A Soviet television adaption of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings has been rediscovered and was posted on YouTube last week by 5TV, Leningrad Television’s successor. This news has delighted the Russian-language fans of the classic.
This made-for-TV film, entitled Khraniteli, was made in 1991 and is based on The Fellowship Of The Ring, the first book of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. This adaptation is the only one believed to have been made in the Soviet Union.
This version doesn’t quite match with the enormous budget and technology used for Peter Jackson‘s trilogy. We have here a low-budget film that seems to come from another age. However, the lively spirit of Tolkien’s story is still there among fun costume design (which are quite rudimentary, as the sets) and very old special effects.
All in all, it might look more like a theatre production than a real feature-length film but time has also passed since 1991. The movie was reportedly aired only once on television before disappearing into the archives of Leningrad Television.
The Russian-language publication, World Of Fantasy, has written about the different adaptations of Tolkien’s work and said that “Fans have been searching the archives but had not been able to find this film for decades.”
Since the film has been randomly posted on YouTube, it has gained more than 650 000 views in a few days.
It is believed that earlier adaptations or even translations of Tolkien’s work were not easy to be found in the Soviet Union. Some people think that a story where you could find an alliance between men, dwarves, and elves fighting a totalitarian eastern power was blocked by the censure.
Another theory to the lack of many translations is that the complex plot and the numerous linguistic inventions were difficult to translate in correct Russian to allow people to correctly understand it and not transform the original story.
The first published translation of The Fellowship Of The Ring was released in the Soviet Union in 1982 (Tolkien released the original version in 1954). However, the two sequels were not released until years later.
A user on YouTube commented on the new rediscovered adaptation, “It is as absurd and monstrous as it is divine and magnificent. The opening song is especially lovely. Thanks to the one who found this rarity.”
The music was composed by Andrei Romanov from the rock band Akvarium, this gives another distinctly Soviet ambiance to the entire production. In the opening song, Romanov sings, in Russian, Tolkien’s description of the origins of the rings of power and how they were dispatch between the elves, dwarves, and mortal men.
Jackson’s adaptation was a hit across the world but many Russians watched a version that was dubbed by translator Dmitry Puchkov who is known for their reinterpretation. In his version, for example, Frodo is called Fryodor Mikhailovich and Legolas has a Baltic accent.
If you are a little bit curious about this Russian version, watch it here: