The internet is full of gold, if only one knows where to look. A college acquaintance who grew up in Moscow once told me of a televised Russian version of The Hobbit that he saw in the ’80s. It sounded crazy, but he barely even remembered the details, and I had next to nothing to search, not to mention that this was in the early days of the internet, when full videos weren’t so easy to find.

But now, with the release of the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the mid-80s version of The Hobbit is coming up once more. Now it is just a bit easier to find, and you can see it below. Peter Jackson should be worried, because this may just be the definitive version of the tale.

OK, I was exaggerating there. The only way in which this is definitive is that it is definitively cheap.

Very early this morning Ignatiy Vishnevetsky tweeted about this version of The Hobbit. Realizing that this was the version I’d once heard about I took a look, and in doing so got to remember the time before the internet, when the definitive version of a story was a lot more difficult to find. Imagine if this was the only way you knew The Hobbit. (Before I read the novel for the first time, this was my own intro to the tale, as I imagine it was for many people in the US.)

What a way to learn this tale. I love how conversational it is. When I squint, the narrator (who I should probably be able to name but can’t) looks like the Soviet Sean Connery. Some of the sets are imaginative, at least, and I’m glad that a bit of dance made the cut. I’m afraid I have to offer this only as a curio; I can’t speak at all to the script, and how it has (or, more likely, has not) managed to adapt the novel to the screen. I pray that there are some Soviet-specific politics in there — or, better, some evasion of Soviet-era politics and social restrictions — but I don’t know for certain.

Turns out clips of this surfaced about a year ago, along with extensive scans of the illustrations from the 1976 Russian translation of The Hobbit. See those here, but beware the not quite work-safe ads at the bottom of the page.

And, for the sake of completion, there was also an animated Russian version of The Hobbit begun and abandoned in 1994. Here’s the opening from that, which is all I’ve ever seen from the failed project:


Russian animation: The Hobbit (+English… by Niffiwan

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