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J.W. Braun’s Bookshelf – June

June 1, 2012 at 8:00 am by celedor  - 

This month,  J.W. Braun reports from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando Florida to tell you how you can win a free Harry Potter board game.  He also reviews The Sorcerer’s Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter and, in the mailbag section below the video, answers your questions.


J.W. Braun’s Mailbag

It seems strange that Sauron could show Denethor Frodo trapped at the Tower of Cirith Ungol but he could not get the Ring. When Frodo was captured at Cirith Ungol, why didn’t Sauron just send a Nazgul to the tower right away? It seems like he didn’t care about Frodo/Sam until too late. – Kathryn

One of the plot points somewhat buried in The Lord of the Rings that’s quite important is that Sauron doesn’t actually know what’s going on with the Ring throughout most of the story, outside of some vague details. When he learns of Frodo’s capture, it doesn’t occur to him that the hobbit is trying to destroy the Ring. It’s especially ironic that when Sauron alerts Denethor (and others) to Frodo’s capture, he’s simply doing so to display that a spy’s mission has failed. He has no idea that the others will assume that he is trying to tell them that he now has the Ring! – JW

Is Bilbo “the narrator” of The Hobbit? It seems like he’s writing in third person about his adventures. But the book also says, “I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us.” So how could Bilbo have written the story? – Todd

The idea is that The Hobbit is based on a lost manuscript (partially written by Bilbo) that Professor Tolkien has discovered. So Bilbo’s thoughts drive some of the narrative, but Tolkien lends an editorial hand as well. (Incidentally, when I reread the book I like to think of the narrator as a kindly old man sitting by a fire in front of a semi circle of children.)

I bought the cartoon version of The Hobbit on DVD but I swear it’s missing some of the sound effects that were on my old VHS tape. Am I crazy or is this true?  – Garrett

Indeed, the DVD version of the Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Hobbit (released on September 11, 2001 of all days) has a different sound mix than the prior releases, taken from a 1978 record collection. Because this sound mix was originally intended to be separate from the cartoon, it excludes many of the cartoon’s sound effects. (Meanwhile, there are a few sound effects – and even a line of dialogue – added to the mix.) For those of us who watched the movie on video tape a hundred times, it’s really an awkward thing. – JW

I was poking around the amazon reviews for Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and people are saying that Warner Brothers took the original pan & scan version of the film (as it was on the original VHS tape) and rematted it to give it the appearance of a letterbox film. In other words this is not the widescreen version that was shown at the cinemas in 1978. Is this true?! Will we never see the original version? – Pando

While it’s generally assumed that “fullscreen” versions of films (formatted to fit the old square-ish tvs) are always showing us less of the picture than the “widescreen” versions, this isn’t always so. Sometimes films (with the Back to the Future films being a good example) are made in the 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio, and then the top and bottom of the frame are matted out for the theater.  This is how the animated Lord of the Rings was designed, which means the fullscreen version actually has more of the picture than the widescreen. (That said, since the widescreen aspect ratio is how the film is meant to be seen, the framing for the fullscreen version looks worse.) So in a way, people are right in that the widescreen version presently available on DVD and Blu ray is a matted version of the prior fullscreen release, but in this case it’s a good thing!

It’s also interesting to note that even the fullscreen versions of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films include some of the picture that was matted out for the theaters and the widescreen DVDs.  (But unlike the animated Lord of the Rings, the fullscreen versions of Jackson’s LOTR films do crop off the some of the sides of the frame.)  – JW

What do you do to warm up your voice for your book reviews? – Mitchell

Funny you should ask. Here’s a look:


J.W. Braun is a Tolkien scholar and author of The Lord of the Films, published by ECW Press in 2009. If you have a question for him, simply drop him a line at

You can find out more about J.W. at

Posted in Books Publications on June 1, 2012 by
Daggers of Tauriel

2 responses to “J.W. Braun’s Bookshelf – June”

  1. I was planning to use Patricia Gray’s play version of The Hobbit with my 6th grade class next year to excite them about the upcoming movie. What have you heard about Gray’s play? Is it any good?

  2. Smaug says:

    Harry Potter? On a site dedicated to the LotR? Tolkien’s rolling over in his grave.

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