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Long lost Soviet Lord of the Rings adaptation, Khraniteli, rediscovered

Richard Wess April 5, 2021

Even the most diehard Tolkienites have been surprised to hear last week’s latest revelation in Middle Earth fan lore. Khraniteli (Хранители), a little-known 1991 Soviet adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, has finally been given a rerelease to the public. Thought lost, this two-part TV play languished for decades in obscurity. However, the film was just digitized and rereleased by the Russian station, 5TV, successor to the Soviet TV channel, Leningrad Television.

Khraniteli covers the events of the first book in the Tolkien trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. For now, there are no subtitles in English, but Lord of the Rings lovers can still delight in the film’s low-budget, yet striking design, scant, yet enjoyable special effects, and just plain questionable electronic music score.

To Khraniteli’s credit, the film faithfully follows the storyline as outlined by Tolkien. For example, the character Tom Bombadil, who didn’t make it into Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, makes an appearance in this Russian version. Still, there are other areas, like key costume and visual elements of the main characters, where Khraniteli deviates from the original descriptions. Trust me – you’ll be confused about the Gandalf character.

But no matter! This low budget, somewhat absurd adaptation is sure to thrill any lover of the epic Tolkien trilogy. Why not have a browse through and see if you can tell which key events from the book are taking place? You’re sure to be in for a treat. 🙂

You can enjoy watching Khraniteli below. And if you’d like to read more about what others are saying about this cultural gem, you can read what The Guardian and NME have to say about it here.

And one final quick plug for Russian Film Hub! If you’re curious what higher budget Soviet fantasy films look like, check out our Russian fantasy film section. Some particularly good ones include Father Frost, Ordinary Miracle, and Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors.

Watch Khraniteli

Watch Part 1

For non-Russian speakers looking to follow along more closely:

  • 5:26 – Bilbo addresses his birthday party
  • 7:19 – Gandalf shows up
  • 7:40 – Epic fireworks
  • 13:30 – Bilbo uses the ring at his party
  • 16:00 – Frodo gets the ring from the envelope
  • 16:30 – the Nazgul
  • 18:53 – Smeagol and Deagol
  • 21:12 – Smeagol becomes Gollum
  • 22:37 – Gandalf confronts Gollum
  • 27:02 – the four hobbits set out
  • 30:15 – the hobbits arrive… somewhere?
  • 36:55 – hobbits in the Old Forest
  • 38:35 – incomprehensible nonsense
  • 40:31 – one of them is stuck in the tree, with ridiculous hobbit feet visible
  • 41:49 – Tom Bombadil shows up
  • 42:25 – Bombadil rescues that other one
  • 44:54 – at Bombadil’s house with Tom’s ladyfriend
  • 49:08 – cliffhanger ending with the Barrow-wight, or something

Watch Part 2

For non-Russian speakers looking to follow along more closely:

  • 0:51 – Frodo in the Barrow-downs
  • 2:00 – the Barrow-Wight, followed by Frodo’s ridiculous feet
  • 5:19 – Frodo calls for Bombadil’s help
  • 5:44 – Bombadil throws some stuff and saves them
  • 8:35 – at the Prancing Pony
  • (from now on, they have given up on making the hobbits look smaller than other characters)
  • 9:05 – Pete Townshend yells at them
  • 10:27 – Frodo creeps on some opera singer
  • 11:40 – Frodo meets Aragorn in the corner
  • 15:52 – hobbits struggle to pronounce “Aragorn”
  • 16:45 – Aragorn reveals his true identity
  • 19:42 – Frodo fights the Nazgul at Weathertop
  • (the defeat of the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen happens offscreen)
  • 21:22 – Frodo wakes up at Rivendell
  • 26:14 – Elrond addresses the council
  • 27:46 – Bilbo freaks out when he sees the ring
  • 28:43 – Boromir addresses the council
  • 31:05 – Gandalf meets with Saruman the White (yes he is still called “the White” in this version)
  • 32:40 – Saruman’s orc army
  • 34:04 – Gandalf is caged by Saruman
  • 34:23 – epic resue by the Eagles
  • 36:28 – Introduction of Gimli Gloina (the “gnome”)
  • 36:30 – and Legolas (a woman!)
  • 38:24 – the Fellowship encounter absurd monsters in Moria
  • 40:37 – the Fellowship wind their way through Moria
  • 41:50 – epic battle with orcs in Moria
  • 45:00 – crossing the bridge of Khazad-Dum
  • 45:54 – the Fellowship realize that Gandalf just died offscreen
  • (no sign of the Balrog)
  • 47:21 – Galadriel’s interminable dance troupe
  • 53:51 – Galadriel speaks
  • 56:51 – Galadriel freaks out when she sees the ring
  • 57:40 – Finally, the Eye of Sauron
  • 58:44 – Frodo clearly has never eaten an apple before
  • 1:00:00 – Boromir menaces Frodo
  • 1:02:41 – Frodo and Sam set out alone
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