Rejoice. Lord of the Rings fans, especially ones who happen to be fluent in Russian, have a relic of the past to enjoy. A made-for-TV movie that originally aired on Soviet TV in the 90s has resurfaced online and is now available to watch for free on YouTube. The movie had long been lost to time but was recently uploaded, making it widely available for the first time in decades.
The Russian-language adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s sprawling fantasy epic is now on YouTube in two parts. Titled Khraniteli, it is based on the first novel in the author’s beloved series of novels. It originally aired in 1991 on Soviet-era TV but has since been relegated to obscurity. However, Leningrad’s television successor, 5TV, recently uploaded both parts of the adaptation to its YouTube channel. They have since racked up hundreds of thousands of views, with many Tolkien fans discovering the adaptation for the first time.
Needless to say, this is a wildly different take on the material than that of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, which was released a decade later in 2001. For one, these movies are on entirely different planets in terms of budget and production value. The Russian version quickly establishes itself as a more modest affair. But it does also present a different take on bringing Tolkien’s words to the screen. Elements of the book, such as the character of Tom Bombadil, are present in this version that weren’t in Jackson’s adaptations.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring was originally published in 1954, with the full trilogy of novels later collected to tell the full Lord of the Rings tale. They served as a sequel to Tolkien’s beloved book The Hobbit. Peter Jackson would later adapt The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King into a sprawling, three-movie epic. He would do the same for The Hobbit, though those movies did not go on to find the same level of critical acclaim.
Whereas Khraniteli was mostly relegated to a footnote in the annals of pop culture history, Peter Jackson turned Lord of the Rings into one of the most successful franchises in history. All told, his six movies chronicling the Middle Earth saga earned more than $5.8 billion at the global box office. The Return of the King also went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The movies won 17 Oscars overall.
The franchise is getting ready to expand and move away from the big screen, back to TV. Amazon is currently in production on a Lord of the Rings TV show. The company has made a multi-season commitment to the series, which is expected to be tremendously expensive. No premiere date has been set but the show will tell a new story. It will take place before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, during a time known as the Second Age. You can watch both parts of Khraniteli right now over on the 5TV YouTube channel.