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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
BBC Episode 2 The Black Riders : Gandalf, Gwaihir and Leaving the Shire


Jun 10 2008, 12:49am

Post #1 of 11 (293 views)
BBC Episode 2 The Black Riders : Gandalf, Gwaihir and Leaving the Shire Can't Post

First of all, just to clarify, I am using and I am assuming that everyone else is using the 13 CD version. So this is one episode and I'll just be going through The Black Riders. Please feel to answer my questions, respond to a thought or ask your own question!

This episode is very interesting to me as it incorporates parts of the Unfinished Tales into the script. So onward as the hobbits would say!

1. Does Gwaihir convince you that he is a talking eagle? I know some have stressed in The Hobbit movie forum of not wanting talking animals and yet here we have one, and he is talking (like in the book). Does this distract you from the story and is there any other way you could think of to handle this in a radio adaptation?

2. One question always raised is why not have the Eagles fly Frodo to Mt. Doom and be done with it. Does Gwaihir offer an explanation here when he says he can fly with great speed after being spotted and that he came to bear messages and not burdens and that he can bear Gandalf many leagues but not to the ends of the earth? He is able to fly Gandalf to Edoras and not to Hobbiton so does this offer insight that the Great Eagles may not be able to bear burdens so far?

3. Theoden states "I have never heard before that Gandalf sought the aid of any man." Does this offer insight before Wormtongue is introduced of whose influence Theoden is under? Is there any similarity to the conversation between Gandalf and Saruman at the end of Episode I?

4. Wormtongue is introduced much earlier here than in the book. What do you think of the scene between Theoden, Wormtongue and Gandalf? Does it enhance the story and as a fan do you like having this in the story so early?

5. The confrontation between Saruman, the Lord of the Nazgul and other Nazgul is taken from Unfinished Tales (as is the confrontation between Wormtongue and the Nine). How does the scene help a listener who might not have read the books to understand what is going on in the plot? Does this scene help to increase the tension of the broadcast? Would you include this scene in your adaptation of the book (if you made one with approval)?

6. Does it work to have the escape of Gandalf, the Edoras confrontation, the finding of Shadowfax in this part of the story versus a reflection at the Council of Elrond? Why do you think that Brian Sibley put this in this spot and not at the Council of Elrond?

7. I'm bias and will state that up front. I love the scene of Frodo, Sam and Pippin leaving Bag End. It reminds me so much of the book. Do you like the song Upon the Hearth? Does it sound like a hobbit song to you, or one that Frodo or Bilbo would make up?

8. We meet Merry and Pippin for the first time here. What are your thoughts of both initially?

That's enough for now. Feel free to comment also on what you think of the actors who portray these characters. Again you can find the script and other great info over at Wellinham . Also feel free to discuss whatever else you wish up to the point when Frodo leaves Bag End with Pippin and Sam. We'll pick up tomorrow at the Gaffer and a Black Rider.

" . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

(This post was edited by ArathornJax on Jun 10 2008, 12:52am)


Jun 10 2008, 11:12am

Post #2 of 11 (196 views)
Lots of points.. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, there's a lot of points you've brought up here (many i've not thought of,so i was caught a bit wrong footed! lol) and i'm a slow typist..
First i'd like to say...
Taken from the unfinished tales ? Well, i'd not realised that ! I've read/seen/heard the various books, films, radio shows etc with, generally, big gaps between each. So it's not unusual for me to forget EXACTLY some of the finer details..
So, thanks for that fact!
I like the inclusion of the Saruman/ lord of the Nazgul confrontation. I think it adds to the feeling of....how can i put this?....friction/ tension/ competition(for the ring+power etc..), between the "bad guys".
Its easy to simply see Saruman as being "with" Sauron. But the situation is far more complicated than that.

The whole Eagles carrying Frodo all the way amuses me. Gwaihir says that no one tells him what to do...Not Radagast or Gandalf. It implies to me that the Eagles will help but not do all the dirty work! Besides, i'm pretty sure the ring needs to be snuck in secretly, not dive bombed in en-Mass! I think Sauron would have launched an all-out counter!!

As for the eagles talking...Well, it being radio the options are pretty limited on how to show eagles communicating with people. It was ok i guess. Not what i'd call convincing, more....fulfilling the needs of the show.
Maybe it could have been sung. Though maybe that would have sounded corny, which is worse than unconvincing!

One thing i did like about the radio show and the recent films was wormtongue ! (Far more fun to act than your cominal garden hero..imo! lol). The 2 versions were very different but i found both convincing. The one in the films was ill..sick. Could have done with a good diet, exercise and some sun! lol. Here though he comes across as more reasonable. Very believable. I think Paul Brooke did a great job!
Having the Gandalf, Grima, Theoden scene this early gives a feel of "things going on" in the outside world. In the book this was done with mention of strangers in the shire and some rumours from afar. Here it keeps the listener informed of the bigger picture and not just Frodo's big move!....

...Which i liked the inclusion of as well!!
The whole song/ setting out on a journey. It keeps the Hobbits sense of fun and down-to-earth personality.
Also it is straight out of the book...and i think the tune sounds about right. I read through it again and i reckon it fits well with the words!
I'd be intrested to hear what others think on this point!

"Only the guilty dream"... oh dear, i'm DOOMED!!


Jun 10 2008, 2:16pm

Post #3 of 11 (197 views)
Philippa Boyens addresses the question [In reply to] Can't Post

about why Gwaihir doesn't just carry Frodo to Mt. Doom in the commentaries. She tells Peter that the eagles are not to be considered "Middle-earth taxis" that will carry people wherever they want. Basically, the eagles are set apart or isolated from the woes of Middle-earth and only become involved as an alliance with Gandalf (for example) through friendship. I see them much like Bombadil. He cares, but only involves himself to a point.

I haven't read all of the Unfinished Tales yet, so I'm glad you clarified that addtion of Wormtongue and the Riders. Fascinating!

The song they sing really has stuck in my brain. It's functional, but not one of my favourites. Actually, most of the singing in this adaptation makes me want to run from the room screaming, but this isn't bad. Actually, one of my favourite parts of this is when Frodo almost whispers The Road poem with nothing but a quiet violin playing gave me shivers. How wonderful! I also liked how they had Gandalf voicing over the Ringspell chant as the Black Rider was present. For them to keep Frodo's struggle and reaction very subtle is a good precursor to what will become more tormented later on.

sample sample
Trust him... The Hobbit is coming!

"Barney Snow was here." ~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

TORn's Observations Lists

frederica bolger

Jun 10 2008, 4:10pm

Post #4 of 11 (194 views)
I love most of the singing [In reply to] Can't Post

... in the radio adaptation. In the film, they do it by having choirs sing in the background, but the single, uneducated voice (as singing actors opposed to trained singers) is so much more powerful. As is the spoken text/ chant, in the Road song, and then later in Bilbo's Farewell.

Especially this song says so much; slightly off-key, an attempt at heartiness when the hobbits are unsure where their journey will take them.

Blimey, I didn't know that the Saruman/ Nazgul/ Wormtongue bits were from Unfinished Tales, I always thought they were bits of dramatic machinery put in by Mr Sibley to explain the plot...

Talking eagles... Very wisely, the eagles didn't talk in the films (unless it is through the voice of the boy soprano), and I don't think the voice works very well. To high, to 'small'. Perhaps one day JRD could have a stab at voicing the eagle?

Rain may fall and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree I will lie
And watch the clouds go sailing by.


Jun 10 2008, 6:37pm

Post #5 of 11 (188 views)
I'm with you on voices [In reply to] Can't Post

re: the singing.

I too like hearing the 'uneducated voice'. It's not that I like them better but I like the variety of Shore, Swann and the ones here. Actually, the version of Gil-Galad heard in this drama (upcoming) is one I really like.

There was a Pollantir thread awhile back asking whether the Elves (and others?) should sing in The Hobbit. Someone said they didn't want it to be a musical. My comment was there was an alternative. We live in a society where people don't spontaneously sing so much anymore. But that wasn't always the case and one of my favorite examples of how it 'works' for me is the Sharpe series with John Tams (and others) breaking into song.

The thing is, the tunes have to be mostly folk tunes. They can't be piano bar nor opera for this to work as diegetic. And it's not so much as the voice has to be 'uneducated' (although I know what you mean) but it has to have an authenticity - a non-pop, or theatrical feel to it. For it to work for me, it has to feel English/British. (or even Welsh... the Welsh love to sing and it works with the Welsh Sindarin connection). I know that Tolkien conceived of the Elvish music as being similar to religious music (chanty) but the Hobbit music surely would have been folky.

magpie avatar gallery ~ soundtrack website

Tol Eressea

Jun 10 2008, 8:59pm

Post #6 of 11 (188 views)
I love the songs [In reply to] Can't Post

While I can see why they were omitted from PJ's movies, they really work well in this play.

As to why the Eagles didn't just fly them to Mount Doom... I agree with your point about them not bearing burdens. Also, I think that, while they are willing to help where they can, they are not so interested in the whole affair as to involve themselves to such a large extent.

Introducing Theoden this early is a good way to give listeners an idea of the scope of Middle Earth, and give them a taste early on, of what's going on in the outside world, and how evil is taking hold.

I think I've got a different version to most of you, mine has a seperate set of CDs for each part, FoTR, TTT and RoTK, but I'm following well enough so far so I don't suppose it matters that much!

*Jazminatar the Brown*


Jun 10 2008, 9:17pm

Post #7 of 11 (189 views)
different version [In reply to] Can't Post

There is, actually, a whole different version of the story as an audio drama.

This one is the BBC dramatization and had Ian Holm as Frodo.
The Cast includes:
Frodo - Ian Holm Gandalf - Michael Hordern Aragorn - Robert Stephens Gollum - Peter Woodthrope Bilbo - John Le Mesurier Sam - Willam Nighy Merry - Richard O'Callaghan Peppin - John McAndrew Legolas - David Collings Gimli - Douglas Livingstone Boromir - Michael Graham Cox Denethor - Peter Vaughan Faramir - Andrew Seear Theoden - Jack May Eomer - Anthony Hyde Eowyn - Elin Jenkins Saruman - Peter Howell Grima Wormtongue - Paul Brooke Elrond - Hugh Dickson Galadriel - Marian Diamond Celeborn - Simon Cadell ]Treebeard - Stephen Thorne Butterbur - James Grout Farmer Maggot - John Bott Lord of the Nazgul - Philip Voss Mouth of Sauron - John Rye The Narrator - Gerald Murphy plus others....

The other one is currently by Highbridge Audio although it's been released under other labels so older copies may have other names.

The cast includes:
Bilbo - Ray Reinhardt Frodo - James Arrington Merry - Pat Franklyn Pippin - Mac McCaddon Sam - Lou Bliss Gandalf - Bernard Mayes Narrator - Gail Chugg Tom Bombadil - Bernard Mayes Strider - Time Luce Aragorn - Tom Luce
Additional Voices:
Pat Franklyn Mac McCaddon Bob Lewis Gail Chugg John Vickery Erik Bauersfeld Ray Reinhardt Carl Hague

I have both. The second is, IMO, inferior to the first but I've listened to it as a change up from other things. Perhaps you have this second version.

If you do, and want to compare, you should check to see what your library has for checkout.

magpie avatar gallery ~ soundtrack website


Jun 10 2008, 11:58pm

Post #8 of 11 (191 views)
I agree with you... [In reply to] Can't Post

2. One question always raised is why not have the Eagles fly Frodo to Mt. Doom and be done with it. Does Gwaihir offer an explanation here when he says he can fly with great speed after being spotted and that he came to bear messages and not burdens and that he can bear Gandalf many leagues but not to the ends of the earth? He is able to fly Gandalf to Edoras and not to Hobbiton so does this offer insight that the Great Eagles may not be able to bear burdens so far?

Also, Elrond said that their hope was in secrecy, and a giant eagle flapping over Mordor in full view was hardly going to go unnoticed.

"O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas."

"It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men,and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace..."

"Many folk like to know beforehand what is to be set on the table; but those who have laboured to prepare the feast like to keep their secret; for wonder makes the words of praise louder."

Tol Eressea

Jun 11 2008, 7:15am

Post #9 of 11 (177 views)
Mine is the BBC version [In reply to] Can't Post

with Ian Holm as Frodo, it's a 2001 re-release with a few new bits recorded by Ian Holm. I'll definitely pop down to the library, (I work directly above one!), and see if I can find the other version!

I listened to this BBC version as a child, (my mother had them recorded on tape), but I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it til I started listening to it again for this discussion!

*Jazminatar the Brown*


Jun 11 2008, 10:45am

Post #10 of 11 (174 views)
Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

...you can check out the other one but it's hardly worth it for anything other than curiosity.

At least you're listening to the same rendition we are. So that's good.

I borrowed tapes of this drama many years ago from a friend and my tape player ate one of the tapes so I had to go about replacing the set. The publisher information had changed since hers was made and it was really hard to figure out if I had found the same series or not. I think these things must have 'changed hands' many times over the years.

magpie avatar gallery ~ soundtrack website

Idril Celebrindal
Tol Eressea

Jun 12 2008, 5:27pm

Post #11 of 11 (183 views)
This is the benefit of having CRRT on board [In reply to] Can't Post

I read on Brian Sibley's site that Christopher Tolkien reviewed the scripts and that these two incidents from "Unfinished Tales" are included in the radio play with his permission. Having access to more of Tolkien's legendarium certainly helps to flesh out the series!

Dramatizing the Nazgul's confrontation with Saruman and their interrogation of Wormtongue serves several purposes. For starters, it fills in a couple of gaps in the story. Instead of just leaving the listener to assume that the Nazgul had found the Shire through their search, it shows them getting explicit directions to it. It also confirms Saruman's treachery by dramatizing his (sort of) co-operation with agents of Mordor. And it tells us that Grima Wormtongue values his skin more than his loyalty to Saruman!

I rather like the actor who voices Gwaihir in this scene. The talking eagle works here because it's presented straight and not sentimentalized. He sounds fierce and at the same time speaks with precision, two characteristics that I think befit a lord among birds.

Gwaihir scotches the "fly Frodo to Mt. Doom" idea by telling Gandalf that he can bear him many leagues, but not to the ends of the earth. The flying Nazgul (which we see later) also would make a vertical insertion into Mordor via Eagle decidedly dangerous.

One thing I noticed here is that Gwaihir does a bit of "maid and butler dialog" to explain things to the listener. For example, in reply to Gandalf's request for help in finding a swift steed, he responds, "Then I will bear you to Edoras, where the Lord of Rohan sits in his halls; for that is not very far off. And there are no horses like those that are bred by the Rohirrim, the Horse-lords of Rohan." This rather long-winded response helps the listener who's new to the story to understand where they are going and what's happening, although it is a bit of overload for someone who's familiar with LOTR. But I think it's necessary in a radio play, which lacks the visual element of showing where Gwaihir takes Gandalf. The narrator could always simply state where Gwaihir takes Gandalf, of course, but that's less effective as drama (IMO, the narration is most effective when it's used sparingly).

I hadn't thought about the connection between Theoden's comment that Gandalf never sought aid and Saruman's. This establishes Gandalf as an independent agent -- or, from Saruman's point of view, a loose cannon!

Overall, I think that Sibley placed these scenes here to dramatize Gandalf's adventures chronologically and resolve the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1. I don't think they'd work as well if they were dramatized as part of the Council of Elrond. Too much is going on there to break away for an extended and possibly distracting flashback. Stepping away from the hobbits gives the listener context for the events that are about to occur, but it does violate Tolkien's hobbit-centric POV since the listener now knows things that the hobbits have no way of finding out.

"Upon the Hearth" does sound like a hobbit song -- simple, singable, with a tune that's easy to remember. It's used to good effect here to show how light-hearted Sam, Pippin and Frodo are as they set out on their journey.

We're discussing the BBC Lotrd of the Rings Radio Play on the Movie Discussion - LOTR board.

With caffeine, all things are possible.

The pity of Bilbo will screw up the fate of many.

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