Wednesday 16 March 2022

Review of the Andy Serkis narrated audiobooks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Surprisingly perhaps, the recent Andy Serkis narrations of The Hobbit unabridged and the Lord of the Rings (plus Appendix A, and the introduction to B) are I believe the only English language versions apart from those by Rob Inglis

So how does Serkis compare with Inglis?

Both are very good, but different enough to be complementary. 

Serkis takes the reading more slowly, speaks more emphatically, and there is more light and shade - both humour and horror come out more strongly. In a word: Serkis is more exciting

Inglis's is a more integrated reading, and he reads more correctly in terms of getting across the meaning by intonation and correct emphasis - by contrast, Serkis often emphasizes the wrong word in a phrase or description - especially over-doing the adjectives. 

As for the songs or poems - both do these unaccompanied. Serkis sings with a natural bass-baritone voice, Inglis with a trained, higher baritone. 

In general, I don't much like the tunes either of them use, and neither do justice to the 'high style' elvish songs; but Serkis does some of the folkier hobbit songs quite convincingly. 

What about the different voices of characters? Consistent with the above, Inglis's characters are not so starkly differentiated as Serkis. 

It seems clear that Serkis has modelled some of the character voices on the actors he worked with in the Peter Jackson movies; for instance, he does Merry as 'Mummerset' and Pippin as Scottish - which are fine, but neither of which I would regard as correct! 

Serkis as Gollum is simply perfection, and will never be surpassed. 

On the other hand; I was not convinced by Serkis having Boromir, Denethor and Faramir speak in Yorkshire dialect - which does distinguish Gondor from Men of Rohan and Bree; but which seems to owe more to Sean Bean than to their situation as the three highest status Men in Middle Earth. 

And the Gondorian soldier Beregond and his son Bergil are given Ringo Starr-esque Liverpudlian accents - which grated on my ear. 

Yet these are minor quibbles - and in general the range of character voices represent a tour de force by Serkis. 

In conclusion; I prefer and would recommend Rob Inglis as the best option for the serious, repeated, adult Tolkien listener. 

But I have no doubt that Serkis would be a better choice for younger and first-time listeners - and, at his best Serkis allows himself time, and possesses the energy and concentration, to scale the heights and plumb the depths of these great works. 

And the ideal is - of course - to own both!


stef said...

Have you looked at Phil Dragash's work?

Bruce Charlton said...

@stef - No, I wasn't aware of this version. I'll certainly give it a try.

Bruce Charlton said...

Warning - I have three times crashed my computer trying to download Phil Dragash's audiobook from the site linked above. Clearly there is some kind of software problem, since I download other stuff all the time without any problems - and have given up on it.

Anonymous said...

We've enjoyed the Rob Inglis Hobbit repeatedly, en famille and variously, down the years (though I, at least, have never heard his whole LotR) - and now our daughter has let us hear the first chapter of Andy Serkis's Hobbit (with promise of more): my first impression is, indeed that "the ideal is - of course - to own both!" The manner of the differentiation of the voices in Serkis's Hobbit so far, is well done, but does give pause - is there a good rationale for it, in Middle-earth terms, or is it just as if an assortment of different actors with their own native - or chosen - accents were involved?

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

Note: I have now found the Phil Dragash version in a more accessible version on It is certainly a skilful labour of love, and worthy of respect - but I personally didn't much enjoy the samples I heard!