Monday, May 30, 2011

Voices Part V - More of The Hobbit Cast: Poetry and Humor

I continue my occasional Voices series with more of the cast of The Hobbit.  I'm always interested in the effect of an actors voice on the roles they play and on the audience, and also love to find poetry readings or audio books by favorite actors.  I'm also curious about the cast of The Hobbit and hope to continue my exploration of their voice work  while they work on the films, the first one is scheduled to open in 2012.

I've probably seen  more of Benedict Cumberbatch's television work than that of any other young British actor.  For some reason U.S. Public Television stations have acquired almost everything that Mr. Cumberbatch has made in the last few years.  So I'm very familiar with him as an actor, though I know nothing of him personally.  I've seen him in period and contemporary dramas and he's a very versatile and excellent actor.  He has a very deep and often mellifluous voice which I enjoy.  

Recently there's been a flurry of news when his Sherlock co-star, Martin Freeman, mentioned, before any official announcement, that he was also cast in The Hobbit. The rumor mills and predictions are going full force, and most seem to think he has been cast as the voice of the dragon, Smaug.  Oddly enough, I've never seen Benedict Cumberbatch play a true villain, so if he is Smaug, this will be interesting. 

Calexora mentioned in a comment on Voices Part IV below that she was curious about his voice. Below you can listen to Benedict Cumberbatch reading the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 

Update on June 16, 2011:  Benedict Cumberbatch will be the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit:

I tried to find readings of any kind with Martin Freeman to listen to his voice in an unexpected role, but so far have been unsuccessful.  But I did find this clip, apparently in answer to an interview question, that sounds to me more like a monologue from a one man play called "Martin Freeman".  Mr. Freeman is obviously a naturally funny man, but having seen him in Sherlock, I also now know he's a very good dramatic actor.  I can't wait to see him as Bilbo Baggins.

Martin Freeman- I Would Cook Jesus Pasta:

When Sherlock aired in the U.S. on PBS (Public Television) in 2010 I wrote my impressions of the program, before I knew either actor would be cast for The Hobbit. To read my post click on the link:

Would a post about The Hobbit be complete without the great man himself! No, I don't mean Peter Jackson, though he is a great man also, I mean J.R.R. Tolkien himself,  author of  The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings and creator of a fantasy world that can seem just as real as the one we all inhabit. Below is a video clip of Tolkien reading a poem in Elvish, a language he created:

Below is a translation of the poem that was posted in the comment section of the above video:

For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the stars,
From Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds
And all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
And out of a grey country darkness lies
On the foaming waves between us,
And mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
Now lost, lost to those of the East is Valimar!
Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar!
Maybe even thou shalt find it! Farewell!

From all accounts Ian Holm will also be in The Hobbit as the old Bilbo.  It's going to be a treat for all Lord of the Rings movie fans to see him again, and to see him in the same films with Martin Freeman playing the younger Bilbo.  I've seen Ian Holm through the years in everything from Shakespeare to playing Napoleon Bonaparte, from comedy to drama, and he never fails to give an amazing performance. He also has a very distinctive voice, and though he can inhabit a role, you always know it's Ian Holm.  In the video below he reads "There's Hope..." a poem by Anno Birkin (1981-2001).

Of course, I can't have a post that mentions The Hobbit without mentioning my favorite voice of all, Richard Armitage, who is playing Thorin Oakenshield.  Below is one of my favorite readings by RA, I often listen to it if I feel particularly melancholic.  The poem is called "Code Poem for the French Resistance : The Life that I Have" by  Leo Marks:

There are several videos of RA reading this poem, but I was inspired to make my own little version.

The poem itself has a very interesting history.  The poem is really a poem code or poem cipher written/created by Leo Marks, who was a cryptographer during World War II.  Marks wrote the poem for use by agents during the war. The poem was also about Marks former girlfriend who died in a plane crash.  A very appropriate poem for Lucas North I think.  

To read more about the curious story of this romantic poem and the fascinating people involved, check out the links below:

I hope to continue the Voices series of posts and to continue to feature more actors from The Hobbit. Would love your comments as always.


  1. Thank you - had forgotten the beautifulness in Richards reading. *SIGH*

  2. OH MY - First THANK YOU!!!! I can totally imagine Benedict as the voice of Smaug now - I really can. And that interview of MF is hilarious. I wonder, behind that humour, what kernels of truth lie there? And what a find to get Tolkien reciting that poem in Elvish. I find that language gorgeous - I can imagine it in song, a blend of celtic/moorish music especially (like some of Loreena McKennitt's music). I'll have to listen to the LOTR again - are there any songs in Elvish? Probably right? And as for the last one, RA, my legs went all tingly. Really, I don't have the words to describe the impact his voice has on me. Every time I hear it though, it feels like I'm hearing the cherished voice of a long-lost friend...

  3. Hi Alfie and Calexora! Thanks for visiting and for your wonderful comments.

    @Alfie Don't you think he should record a CD of romantic poems?

    @Calexora I love the sound of Elvish, and I do think there are songs, even some that have been recorded after the LOTR films. I'm sure I've heard them in Middle-Earth radio. There should be lots of songs in Elvish in The Hobbit. Hope they announce what Benedict is doing, the suspense is killing me.

  4. Hi there!

    BC's voice was the first thing that grabbed my attention. So mellifluous. Leo Marks clearly had the soul of a poet. RA reads that poem/code beautifully.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi Judiang :)

    Glad you enjoyed BC's voice and RA's poem reading. I'm curious to know what part Cumberbatch will have in The Hobbit!

  6. I really enjoy your voice posts.. To think of all these talented actors working in one single project as The Hobbit is a dream come true, we're so lucky!
    BC's deep voice will be the perfect choice for Smaug's malevolent voice.
    It was a great idea to include Tolkien reciting in elvish, I admire him so much!
    Of course my favourite voice of all is Richard's too! I have never heard so attentively to a comercial add before in my life, even though the product advertised is not available in my country lol

  7. Hola Summer,
    Thank you for your lovely comments about my voices posts :)
    Following The Hobbit filming developments is exciting, isn't it? So much to look forward to.
    Here's a toast with some virtual Pilsner Urquell-LOL - I think RA's voice will increase demand for the product, any product :)

  8. Hahaha Salud!!! ¡Esta Pilsner virtual está exquisita! Increase in sales because of the RA effect!!! LOL


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