Sunday 8 August 2021

FORTY YEARS ON... Eric Fraser's LORD OF THE RINGS radio art: Week 23


And so we come to 'Mount Doom', the twenty-third episode of the 1981 BBC serialisation of J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, originally broadcast forty years ago this Sunday.

In so many ways this is the climax (although not the end) of the quest which began in Episode 6 when, at Rivendell, the Council of Elrond determined that the war with Sauron could only be won if the One Ring were to be returned to fires of Orodruin. 

This episode was the second of the final five episodes that I personally dramatised for the serialisation, taking over from Michael Bakewell's brilliant dramatisation of the epic battles that precede the intense, intimate drama that is played out by Frodo, Sam and Gollum on the very edge of the Cracks of Doom.

As a dramatist, this was one of my favourite episodes to have written and I have unforgettable memories of watching Ian Holm, Peter Woodthorpe and Bill Nighy, gathered around a radio microphone, act out their characters' desperate struggle on Sammath Naur, playing out the narrative device that Tolkien described as a 'eucatastrophe'. Writing in a letter to his son, Christopher, Tolkien explained: "I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce)."

This original piece of art created by Eric Fraser for the Sunday programme page in the BBC's weekly magazine, Radio Times, is, without question, my favourite of the twenty-six weekly illustrations the artist made to accompany the series: stunningly dramatic and powerfully cataclysmic.


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