage my kids to read one of my all time favorite authors. In that spirit, I purchased two unusual versions of his works. My younger son is generally more interested in reading comics like Calvin & Hobbes than full length books. For him, I unearthed a gorgeous graphic version of The Hobbit. It has the original text, though abridged, along with very classy comic size pictures that bring the story alive for the visually oriented. The entire family has enjoyed it.

My older son just polished off Pullman's Amber Spyglass, so was clearly ready for Tolkien. I found a recent re-issue of Lord of the Rings in the format originally intended by the author, that is seven volumes. Its foreword states 'The Lord of the Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy, when it is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes published in three volumes.' The six books are: The Ring Sets Out;The Ring Goes South;The Treason of Isengard;The Ring Goes East;The War of the Ring; and The End of the Third Age. My son is well on his way with the first one, and the adults in the family are hot on his heels. The smaller individual size of these volumes makes them less daunting for younger readers than the original publication.

I am looking for an audio version (for the long car trips that we plan for the summer) and find that there are many of them, which makes a choice difficult. Given that the price for audio books is generally very high, I am surprised to find there are so few audio excerpts available, to assist in making a purchase decision. Of course you can always listen to J. R. R. Tolkien reading from his works himself, in four audio segments made available by HarperAudio. Despite some background noise in the excerpts, it is fascinating to hear Entish chants and the final assult on Mount Doom in the author's own words.

Many of us have seen the movies released in the 1970's. The Hobbit was reasonable (though it's hard to live up to the expectations of Tolkien fans) but The Lord of the Rings video was a serious disappointment, now deservedly difficult to find. The good news is that a new version is in production in New Zealand and it appears that it will exploit the advances in special effects made in the interim. There will be three movies, conforming to the original trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring will be out on December 19th, 2001 and the remaining two in subsequent holiday seasons. Have a look at New Line Production's site for information on the cast, interviews, screensavers, maps of Middle Earth and much more.

I have traveled around New Zealand and can't think of a better setting for filming Lord of the Rings. South Island's green higgledy- piggledy sheep farming hills make a perfect Shire and it has plenty of snow covered mountains for the journey and desolate volcanic regions well suited to Sauron and Mordor. The cast looks exciting too - it includes Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. The trailers are thrilling; I just hope that the movie will live up to all the anticipation aroused by them ...

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

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