The written works of J.R.R. Tolkien are full of songs and poems that help build the mythology of Middle Earth. But while Tolkien’s songs are full of vivid imagery and exciting storytelling, it’s near-impossible to figure out what they were actually supposed to sound like. Fortunately, Tolkien himself knew, and he even recorded a few of the songs and poems.

Brain Pickings has uncovered two rare recordings circa 1952 of Tolkien reading from his works. In the first audio recording below, Tolkien sings “Sam’s Rhyme of the Troll” from The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s fascinating to hear the author give shape to Sam’s song, adding pitch and rhythm to the written words.

In the second recording, Tolkien reads several excerpts from The Lord of the Rings. His voice has a theatricality and musical lilt that brings each character to life—and the excerpts he chooses just happen to include several lines Peter Jackson lifted straight from the books for use in his Lord of the Rings films.

The recording also includes Tolkien reading several poems, imbuing them with a sense of rhythm they lack in print. Whether you’re a fan of Tolkien’s writing or the films they inspired, Brain Pickings' Tolkien recordings are required listening.

[h/t: Brain Pickings]