Oleg Kireev on Tue, 11 Nov 2003 12:13:20 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Goblin's interpretation

How Russian cyberfolklore beats Hollywood crap

When talking about the partisan guerilla against Frenchmen in "War and Peace" Leo Tolstoy used the expression "a cudgel
of people's war". He used it within a long metaphor describing the all-European Napoleon's expansion: according to Tolstoy,
the European countries have been fighting Napoleon delicately and elegantly, like an aristocrate duellant who fights uses
a sword and when loosing confesses his failure by offering a sword to a triumphant by handle. On the contrary, Russian
people - as Tolstoy states - did throw the elegant sword away and started to beat Napoleon with a cudgel until he gave up.
That "cudgel of people's war" was partisan guerilla.

Now we have an another kind of a "cudgel of people's war" in the cyberspace.

It's well-known how J.R.R.Tolkien's virtual reality have affected behaviour and semiotics. From role games to artificial
languages, it gave birth to a special kind of social constructing, of a retro-oriented mythological utopianism. And I can
hardly believe that there was any better ground for that than in Russia. Elves and hobbits exist in every tiny Russian
town, their slang is being used even in newspapers, and tolkienists' sites flood Runet. I remember my parents reading
Tolkien's books to me in childhood from samizdat translations.

Apparently, for Russian tolkienists an appearance of Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" was a personal abuse. Also
for those who like Tolkien though are not involved into any hobbitism, it was a disgusting forgery. Comparing this
bad-taste, false, melodramatic and 3D-mastered new Hollywood "serial thriller" to an epic dream of our childhood is
unbearable. Can Hollywood manufactured stuff appropriate this part of our identity? Russian cyberfolklore says "no".

Just about a month after the first Jackson's movie release the unlisensed copies with an alternative translation have
appeared. The translation was authorized as "Goblin's" and became incredibly popular within the shortest time. With the
continuation with the second part, it's popularity grew many times bigger. Tolkien's plot is so familiar to everyone
here and the situations are so recognizable that the Goblin's translation had soon to replace the traditional Russian
anecdote in its folklore function.

Frodo has name "Fyodor Mikhailovich". Boromir and Faramir are called "Baralgin" and "Efferalgan" (medicine drugs).
Aragorn is called "Agronom", Gimli - "Givi" (speaks with Georgian accent). Heroes talk with the use of recognizable
expressions from films and books which are well-known, but sometimes "Goblin" wittily plays with broader references.
When elves' king talks to his daughter (casting Live Tyler) she argues him "You aren't my father you agent Smith. My
father's "Aerosmith". When Gorlum "divides" into the "good" and "evil" parts (one of the most cheap and pretentious
tricks of the movie) then the "dramatic" conversation between his divided egos is performed as a quarrel between the
Russian and the Ukrainian: "But our "Spartak" will beat your "Dynamo" by any means... - What???" With Gorlum it's one
of the most brilliant lines in the whole translation. His name is "Golyi" ("Naked"). He says when angry: "Do you know
whom I was before the revolution? I was an intelligentsia!!" And when he takes his final decision to betray Frodo he
says: "Am I a trembling creature or do I have right?" (a Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov decisive argument to commit a murder).

As I remember, Situationist International had once done a similar thing. "Can dialectics break bricks?" is a low-quality
Hong Kong action movie where original replics are replaced by the Marxist/Situationist discussions. That creates a comic
effect. It's also an effect of Verfremdung or Ostranenie. But in a case of a fresh, long-awaited and so intimately
desired pop entertainment Goblin had targeted an even more sensitive object. Really, this anonymous but nation-wide
scepsis, this public disrespect expressed in the common support of his interpretation can be treated as a "a cudgel of
people's war" against Hollywood patterns expansion taking place in the cybersphere. For me, this interpretation is also
a "tactical media", low-budget and parasiting on a spectacle machine.

Now Goblin's "Lord of the Rings" is being distributed on DVDs. It's jokes and expressions are being quoted everywhere
and told instead of the anecdotes (which are in a relative decay, after the 90s great rise of anecdotes about Yeltsin
and "new Russian riches"). A big goal is also that they're being distributed unlisensed, since true folklore cannot be
patented, copyrighted and lisensed. When xpecting the X-mas release of the third & final Jackson's movie, we wait even
more how Goblin will do it, with his keen and modest sense of humour.

Oleg Kireev

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