The Soviet version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ from 1991 has just been discovered … and it’s even weirder than you might imagine

If you think Peter Jackson took some liberties with his adaptations of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ wait to see how Russian television approached him in 1991, ten years earlier. Three decades after its original broadcast, and having been forgotten from the historiography of adaptations of Tolkien’s classic, it has been recovered by Russian television 5TV. Of course, it didn’t take long for her to hit the internet and become a sensation on social media (here you have part 1 and here you have part 2).

5TV has thus recovered a long-lost work: the film for the channel that preceded it – Leningrad Television (now Saint Petersburg) – ‘Хранители’, which is westernized as ‘Khraniteli’ and translates as ‘Guardians’, adapts the first book in Tolkien’s saga, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. The result, directed by Natalya Serebryakova, is even more faithful in some respects than the Jackson versions, since for example it recovers the character of Tom Bombadil, much loved by the fandom, and who disappeared in the movies.

In everything else, the film is a true delusion: hilarious special effects, plot freedoms, insane makeups (Gollum’s is especially catastrophic)Shameless, chroma to camouflage the lack of setting and the difference in size between characters, lysergic staging and a soundtrack by Andrei Romanov (of the rock band Akravium) that completely reveals its Soviet origin. In the musical theme that opens the production, Romanov sings about the origins of the rings of power, and how they were distributed after their creation among dwarves, elves and men.

Tolkien in Russia, safe spree

The adaptation was believed lost by the problems that Tolkien has always had in Russia (both in regards to the translations of his original books and in the adaptation projects). In part, by how unpatriotic the history of an alliance of different races was considered in communist Russia to overthrow a totalitarian power and partly because of how complicated the Russian translation was.

It is not Tolkien’s first adaptation on Soviet territory: there is a ‘The Hobbit’ from 1985 with dancers from the Mariinsky theater and in which Tolkien is the narrator. There is an animated version of ‘The Hobbit’ also from 1991, but it is believed to be lost (although after this unearthing of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, we regain hope). And even the translation of Peter Jackson’s version has its quirks. Our favorite: Frodo Baggins is renamed Fyodor Mikhailovich.