The Tale of the Ring (Sagan om ringen) is a 1971 Swedish adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. It's notable for being the earliest known screen adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, and the *only* one made while Tolkien was still alive.
The two-parter was made as a companion piece to Bo Hansson's album Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings, which plays throughout it. Hansson has also been credited with directing the series. Urban Lasson served as the producer. Sören Erlandsson took on the task of summarizing the original Door Stopper of a novel into two bite-sized 14-minute episodes.
Notably, the series only covers a little over half the book, ending suddenly after the Fellowship leaves Rivendell. This does however give it the opportunity to focus on characters and scenes often cut from later adaptations, such as Tom Bombadil and Glorfindel.
And yes, it is based on the infamous "Blind Idiot" Translation by Åke Ohlmarks, but it's such a Compressed Adaptation that it doesn't make much of a difference.
Compare The Keepers and The Hobbits, two other European TV productions based on the book.
- Adapted Out:
- Boromir doesn’t appear, making Aragorn the Token Human of the Fellowship.
- Gollum is also never mentioned, and how exactly Bilbo got his hands on the ring remains a mystery.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: Bilbo’s asocial traits are never alluded to, nor is the fact that he basically stole the One Ring from Gollum. He’s merely said to have “found” it instead.
- Ambiguously Human: While it’s mentioned that Saruman is building an army, we never hear or see just what said army consists of in this take on the story.
- And the Rest: ”Gandalf walked first, followed by Strider, Frodo and Sam... and the rest.”
- Artifact of Doom: The One Ring, of course. Especially since it’s stated that destroying it will bring everlasting peace, which if anything implies that the Ring is responsible for the very concept of war!
- Chroma Key: Nearly all of the show was filmed this way, with the cast being placed in front of backdrops (painted by Peter Lindblom.)
- Demoted to Extra: Gimli and Pippin get pretty much nothing to do. Legolas fares only slightly better, as he at least gets to serve as lookout thanks to his great eyesight.
- Distressed Dude: Merry, who gets stuck in Old Man Willow. And Gandalf, who is imprisoned in Saruman’s tower. They are rescued — respectively — by Tom Bombadil and Gwaihir.
- Dull Surprise: Evan Storm’s rather neutral tone of voice mostly works, but it really stands out when he uses it for the supposedly jolly Tom Bombadil.
- Elfeminate: Glorfindel, enough so that some viewers thought he was meant to be Arwen in this version too.
- The Fair Folk: The elves are initially introduced as such, appearing in an abstract, dreamlike scene where they dance around and sing... only to then casually sit down and join the hobbits around their campfire.
- Fauxshadow: Some plot points — like Sam bemoaning that he doesn’t have any rope — are never followed up upon. Of course, they were in the book, but the series never makes it that far.
- The Ghost: Saruman never appears on screen, being represented only by a drawing of ”the large stone tower in which he lives”, as this series calls Orthanc.
- The Good King: Elrond is said to be king of the elves. Inverted with Sauron, who is described as ”The King of Darkness.”
- Kid Hero: Frodo is played by a young boy.
- Left Hanging: The series simply ends after the formation of the Fellowship, never getting around to telling the rest of the story.
- Manly Facial Hair: Sam — played by seemingly the only adult among the hobbit actors — has been given a beard. It’s unknown whether or not this implies that in this series, Sam might be older than Bilbo!
- Narrator: The story — and all of the dialogue — is told to the audience through third-person narration, provided by actor Evan Storm (who had voiced Gandalf in a radio adaptation of ''The Hobbit'' one year previously.) The result is very much like a condensed audio book set to (partially) live action visuals.
- No Budget: This is a low-budget production even compared to other fantasy films at the time, which may have influenced its somewhat unorthodox adaptation methods.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Frodo’s actual confrontation with the Black Riders is only briefly mentioned by the Narrator, while the footage only shows his later escape.
- Really 700 Years Old: Frodo is very surprised to hear that both Elrond and Gandalf are thousands of years old.
- Stock Footage: Gwaihir is represented by nature documentary-esque footage of a bald eagle.
- The Time of Myths: The opening of the film empaphizes the fact that the story is set in a ”mythical past”, when the world was full of beings who are nowadays uncommon.
- Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction: Here, the One Ring very much doesn’t change size to fit the wearer, leading to Frodo basically carrying around an oversized bracelet.
- Truer to the Text:
- While significantly condensed (and only covering half the book) the series is overall a very faithful adaptation, with a decent chunk of the narration being copied straight from the original text.
- Notably, this is the only screen adaptation where Tom Bombadil wears his Iconic Outfit, albeit a No Budget version of it.
- It’s also the only screen version to include Glorfindel, as opposed to replacing him with another character (like Legolas or Arwen) or cutting his scene entirely.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: A notorious example. Even though Boromor has been completely cut from the story, the Fellowship are still referred to as “the Nine”. Indeed, simply counting the actors reveals that there are only eight of them.