Adaptations of The Lord of the Rings

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Many adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, an epic by the English author J. R. R. Tolkien, have been made in the media of film, radio, theatre, video games, and recorded readings.


Early attempts to adapt Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings were made by Walt Disney, William Snyder, Forrest J. Ackerman, Denis O'Dell (who considered Richard Lester to direct, but approached star directors David Lean, Stanley Kubrick and Michaelangelo Antonioni instead), Peter Shaffer, John Boorman and George Lucas. These attempts resulted in some unproduced concept art and scripts, original fantasy films like Excalibur and Willow, and an animated short of The Hobbit.[1]

Three cinema adaptations have been completed. The first was The Lord of the Rings by the American animator Ralph Bakshi in 1978, the first part of what was originally intended to be a two-part adaptation of the story.[2] The second, The Return of the King in 1980, was a television special by Rankin-Bass.[1] The third was The Lord of the Rings film trilogy by the New Zealand director Peter Jackson in the early 2000s, released in three instalments as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.[3]

A Swedish live action television film, Sagan om ringen, inspired by the music album Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings by Bo Hansson was broadcast in 1971.[4] A Finnish live action television miniseries, Hobitit, was broadcast in 1993 based on the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.[5][6] A live-action TV special of The Hobbit was produced in the Soviet Union in 1985, a pilot for an animated Hobbit series in 1991, and a live-action television play of The Fellowship of the Ring, Khraniteli has newly been discovered and uploaded in Russia's Channel 5 YouTube Channel in 2 parts. The adaptation had been aired in Russia once, and was thought lost.[7][8][9]


Tolkien's novel has repeatedly been adapted for radio both in the United States and in Europe, from soon after its publication in the 1950s onwards. In 1955 and 1956, the BBC broadcast The Lord of the Rings, a 12-part radio adaptation of the story. The Fellowship of the Rings was adapted as six 45-minute episodes, then The Two Towers and The Return of the King together were compressed into six 30-minute episodes.[10] Tolkien disparaged this dramatisation, referring to the portrayal of Tom Bombadil as "dreadful" and complaining bitterly about several other aspects.[11] The recordings were lost, but in 2022 the original scripts by the producer Terence Tiller, including a sheet with handwritten suggestions by Tolkien, were rediscovered in the BBC archives.[10]

In 1981, BBC Radio 4 produced a new dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings in 26 half-hour stereo instalments. The script by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell attempts to be as faithful as possible to the original novel. It was a critical success and Ian Holm, who voiced Frodo Baggins in the radio serial, went on to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's movie trilogy.

The New York radio station WBAI-FM broadcast a reading from the book in 1972, narrated by Baird Seales; since then, they have rebroadcast it annually.[12] A 1979 dramatisation was broadcast by National Public Radio in the United States. The series was produced by The Mind's Eye. It was produced by Bob Lewis and adapted for radio by Bernard Mayes.[13][14] In 1981 the BBC broadcast its version in 26 half-hour instalments. It starred Ian Holm as Frodo Baggins, Bill Nighy as Sam Gamgee, and Michael Hordern as Gandalf.[15] In 1992 the German radio stations Südwestrundfunk and Westdeutscher Rundfunk broadcast Der Herr der Ringe, a 30-episode adaptation directed by Bernd Lau with music by Peter Zwetkoff. It had a cast including Hans Peter Hallwachs, Walter Renneisen, and Rufus Beck, and was narrated by Ernst Schröder.[16] In 1999-2000 the Danish radio station Danmarks Radio broadcast Eventyret om Ringen, a Danish language retelling by Rune T. Kidde. The music was by The Tolkien Ensemble, Hedningarna, Sorten Muld and Kim Skovbye.[17] In 2001, 2002 and 2003, the three volumes of the novel were adapted into a Slovak radio series, consisting of three annual series of fully cast radio plays, each of six episodes. The Hobbit character Bilbo Baggins served as the narrator. The eighteen episodes were produced and broadcast as a co-production between the public broadcaster Slovak Radio (now Radio and Television Slovakia) and the private broadcaster Rádio Twist (later known as Rádio Viva).[18][19][20][21]


An actor as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings comedy musical in Cincinnati

Several musical theatre adaptations, whether serious or parodic, have been made based on The Lord of the Rings; they have met with varying success. Full-length productions of each of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) were staged in Cincinnati, Ohio.[22][23] Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, produced individual plays of each of the three books, with The Fellowship of the Ring in 1997, The Two Towers in 2000, and The Return of the King in 2001. Karen Tarjan and Ned Mochal were involved in adapting and directing the plays, with varying roles.[24] In 2006, a large-scale three-and-a-half-hour The Lord of the Rings musical was produced in Toronto. The expensive production lost money and closed six months later. It was edited for a production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, and ran from May 2007 until July 2008; The Guardian wrote that "at £25m, it was the most costly musical mistake in West End history".[25] A musical parody of The Fellowship of the Ring, titled Fellowship!, ran in Los Angeles for a stint on two occasions, coming back 3 years after its debut for a number of shows in the middle of 2009.[26]

Video games[edit]

Numerous computer and video games have been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's works set in Middle-earth. Titles have been produced by studios such as Electronic Arts, Vivendi Games, Melbourne House, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.[27][28]


The Library of Congress, which makes versions especially for the blind, recorded an unabridged version of The Lord of the Rings in 1967, narrated by Livingston Gilbert, on vinyl media. This version was taken out of circulation at the time of the recording of the 1978 version.[29] It recorded a second unabridged version of The Lord of the Rings in 1978, narrated by Norman Barrs, on 4-track tape media. This version was taken out of circulation at the time of the recording of the 1999 version.[30] It recorded a third unabridged version of The Lord of the Rings, A trip to Mordor in 1999, narrated by David Palmer, on 4-track tape media. This version is also available on the new digital players provided for Library of Congress patrons.[31]

In 1990, the Australian actor Rob Inglis read and performed an unabridged version for Recorded Books in their New York studio.[32] While not strictly a dramatisation, Inglis created voices for all the characters, and along with project producer Claudia Howard, he created music for all the songs, which he performed. The project took six weeks to record, not counting preparation time.[32]

In 2021, the British actor Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Peter Jackson's films, recorded an unabridged version of all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings for HarperCollins and Recorded Books.[33]


  1. ^ a b Culhane, John (27 November 1977). "Will the Video Version of Tolkien Be Hobbit Forming?". The New York Times. p. D33. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 January 1978). "Review of The Lord of the Rings". The Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  3. ^ Tyler, Joshua. "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  4. ^ K-Special, "I trollkarlens hatt Archived 2015-10-27 at the Wayback Machine" (at 24m30s), Sveriges television, 23 October 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Yle teettää oman sovituksen Taru sormusten herrasta-sadusta" [Yle to produce its own version of the tale of The Lord of the Rings]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 18 June 1991.
  6. ^ Kajava, Jukka (29 March 1993). "Tolkienin taruista on tehty tv-sarja: Hobitien ilme syntyi jo Ryhmäteatterin Suomenlinnan tulkinnassa" [Tolkien's tales have been turned into a TV series: The Hobbits have been brought to live in the Ryhmäteatteri theatre]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). (subscription required)
  7. ^ Romain, Lindsey. "Russian 'Lord of the Rings' Adaptation Makes Its Way Online". Nerdist. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  8. ^ Selcke, Dan (2 April 2021). "Watch a lost Soviet adaptation of The Lord of the Rings". Winter is Coming. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  9. ^ Roth, Andrew (5 April 2021). "Soviet TV version of Lord of the Rings rediscovered after 30 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b Alberge, Dalya (12 March 2022). "Hoard of the rings: 'lost' scripts for BBC Tolkien drama discovered". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  11. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, no. 175, ISBN 978-0-395-31555-2
  12. ^ "Hour of The Wolf: Our Annual Reading from Lord of the Rings". WBAI-FM. Retrieved 4 April 2021. Thursday, December 31, 2015 1:30 AM - 3:00 AM Our annual reading of "The Council of Elrond" from The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, re-broadcast from 1972.
  13. ^ "Mind's Eye The Lord of the Rings (1979)". SF Worlds. 31 August 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Lord of the Rings Radio Drama". Archived from the original on 8 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Riel Radio Theatre — The Lord of the Rings, Episode 2". Radioriel. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Das Hörspiel »Der Herr der Ringe«". Herr der Ringe. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Imladris - Danmarks Tolkienforening, den danske guide til Tolkien".
  18. ^ "The Lord of the Rings - Worldwide radio premiere". 10 November 2001. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  19. ^ "Marián Labuda as the hobbit Bilbo". Týdenník Rozhlas (online archives). Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  20. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: Behind the scenes". Rádio Devín, Rozhlas a televízia Slovenska (online archives). 25 November 2016. Archived from the original on 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  21. ^ "J. R. R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (Radio play)". Rádio Devín, Rozhlas a televízia Slovenska (online archives). 24 November 2016. Archived from the original on 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Lord of the Rings Musical will Embark on 2015 World Tour". Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2006.
  23. ^ Hetrick, Adam (11 November 2013). "Lord of the Rings Musical Will Embark On 2015 World Tour". Playbill. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  24. ^ Jones, Chris (18 October 2001). "Lifeline wraps up Tolkien trilogy in jaunty style". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  25. ^ "The fastest West End flops – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Fellowship: The Musical Parody of 'The Fellowship of the Ring'". Fellowship the Musical. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Warner Bros. Games are coming out of the Shadow of its Movies". 15 June 2017. Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Warner Bros. and Tolkien Estate Settle 80 Million Hobbit Lawsuit". The Hollywood Reporter. 3 July 2017. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  29. ^ Library of Congress reference numbers were TB 03367 (The Fellowship of the Ring), TB 03369 (The Two Towers), and TB 03368 (The Return of the King).
  30. ^ Library of Congress reference numbers were RC 10975 (The Fellowship of the Ring), RC 10976 (The Two Towers), and RC 10977 (The Return of the King).
  31. ^ Library of Congress reference numbers are RC 47486 / DB 47486 (The Fellowship of the Ring), RC 47487 / DB 47487 (The Two Towers), and RC 47488 / DB 47488 (The Return of the King).
  32. ^ a b Menta, Joseph P. (December 2001 – January 2002). "Talking With Rob Inglis". AudioFile. Archived from the original on 2014-01-08. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
  33. ^ Butler, Mary Anne (7 July 2021). "Andy Serkis-Read "Lord of The Rings" Audible is Coming this Fall". NerdBot. Retrieved 7 July 2021.

External links[edit]

Official sites