Sagan om ringen (1971): The Swedish Lord of the Rings
As I have previously noted, I have a fondness for truly obscure Tolkien screen adaptations. Sure, there are Rankin-Bass and Bakshi, but while they have been eclipsed by Peter Jackson, no-one can call them unknown. The 1966 Snyder Hobbit, the 1985 Soviet Hobbit, and the 1993 Finnish Lord of the Rings, by contrast, are genuinely creatures of the Outer Darkness. Hence my efforts in reviewing them… I felt I was doing a public service by giving these poor neglected things some time in the sun.
But, as Jackson’s Galadriel would say, another Ring was made.
This one is a two-part 1971 Swedish television adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, inspired by a progressive rock album:
It turns out that finding this adaptation is damned hard outside Sweden. Which might be why I had not heard of it until recently. It is a shame, because (contrary to what I had previously imagined), it is the earliest live-action Tolkien screen adaptation, made in J.R.R. Tolkien’s own lifetime no less. For a given value of “live action” anyway.
For a taste of it, here is a YouTube clip I have uploaded:
As you can see, it is real actors on an
animated painted background, with Swedish-language narration. The two individual parts of the adaptation, totalling just under half an hour, cover about the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. The first part takes us from Bag End to the Ford of Bruinen. The second part deals with Rivendell, and the Fellowship setting out. It just rather ends at that point, so unlike the other obscure adaptations, we do not get a full story.
The film, such as it is, tends towards the Purist end of the spectrum. Gildor and his companions rescue the hobbits from the Black Riders, so we get the Elves in The Shire*. We also get the Old Forest – complete with entry gate – and Tom Bombadil. This means the Finns in 1993 were not actually the first to feature him. And, obviously, we get Glorfindel. No Barrow Downs or attack at Bree though.
*The Swedish Elves are generally long-haired ethereal-types in white robes. Except Legolas, who opts for a different wardrobe.
Stylistically, there is copious weirdness. The One Ring could easily fit around a wrist, never mind a finger, to the point where it appears more a Really Thick Bracelet than a ring. Aragorn has a moustache and Gimli (or at least the one I think is Gimli) lacks facial hair at all. Bizarrely for a visual medium, the attack on Weathertop is narrated, rather than shown. It’s a narration-driven adaptation generally, and since I do not speak Swedish, I kept wondering how much exposition was being provided – all I can do is watch the action, and fill things in via book knowledge. The
animated painted backgrounds aren’t awful, but they aren’t great either.
Overall, I found the film a bit frustrating. I think it’s the lack of narrative closure that bugged me the most… sure I might well be missing a narrative summation of later events, but simply ending with the Fellowship tramping out into the Misty Mountains? A very strange place to stop. On the other hand, at half an hour’s total viewing, it is not like it demands much time investment.
As mentioned, this thing is very difficult to find outside Sweden. As such, here is some assistance for those with a mega.nz account:
- Episode 1: https://mega.nz/file/me4BRIJS#w_5h7C2TyPySsA3jqctvA0Y3d9V0XDH92kSf3VuMu_M
- Episode 2: https://mega.nz/file/THhjFYyZ#lG1Ibgv5Ojtx1djLJNZhf8ZOKCOPo95LflmY74fV3KY
I can’t help you with translations though.
Addendum: Someone has very kindly sent me another print of Sagan om ringen – in this case, downloaded directly from the SVT archive site.
- Episode 1: https://mega.nz/file/6PZ1QQyK#mp5ykrJACako4g03mj4ZC3R0B-XgGqUCBJ4qRx5AXvM
- Episode 2: https://mega.nz/file/THIETBIC#Hl4IZVaOCm-gKNWmxNwN_pKeJ8jYoypjCpohEQ7Cr7Q
I long for the day when this (like the Finnish and Soviet adaptations) can be seen by all.