A while back we featured a review of the Audio version of The Lord of the Rings. Now Jan has given us this review of The Silmarillion, a work that many people find more difficult to read. The verdict is that it is wonderful to hear it instead!
“The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien – CD Audio Version
Narrated by Martin Shaw
Random House Audio
Oh, how I do enjoy listening to someone read the Silmarillion to me and Martin Shaw has just the voice to do it. Of course, Martin Shaw’s narration would be nothing without the almost “biblical” language created by Prof. Tolkien. But Mr. Shaw, in every respect, pays homage to the Prof. Tolkien’s creation by taking a mostly narrative book and somehow making you believe he is an observer recanting exactly what he has witnessed himself from the beginning of time to well into the Third Age.
It is the kind of narration that, to truly enjoy it, one must at least be in a secluded area where you can (maybe) close your eyes and concentrate. Mr. Shaw does more than just pronounce the names and places correctly, he is amazingly articulate with even the smallest words making the most ordinary of phrases sound like poetry. His deep rich voice is wonderful for quoting such characters as Manwe, Glamrung and Morgoth but he also manages to quote the feminine characters like Melian and Galadriel with enough lightness and strength to make you crave for more. His tone rises and falls so effortlessly that you almost don’t see it coming. It just fits. I am sure Prof. Tolkien would be pleased with the lilting magic he applied to those wonderful words.
Anyone I have spoken to about the book The Silmarillion, has the same comment. They have either attempted many times to “get into it” and failed or somehow succeeded and have maybe returned to read it again. My attempts totaled 3 then I decided to have a listen to a clip of the audio version, sadly these clips are not the best quality but somehow I decided to purchase it in spite of that because Mr. Shaw did seemed to have a lock on pronouncing the hundreds of names and places, and that was enough for me. I was not disappointed and was extremely impressed by the CD quality of the final product. Those lyrical pronunciations of persons and places escaped my imagination completely when I tried to read it myself and I thought there was no hope for me until I heard them actually pronounced. I am on my third complete read so far and listen to part of it almost daily. It never sounds the same as there is way too much detail to remember. I always seem to hear something new somehow.
If I had to compare both Rob Inglis and Martin Shaw, Rob Inglis was the best match for both The Hobbit and LOTR. Those books were more story telling, including both humor and tragedy whereas The Silmarillion tends to explain the myth, majesty and history more. It is no less interesting or dramatic but tends to be more fact based. And both gentlemen do their readings with extreme flair.