01.23.09

The Hobbit

Posted in Audio Clips (non Music) at 11:21 am by Luke

In the early 1970′s, Nicol was approached by Demi Demetriou and asked if he would undertake a recording of the Hobbit for Decca records. Nicol has a true love for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and was excited to work on such a challenging solo project.
A lot of people have expressed an interest in both a re-release and in an unabridged version, but so far there is no movement in either direction. Nicol actually is strongly opposed to an unabridged version, in fact he re-edited the original script, removing many ‘he said, she said, said so and so’ etc, relying on his vocal character performances to convey who was saying what to whom. He really prefers that to an over-reliance on descriptive narrative, and feels it keeps you more in the story.
We were talking recently about his doing the same thing with Lord of the Rings, I think he would enjoy recording it immensely.

*note: I had uploaded several clips when i stumbled upon these YouTube videos painstakingly done by RingsradioDrama, so I’ve embedded them instead. My thanks to him, I’m sure you will enjoy listening to the lot!

** Replaced removed links.

The Hobbit Part 1 of 3

The Hobbit part 2 of 3

The Hobbit part 3 of 3

52 Comments »

  1. Roger R. said,

    January 31, 2009 at 7:02 am

    What a treat!

    I was directed here by a comment on my ‘Inklings’ Blog (the original post on Nicol’s ‘Hobbit’ was made by me on 28th March 2006).

    I shall be putting in a link to this site immediately!

    Roger R.

  2. Luke said,

    February 2, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Many thanks for the linkage.

  3. Jim Skaggs said,

    February 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I, too, linked to this site. [http://www.one-eternal-day.com/2009/02/hole-in-ground-there-lived.html] Thanks for going to the trouble to embed these YouTubes of the recording. Williamson’s reading of the tale is extraordinarily good. Someone needs to recognize the potential market if it were once again made available.

    Thank you for doing your part!

  4. Luke said,

    February 4, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Thanks for linking to us Jim! The torrent file of the Hobbit posted above is higher audio quality than these YT embeds, if you haven’t yet downloaded it.

  5. Tim Fisher said,

    February 6, 2009 at 7:11 am

    It’s great to have the whole series from YouTube… but please keep the sound bites you had available… especially one’s with any music. The sound quality on YT is pretty bad, but until I heard your bites I thought that was how the originals were meant to sound!

    Thanks.

  6. Luke said,

    February 6, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Sure, i can repost the clips i had uploaded. The torrent version is from the those clips, not the YT version, so will sound cleaner.

  7. David Bullock said,

    March 25, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Nicol’s reading of The Hobbit looms large in my memory of growing up – it gave much delight and in many ways was responsible for waking a (Tookish?) love of the written and spoken word. It is also something I share with one of two of my best friends even in adulthood, and we will often recite a line (very often a Dwarvish one) which seems pertinent to the moment. I am in short, deeply grateful for the rich experience that Nicol gave us.

    I rather agree that to un-abridge it would be a backward step – “My dear Bilbo, something is very much the matter with you! You are not the Hobbit you used to be” is the canonical summary which Tolkien somehow messed up when one takes the time to re-read the original.

    However, I must complain rather strongly about the continued un-availability of the recording. Not being able to sit down with more recently aquired friends and listen to The Hobbit stops us from sharing something that’s very dear to me (the You Tube videos don’t quite cut it in this regard, either). I do hope Nicol/Argo/Decca will consider re-releasing it. I promise to buy at least ten copies and distribute them to the waiting masses.

    Since I have the amazing opporunity of speaking to the narrator, I fear I must also take issue with his intonation in the phrase “on an eagle’s back this time”, where Nicol stresses the eagle, but the point of the sentence is that he’s riding on the eagle’s _back_ instead of being seized by terrible talons. Since Bilbo himself is responsible for the Red Book, it should be obvious that _comfort_ is one of the chief narrative concerns.

    Better go – someone at the door! “Some four I should say, by the sound”! Fare well Nicol Williamson, wherever you fare, and thanks for sharing your passion in The Hobbit.

  8. Luke said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:11 am

    I agree completely with your frustration over the lack of a re-release.
    As far as the eagle comment, it struck me funny too at first, but after looking at it again, I realised that Bilbo is never actually clutched by the eagles talons, rather he grabs a-hold of Dori, so the stress upon ‘eagle’ could be in comparison with being carried on a dwarf’s back, which he is both in the tunnels of the goblins, and in the forest, trying to escape the wargs. I agree however that stressing ‘back’ rather than ‘eagle’ would appear to make more sense.

  9. Cynthia Gregoli said,

    June 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I was fortunate enough to be given a set of these recordings when I was a child, and I have cherished them greatly over the years. As I now do not have a turntable, I’ve given them over to a music professional to have them sent to CD so I can listen to them again. They were one of the most wonderful recordings I have ever owned or listened to, and it’s a crime that they are not going to be released on digital. Add my voice to those asking for a release on modern format!

  10. Ben Gibbs said,

    July 2, 2009 at 5:44 am

    My sister, cousins and I have been listening to the this recording of the Hobbit for over 30 years since it was first released. We would listen to the complete set of tapes on long car journeys and even now, can recite long passages.

    I return time and again to, what is to me, the perfect performance of the perfect story. The possible existence of the unabridged recording has always intrigued me and I would leap at the chance of hearing it.

    Thank you.

  11. shanah said,

    August 31, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    My Dearest! What happened?! Why there is nobody here since a March??? I beg for it, let somebody answer already!!!

  12. Luke said,

    November 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Im working on converting the better quality torrent version of this into YOUTUBE videos, I have a little bit of free time on my hands this week, so ill see how far I can get.

    Luke

  13. Rob said,

    November 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I listened to this on tape (4 tape box set) over and over again throughout my childhood, until I went to university and the tapes began to snarl and I couldn’t risk messing them up further. I kept meaning to make a copy but they just got too fragile to risk. Besides, I got to the point that I didn’t really need the tapes as every word and accent is embedded in my memory! I’ve been waiting for the day that technology caught up and now finally I have the MP3′s from ‘Audiobook corner’.
    My Brother just phoned me and asked if I still had it, to play to his kids as they have just been mesmerized by the BBC ‘Lord of the rings’ radio adaptation (another one that we both listened to repeatedly after he taped the original broadcast off the radio in the 80′s, and I subsequently sequestered from him)
    I have a one year old son myself now, and can’t wait to play it too him – Maybe his first word will be Gollum!
    Can anyone confirm that I have the complete version in both the MP3′s and the 4 tape set (I believe there was a shorter 2 tape set released?) – I don’t know how either compare to the LP’s.
    Nicol & Luke – Thankyou, You don’t know how much this has meant to me over the years, It takes me to my happy place!

  14. Luke said,

    November 14, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    There was a more abridged cassette version, I believe the majority of surviving tapes are the shorter edition.
    All the LP versions were the same length, Nicol has told me recently that nothing he recorded was omitted in the LPs. (There was a rumor that he had recorded an 8 LP set which was whittled down to 4 LPs, this is not the case.)
    To check your tapes to see if they are the the extended or abridged version, listen to the riddle section of the story. If, after Bilbo recites the “thirty white horses on a red hill” Gollum replies “chestnuts, chestnuts…TEETH!” etc -thats the full version. If it cuts after Gollum says ‘chestnuts’ and cuts to the next riddle before saying ‘Teeth’ it’s the (heinously) edited version.

    Hope that helps.

  15. Ryker said,

    November 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

    My father used to play the original LP you released back in the 70′s. He would turn off all the lights in the house, light some candles, make some popcorn, and give use something nice to drink, then put the album on. And then the living room would turn into this fantasy world. For anyone that reads this, try it. it is so cool to do.

  16. Mike said,

    November 24, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Our family would listen to these recordings on family road trips. I am offically adding my vote for a re-release in CD format. Thank you for the many wonderful memories!

  17. Cheri said,

    December 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I listened to this when broadcasted from a small college in CA when it first came out. I got a friend to record it on cassette tapes for me and I listened to it over and over. Years later, my children also listened to it with rapt attention. I have listened to other renditions of the Hobbit, but NOTHING has compared to the spellbinding recording done by Nicol Williamson. I no longer have those tapes. They wore out a long time ago. I too, would LOVE to have this redistributed. I would greatly love to be able to have a copy of the original 8 hour long recording too. In my opinion, this audio release of the Hobbit is the best one that has ever been recorded!

  18. JohnFS said,

    December 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Hello people, My wife and I stopped off at a small consignment shop while we were out riding around today and I happened upon the 1974 box album set of the hobbit read by Nicol Williamson that has never been opened, I purchased it for $6.00 American. I will keep it unopened and add it to my small collection of the Hobbit and items. I was wondering if anyone might know what the value might be and if there is a collectors guide out there for the Hobbit. My wife and I are listening to the recordings here on this site and are enjoying Nicol’s reading very much.

  19. patti said,

    January 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Home again, to my little Hobbit Hole..can hear the creaky door, even now…but I’d like to know, is there ever going to be this wonderful reading by Nicol, on CD, DVD…
    Used to listen to this in the dark, on rainy nights…there is nothing better…

    happy new year to all of you who stop here..we are all on the same page, afterall..

    love,
    p.

  20. Brian Murphy said,

    January 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks very much for embedding all these clips here.

    If you’re interested, here’s my take on this wonderful recording: http://www.thecimmerian.com/?p=9282

  21. Peter Morrisey said,

    January 21, 2010 at 2:33 am

    I had to drive from Liverpool to Cardiff, and back,- for my Firm, about ’83/’84. I’d borrowed Nicol Williamson reading the Hobbit from my local library – it came into its own on that journey! I’ve loved the recording ever since…Thank you Nicol.

  22. Robert Bruce said,

    March 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Long has it been since I last visited Hobbiton, and just as long awaiting the memory of Bilbo’s long adventure. A wonderful reading, a delight to remember. Thank you for this very deserving site. May you always be happy, yuor mug be full, and may your plate be full and your home be merry! God Bless you all who visit here a warm and welcomed stay.

  23. Russell said,

    April 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I remember borrowing this version on cassette in 1986 from the library at school. I was spellbound by it. I chanced on this while browsing. It is wonderful to hear it again. This will my nights very enjoyable once again. Thank you for uploading this.

  24. mark mextedMARKMEXTED@HOTMAIL.COM said,

    May 30, 2010 at 1:56 am

    HI i ave tried emailing you contact address but no replys and leaving a comment on your facebook page i have the hobbit read by nicole on a 4 lp boxed set in my collection and was wanting to know if he could autograph it for me flick me an email on markmexted@hotmail.com

  25. Brian Robert Brown said,

    June 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Hi there
    I was wondering if you could help me? I have an original vinyl recording of the hobbit read by Nicol Williamson. It has the original box, sleeves, booklet and 4 LP vinyl records. I was just wondering if it has any value. I have had this since i was around 15 yrs old, buying it second hand for £20. I am now 38 yrs old and still love it, although in all these years i have only listened to it once. I wrapped it up and put it away, and have just recentley rediscovered it in my parents loft. I would appreciate if you could give me any information on this item
    Kind regards Brian R Brown

  26. Gertrud said,

    June 17, 2010 at 3:06 am

    The Lord of the Rings (in print) and The Hobbit (on the 4 Williamson record album) have accompanied and helped me through several very difficult periods of my life. They are magic soul food, and with the old record player gone it’s great to be able to listen to Williamson’s fantastic rendering at least on my laptop. Thank you so much for making it available!

  27. E E Fields said,

    August 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I had my vinyl version copied onto CD and cassette for personal use, but there’s a good bit of crackle & pop noise from the 40 year old LPs. I WISH the complete original recordings were available commercially on CD and/or for download. Does anyone know who owns the rights? There would seem to be an opportunity to reap some rewards here, particularly if the Hobbit film is ever completed/released.

    Williamson’s is simply the BEST reading of the Hobbit. His ability to voice all the characters was an amazing accomplishment. The only other person I could imagine being able to pull it off these days would be Patrick Stewart–who managed a similar feat with Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

  28. Georgie said,

    August 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

    All my christmases came at once when I found this download. We had lost our original recording (we lent it to someone and it was never returned) and I have dreamt of finding it again. Technology having moved on I have now put it on my ipod! I cannot thank you enough and now my grandchildren can hear it as my sons did back in the 1970′s.

  29. Simon said,

    August 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    This audio recording of The Hobbit reminds me of days long gone by when I was a child and my Dad would play this tape to my brother and I every night before going to sleep!!

    I really Hope they put this version on CD!!

    This mans voice is so enchanting! :)

  30. Kathleen McCowan said,

    October 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    How exquisite to hear this great recording again! I once owned the vinyl set of this great narration. I see from the remarks here that I am not the only one to search in vain until now.
    Thanks for making this recording available.

  31. Steve Larsen said,

    November 17, 2010 at 12:04 am

    This is great. The first and, until now, last time I heard Nicol Williamson’s adaptation of the Hobbit was back in 1974 on the radio. Thanks Luke for posting these links and putting together this website for Nicol.
    -Steve

  32. Adam. said,

    February 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    The torrent link seems to have died.

    Does anyone know if it still exists anywhere?

    I have it on an original set of audio cassettes and was most put out some years ago when the first tape snapped and shredded the first couple of paragraphs.

    Takes deliberate work to shred the first couple of paragraphs on a CD.

  33. Lopez said,

    February 10, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Thank you so much for this. Through out my life, nothing has been more comforting to me than “The Hobbit”. This is a most wondrous gift. Thank you.

  34. Matt said,

    February 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    @Adam — you can find a great MP3 copy here.

    This is quite certainly the best recording of the Hobbit anywhere to be found. Nicol Williamson’s voicing is absolute perfection. I wish there were more of the story intact… but still, as it is, I have listened to this narration 2-3 times per year for the last 25 years. It never gets old.

    Can I say that I would die of happiness if Nicol were to do a Lord of the Rings companion to this piece? The fan base is there — you would sell TONS of them. Please consider! What can we do to convince you?

  35. Joe Ontiveros said,

    February 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Nicol,
    I am so happy that you put all the embeded clips here on your page. You did a wonderful job back in the 70′s. I remember listening to you tell this story though out the years since it was released. On record album, cassette tape and now on online. I had lost the cassette tapes long ago and when discovered them on YouTube I now listen to the story again I’m on the road traveling when there’s time.
    Thank you,

    Joe Ontiveros

  36. Lucien D said,

    March 3, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Thank you Nicol for an absolutely perfect performance of this story, and a profound influence on my childhood for which I am grateful to this day

    Hmm, The Lord of the Rings… Big job! Count me as another enthusiastic “yes” for that project, I would definitely buy it.
    Get hold of whoever did the music for the Hobbit recording also, as it was a perfect union.

    They should have cast Nicol as Gandalf in the film!

  37. Kevin P. said,

    March 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you VERY much. I’d been looking for this forever. I even spoke with a guy at Audible and told him to go find this… he sounded interested, but I never heard if they did re-release it. We used to listen to this as kids and now I can share it with mine.

  38. Jim H. said,

    May 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I have been listening to this wonderful reading of the Hobbit (on both vinyl and cassette copies) since the late 1970s. It is without peer, and I agree with Nicol that the abridgment is perfect just as it is. None of what was left out is missed. The incidental music, and the pace and mood that Nicol sets with his vocal characterizations never intrudes on the overall atmosphere of the story. It is long past due that someone steps up to the plate and re-releases this masterpiece of dramatic reading to the general public, not just us old vinyl die-hards!!

  39. John said,

    August 31, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Add my voice to those remembering their childhood experiences of listening to this in the dark and being spellbound.

    My parents LP set have been passed down to me and though tattered, it remains one of my most precious possessions.
    Sadly, it has been scratched and is very “poppy”.

    I would run (not walk) out and buy the CD set if it was ever released.

  40. Gray said,

    January 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I was first introduced to a small snippet of Nicol’s version when I was very young, around 6. A few years later I heard the entire LP. I was enthralled. I had to have the book and the records. I got the Boxed record set along with the green slip cased Hobbit and red Lord of The Rings that year for Christmas. All 3 are to this day my most cherished gifts. I listened to the record set to the point I had it memorized. When I got rid of my old record player I still kept the box set. About 2 years ago, I bought a USB record player. I hooked it up to my computer and the first thing I transferred was Nicol Williamson’s version of The Hobbit. Now what was 4 long play records is put on 4 CD’s. I could have put it on less, but somehow I wanted to preserve that memory of the old LP’s. What’s great is you can hear that distinct record “noise” on the CD’s. I have listened to sooo many other recordings of The Hobbit, but none of them are near the beauty and quality of this version. This is truly a masterful telling of one of the greatest pieces of literature. And I have to confess; it wasn’t until I had had the record more then 10 years that I actually read the booklet inside the box and found out it was all done by one man…..felt very foolish and yet amazed at the talent behind it.

  41. Tom said,

    January 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Nicols reading of the Hobbit defines my childhood.. I’ve just seem my young child bitten by the Hobbit bug and its beautiful!!

  42. Sam Dalladay said,

    January 27, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Defined my childhood too – I named my dog Bilbo because of Nichol’s reading of the hobbit,

    I am amazed by the number of people who remember this with such fondness.

  43. Willy Heidebrecht said,

    January 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I too have the original LP Recordings but would much prefer to have them on CD. Are they available or can I get them that way. Can I download and burn them myself?

  44. old tom of oxford said,

    February 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

    if hilary, dave, jill, vivian, rick, kevin, or anyone else who listened to this in my room on museum street in1974 reads this and doesn’t get in touch with me, may their shadow grow long.

    tom robinson

  45. Caroline said,

    February 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    As a child, regular long car journeys became something to look forward to rather than an ordeal thanks to Nicol Williamson’s reading of The Hobbit. His superb voicing of the various characters had my four siblings and me rapt and we’ve never understood why the recording hasn’t been re-released – particularly with all the interest in ‘things Tolkien’ generated by the Lord of the Rings films.

    It’s good to read that other people have similar fond memories.

    Thank you Nicol – RIP

  46. Ashlin Lewis said,

    February 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I grew up listening to this record, and now my kids, Bridget (7), and Jack (4) are listening to this online! It was like hearing an old friend when I turned it on.

  47. Chuck said,

    June 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    This brings back such fond memories. When I heard that dulcimer music in the opening again, after so many years, I felt such a wave of nostalgia. I really enjoyed listening to these recordings again.

    I also love the unabridged Rob Inglis version, which I own, but I wouldn’t change the Nicol Williamson version one iota (even though it leaves a lot out). There’s just something magical about it.

    It would be nice if a digital, downloadable version of this reading were available. I’d buy it right away.

  48. L.J.Ferguson said,

    August 7, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Thank you so much for this site! Could you please give me any information you have regarding the musical group that introduces the beginning of the marvelous performance by Nicol Williamson in” The Hobbit” audiobook Part 1 found on You Tube ? I have not been able to learn the name of this music or it’s performers. I would be grateful for any information you can provide.

  49. J.G.Bolt said,

    August 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

    The opening music is apparently taken from “The Unique Sound of the Psaltery” by R.J. “Bob” Stewart. This too has yet to become available as a digital version, but vinyl and cassette versions are apparently still available.

  50. Morgan Lewis said,

    January 22, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Nichol’s reading of The Hobbit gave me so much pleasure as a child – my parents had the LPs on almost perpetual loan from our local library back in the ’80s, but as I unfortunately never owned a copy myself, I hadn’t heard it for nigh on twenty years until I found my way here by accident. It’s a wonderful recording and remains my favourite audio adaptation of any of Tolkien’s work. Hearing it again after so long absolutely made my day, thank you. :)

  51. Pete said,

    August 3, 2013 at 2:14 am

    I was brought up on this recording, and still have the cassette tapes, but no way to play them. So I was delighted to find the recording on archive.org:

    http://archive.org/details/NicolWilliamsonPerformsJ.r.r.TolkiensTheHobbit

    (This version been sourced from such a set and is offered under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license)

  52. David Bley said,

    August 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I purchased the 4-lp version of Nicole Williamson’s reading of the Hobbit in the 70′s. It is my favorite enactment of any of Tolkien’s Middle Earth works. Alas, it’s gone. I would love to purchase an mp3 version to add to my collection. The you-tube version is quite nice but it is not sufficiently portable.

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