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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
LOTR BBC Radio Adaptation: Episode II The Black Riders: The Prancing Pony II


Jun 14 2008, 12:10am

Post #1 of 4 (178 views)
LOTR BBC Radio Adaptation: Episode II The Black Riders: The Prancing Pony II Can't Post

1. Gandalf is an interesting character here. At Bag End when he caught Sam spying/snooping Sam feared he would be turned into "something unnatural" and now at the Pony, for forgetting to forward/send the letter Barliman fears that Gandalf will turn his ale sour or turn him into a block of wood. Is this just tongue and cheek or is there something else going on here (perhaps the imaginations running wild)? Where did this imagery of Gandalf turning people into things come from?

2. Not sure if I am wording this correct but I think this question has to do with a seemingly contempt attitude between Barliman and Strider. Earlier Frodo had inquire who the stranger was and Barliman had informed Frodo about the Rangers and about Strider and his longshanks. Now Barliman warns Frodo not to take up with a Ranger and there is, not sure if conflict is the right word, but a confrontation of words between Barliman and Strider. To me there seems to be some contempt from a lack of understanding on Barliman's part (and probably the Bree Folk also) and some return contempt from Strider towards Barliman (and the Bree Folk). Does this conflict seem real to you and do the actors provide any insight as to why this might be present in the story?

3. Was anyone else confused on the scene where the Black Rider appears and Nob is heard crying for Merry until the very last line of this episode? If you did not know this from the book is this a hard part of the episode to follow?

4. Do you like hearing Gandalf read his letter to Frodo or would it have been better to have had Frodo read the letter aloud?

5. Never thought of this before, until I listened to the adaptation today, but I have seen threads discuss why Aragorn carried around a broken sword. With Frodo reading Gandalf's letter (i.e. with Gandalf reading it to Frodo), and the poem about Aragorn, is the line "Renewed shall be blade that was broken" and Strider pulls forth the sword that was broken to prove that he is Aragorn, could this be a test pre-establish between Gandalf and Aragorn for Aragorn to validate who he is to the reader of the poem/letter?

6. This episode ends with Merry bursting back into the room to make his announcement on the Black Riders. Thinking about listening to this on the radio and not on the CD would you felt like you were left "hanging" for the next episode or in today's world, would you simply go to the next CD or selection on your MP3 or iPod?

7. That's an interesting point also; think how much technology has changed since this came out in 1981. If this episode was done in today's world with today's technology, for broadcast and sales, what do you think would be different about THIS episode, The Black Riders?

" . . . (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 14 2008, 12:11am)

Idril Celebrindal
Tol Eressea

Jun 14 2008, 3:31am

Post #2 of 4 (124 views)
Interesting point [In reply to] Can't Post

I always chalked up Sam's and Barliman's fear of Gandalf turning them into "something unnatural" to their lack of sophistication. It doesn't even seem to occur to Frodo, Pippin and Merry that Gandalf would or could do this sort of thing. Sam is probably repeating accepted Hobbiton wisdom about Gandalf's powers. Barliman's more worldly and less naive than Sam, but he doesn't strike me as a very sophisticated guy and might very well believe some of the wilder rumors that he's overheard in his taproom.

It would also be to Gandalf's benefit to have Barliman be a little bit intimidated by him -- Barliman will do what Gandalf tells him to (or at least says he will!) and Barliman would be less likely to ask too many questions or poke his nose into Gandalf''s business!

The contempt that Strider and Barliman feel is mutual. As far as Barliman's concerned, Strider is little more than a vagabond, and his dismissive tone of voice shows it. Strider, for his part, has a pretty low opinion of Barliman's intelligence and doesn't bother to conceal it. In a way, he's being unfair to the innkeeper and by extension, the rest of the Breelanders. Barliman has been kept deliberately in the dark about what the Rangers are up to and what role they play in preserving the peace of the Breeland. His contempt and that of the other Breelanders is kind of a camoflage that the Rangers make good use of. It still stings when he dismisses Strider as "just a Ranger," though, and Strider can't help but react in kind. I think that this is shown well by the two actors, particularly James Grout. He injects just the right amount of contempt into Barliman's voice that a settled, prosperous innkeeper would feel towards a nameless, landless wanderer.

I like having Gandalf read the letter. It's as if Frodo is hearing his voice as he's reading it. The music that plays when he reads the "All that is gold does not glitter" poem is very appropriate; the poem clearly links this musical theme to Aragorn.

I'd never thought of the broken sword being a test that Gandalf had set up ahead of time with Aragorn, but it fits. Barliman has screwed up the plan by forgetting to deliver Gandalf's letter. It makes Strider's job of convincing the hobbits that much more difficult. I've always liked how he responds to Sam's charge that he could be a play-acting spy with self-deprecation.

As for how the radio play would be done if it were produced in 2008, I think it would be very influenced by the Peter Jackson movies, particularly in its casting. Two of the main roles in the 1981 production reprised their roles from Bakshi's movie (Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum and Michael Graham-Cox as Boromir), and I would expect something similar to happen if a contemporary radio adaptation was made in the wake of the Jackson movies. Fans of the movies would undoubtably howl if their favorite actors weren't cast in a modern radio play.

Christopher Tolkien's deteriorating relationship with people who wish to adapt his father's work means that anything that's not contained in LOTR would be off-limits: no scenes with the Nazgul confronting Saruman and Grima, and sadly, no Bilbo's Last Song.

The sound quality would be much better and the sound effects more realistic in a modern recording. We'd hear a truly unnerving Nazgul cry, impressive-sounding fireworks, battles, explosions, and erupting volcanoes, and so forth.

As for how faithful a contemporary adaptation would be to the text, it could go either way. A modern radio adaptation could make choices similar to Jackson's to transfer Glorfindel's role to Arwen, streamline various points in the story, etc. Alternatively, it could take a similar approach to the 1981 radio play and reamain as faithful to the original as is feasible, given the difference between the written word and spoken drama.

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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(This post was edited by Idril Celebrindal on Jun 14 2008, 3:33am)


Jun 14 2008, 4:30pm

Post #3 of 4 (116 views)
Yes, Arathorn, I hadn't thought about that before... [In reply to] Can't Post

but we've not been given reasons in this adaptation (other than the fireworks) why anyone at all (except Aragorn) would think Gandalf capable of doing any of the things Sam and Barliman came up with. Perhaps it was hearsay about wizards "in general" and the knowledge that Gandalf was a wizard that made them think that. Good question.

The exchange between Barli and Aragorn :

"You know your own business best, but I wouldn't take up with a ranger"

"Who would you take up with? A fat innkeeper who only remembers his own name because people shout it at him all day?"

is priceless. I actually hoped to hear these lines in the movies, but I don't think Viggo's Aragorn could have delivered the "they cannot stay in the Pony forever and they cannot go home" in the powerful way that Stephens did here. This exchange convinced the hobbits, who were not at this stage trusting of Aragorn, that they were not safe anywhere. This passage really upped the stakes for the hobbits.

Yes, I like having Gandalf read the letter. It brings his voice and character back into the story when folks who haven't read the books may be forgetting who he is. There are so many characters in the story, even having left out the "non-essentials" of Gildor and Bombadil, that I'm sure it was necessary to remind listeners who Michael Hordern's voice was.

With the wonderful medium of CD, DVD etc. I'm sure there are a lot of folks nowadays who would simply wait until the whole story was available to listen to, rather than get it episode by episode, as listeners to the BBC radio play had to do. But what fun cliff hangers are, and having to wait a week (but not a year!) must surely have added to the fun.

Hanging out with the Lonely Isle elves.

Tol Eressea

Jun 16 2008, 7:02pm

Post #4 of 4 (72 views)
Listening to it on the radio [In reply to] Can't Post

When it was broadcast would have been wonderful. Sure you may have felt like you'd been left hanging, but it gives you something to look forward to in the next episode. Of my friends who hadn't read the book, most of them were gutted when they saw the end of FoTR, only to be told they'd have to wait a year to see what happens next. (Some of them went and read the books in the meantime.) Today, we don't really have to wait long for things. When watching a series, if the next installment isn't due to be broadcast for a week, we can usually go on the internet and download it, if it's been shown elsewhere. I've been trying to spread out listening to this play, but I do know that if I get to a point where I *must* listen to the next part immediately, I can just pop in the next CD and press play!

*Jazminatar the Brown*


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