A Soviet television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings believed to have been lost in time was rediscovered and posted on YouTube last week, delighting JRR Tolkien fans in Russian.
The 1991 made-for-television movie Khraniteli, based on Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, is the only adaptation of his Lord of the Rings trilogy believed to have been made in the Soviet Union.
Aired 10 years before the premiere of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, the low-budget film feels like something out of another era: the costumes and sets are rudimentary, the special effects are ridiculous and many of the scenes seem more a theater. production than a feature film.
The score, composed by Andrei Romanov of the rock band Akvarium, also lends a distinctly Soviet vibe to the production, which was reportedly aired only once on television before disappearing into the archives of Leningrad Television.
Few knew of its existence until Leningrad Television’s successor, 5TV, abruptly posted the film on YouTube last week. [part one | part two], where it has obtained almost 400,000 views in several days.
“Fans have been searching the archives, but haven’t been able to find this movie for decades,” wrote World of Fantasy, a Russian-language publication that has written about adaptations of Tolkien’s work.
“There must be a statue for the person who found and digitized this,” posted a commenter.
Previous adaptations and even translations of Tolkien’s work in the Soviet Union were hard to come by, and some were convinced that the story of an alliance of men, elves, and dwarves fighting a totalitarian eastern power had been blocked by the censor. .
But another suggestion of the paucity of translations was that Tolkien’s intricate plot and linguistic invention made it difficult to translate into Russian without adulterating the original or leaving the Soviet public with no idea what was going on.
Nonetheless, the goofy adaptation seemed to scratch a nostalgic itch for many who saw it.
“It is as absurd and monstrous as it is divine and magnificent. The opening song is especially beautiful. Thanks to whoever found this rarity, ”wrote another. In the opening song, Romanov sings a rough translation of Tolkien’s description of the origins of the rings of power, of which three are given to elves, seven to dwarves, and nine to mortal men, doomed to die.
The Soviet version includes some plot elements that were left out of Jackson’s $ 93 million blockbuster, including the appearance of the character Tom Bombadil, a cutthroat dweller from the English version because he was too wordy and failed to do. advance the plot.
The first Soviet samizdat translation of The Fellowship of the Ring came in 1966, more than a decade after Tolkien’s book of that name was published. And the first published translation came to light in the Soviet Union in 1982, although its sequels, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, were not published until years later.
In 1985, Leningrad Television aired its first version of Tolkien’s work, a low-budget adaptation of The Hobbit featuring ballet dancers from what is now the Mariinsky Theater and a mustachioed storyteller who replaces Tolkien. The summarized production, titled The Fantastic Voyage of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, bypasses the trolls and elves in an hour-long romp that was long believed to be the only final Tolkien adaptation produced during the Soviet Union. .
According to World of Fantasy, a 1991 animated version of The Hobbit called The Treasure Under the Mountain was scrapped, leaving only six minutes of footage that is available online.
Jackson’s adaptation of the trilogy was a success in Russia. Many young Russians saw a version dubbed by translator Dmitry Puchkov under the pseudonym Goblin, which was noted for its expletive reinterpretation of the text. In that version, Frodo is called Fyodor Mikhailovich, Legolas has a pronounced Baltic accent and Aragorn yells “Who does not strike [an orc] he’s an ass, ”as his archers let their arrows fly during the defense of Helm’s Deep.