The Lord of the Rings (lost BBC radio series; 1955)

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Status: Lost

The Lord of the Rings was a radio dramatization broadcast on BBC Radio Third Programme, based on J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel of the same name. It was split into two series. The first, The Fellowship of the Ring, aired in 1955,[1] and the second, simply called The Lord of the Rings, aired in 1956.[2] Each series consisted of six episodes for a total of twelve, and the first premiered less than a month after The Return of the King was published.

Differences From the Book and Tolkien's Opinion

Several changes were made to the story, including several cuts to the second series in order to trim two books down to six episodes. Goldberry was portrayed as Tom Bombadil's daughter rather than the wife because it was thought their age difference was too great, and Old Man Willow was portrayed as an ally of Mordor. The Council of Elrond scenes were trimmed severely so that only the base characters and actions remained.[3]

Tolkien thought poorly of the series, referring to it as a "sillification." He described the portrayal of Tom Bombadil as "dreadful" but thought that the changes made to Goldberry and Old Man Willow were even worse. He felt that Glóin's portrayal (which had a German accent) was "not too bad, if a bit exaggerated," but other than a few other details, the series as a whole was not well done. He came to the conclusion that The Lord of the Rings works best as a book, and would not translate well into any other medium.[3]


The BBC did not keep long-term recordings of its programs at the time, and like many other BBC radio and television programs, it was subject to wiping in order to conserve tape. As such, no recordings are known to exist.


  1. Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide Reader's Guide, "Adaptations", pp. 8-23.
  2. Radio Times, Volume 133, No. 1723, November 16, 1956.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien by J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien.