Tanya Grotter

Tanya Grotter (Таня Гроттер) is the female protagonist of a Russian fantasy novel series by Dmitri Yemets (Дмитрий Емец). Tanya (short for Tatiana) Grotter is an orphan with intentional resemblances to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter. The series is not available in English translation, the first book having been judged a breach of copyright.


The central character and plot elements of the first novel, Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass, closely resemble those of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but are transposed into a Russian setting. Tanya Grotter has an unusual birthmark on her nose, magical powers, an upbringing by "Lopukhoid" (equivalent to Muggle) relatives after her parents were killed by an evil sorceress Chuma-del-Tort, and goes to study at the Tibidokhs (Тибидохс) School for Behaviorally-Challenged Young Witches and Wizards. Tanya's foster-family, the Durnevs, live in an urban apartment block, and Tanya is forced to sleep not in a cupboard but in the apartment's loggia.

Yemets described the books as "a cultural reply" to the Potter series, and they feature allusion to Russian culture and folklore such as Baba Yaga, rusalki, witches on Bald Mountain and the works of Pushkin (for instance, Tibidox is on the island of Buyan mentioned in Pushkin's The Tale of Tsar Saltan).

After the first book, the plots diverge from those of the Harry Potter series. For instance, in Tanya Grotter and the Golden Leech, Tanya finds herself pitted against "Hurry Pooper" (a thinly disguised Harry Potter) in the World Dragonball Championship. While trying to reach the ball, they crash, creating a new timeline in which Chuma-del-Tort has won, good and evil being reversed, and all the characters are speaking a Russian equivalent of Orwellian Newspeak. To restore normality, Tanya must defeat the Golden Leech. Mark Hooker, an independent academic at Indiana University's Russian and East European Institute, has interpreted the Golden Leech as capitalism, and the whole plot as an allegory of Emets' real-world legal conflict over the copyright.

Legal history

While the series is legally published in Russia, it is not available in translation due to litigation on behalf of JK Rowling and Time Warner. Having failed to obtain a cease and desist order in Russia, Rowling and Time Warner targeted publication in the Netherlands, where first translations of international editions are commonly published. In 2003, courts there prevented the distribution of a Dutch translation of the first in the series, Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass, after Rowling and Time Warner's lawyers issued a cease and desist order, arguing that the Grotter books violated copyright law, specifically infringing Rowling's right to control derivative works. Yemets and his Moscow-based publishers, Eksmo, argued unsuccessfully that the book constituted a parody, permitted under copyright.

Later that year, as the Dutch translation Tanja Grotter en de magische contrabas was still legal in Belgium, the Flemish publishers Roularta Books decided to print 1,000 copies (and no more) in order to let people decide whether it was plagiarism, hoping that under those circumstances Rowling and her publishers would not sue. Rowling did not sue, but as there was a lot of interest in the book (Dutch people could buy the book by postal order from another Flemish publisher, Boekhandel VanIn) it was soon sold out.

Russian commentators have mentioned that there are precedents for Russian adaptation of Western bestsellers for children such as Tolstoy's Buratino (a loose adaptation of Pinocchio), Volkov's The Wizard of the Emerald City, Nabokov's Anya in Wonderland, and Zahoder's retold Winnie-the-Pooh. These, however, occurred before 1973, when the Soviet Union became a party to the Universal Copyright Convention.

Subsequent history

In 2003, after the first five books, the total circulation of Tanya Grotter books reached a million. As of 2006 the figure, including spinoffs, was approaching 3 million. In a 2006 interview, Yemets said that he had moved on to "urban absurd comic genre fantasy" with the Buslaev series, but that there was still reader demand, and sufficient material, for an 11th Tanya book. He described the Tanya Grotter series as a purely Russian phenomenon, dependent on the language and culture, and commented that he would not place much faith in Tanya living a full life if she were brought to the playing field of Europe or America.

In 2006, Yemets' books featured in the 10 best children's books 2006 in a reader's poll at the Pushkin Central Children's Library, Saint Petersburg. In July 2006, his Tanya Grotter and the Pearl Ring was the highest-selling children's book in Russia (his Methodius Buslaev: Vengeance of the Valkyries was #10, while JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ranked #2 and #6.


From the Tanya Grotter official site:

  1. Таня Гроттер и магический контрабас (Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass)
  2. Таня Гроттер и Исчезающий Этаж (Tanya Grotter and the Disappearing Floor)
  3. Таня Гроттер и Золотая Пиявка (Tanya Grotter and the Golden Leech)
  4. Таня Гроттер и трон Древнира (Tanya Grotter and the Throne of Drevnir)
  5. Таня Гроттер и посох волхвов (Tanya Grotter and the Pikestaff of the Magi)
  6. Таня Гроттер и молот Перуна (Tanya Grotter and the Hammer of Perun)
  7. Таня Гроттер и пенсне Ноя (Tanya Grotter and the Pince-nez of Noah)
  8. Таня Гроттер и ботинки кентавра (Tanya Grotter and the Boots of the Centaur)
  9. Таня Гроттер и колодец Посейдона (Tanya Grotter and the Well of Poseidon)
  10. Таня Гроттер и локон Афродиты (Tanya Grotter and the Curl of Aphrodite)
  11. Таня Гроттер и перстень с жемчужиной (Tanya Grotter and the Pearl Ring)
  12. Таня Гроттер и проклятье некромага (Tanya Grotter and the Curse of the Necromage)
  13. Таня Гроттер и болтливый сфинкс (Tanya Grotter and the Garrulous Sphinx) - The final book, coming out March 31, 2008.

Spinoff titles

  1. Таня Гроттер и полный Тибидохс! Фразочки, цитатки и афоризмы (Tanya Grotter and the complete Tibidox! Phrases, quotations and aphorisms)
  2. Миры Тани Гроттер (Worlds of Tanya Grotter) - a compilation of fan-written graphic novels

There are several other spin-offs from the Tanya Grotter series. The Methodius Buslaev (Мефодий Буслаев) series, featuring a young male magician, and the Hooligan fantasy (Хулиганское фэнтези) series.

  1. Мефодий Буслаев: Маг Полуночи (Methodius Buslaev: Magician of Midnight)
  2. Мефодий Буслаев: Свиток желаний (Methodius Buslaev: Roll of Desire)
  3. Мефодий Буслаев: Третий всадник мрака (Methodius Buslaev: Third Rider of the Gloom)
  4. Мефодий Буслаев: Билет на Лысую Гору (Methodius Buslaev: Ticket to the Bald Mountain)
  5. Мефодий Буслаев: Месть валькирий (Methodius Buslaev: Vengeance of the Valkyries)
  6. Мефодий Буслаев: Тайная магия Депресcняка {Methodius Buslaev: Depressnyak's Secret Magic)
  7. Мефодий Буслаев: Лед и пламя Тартара (Methodius Buslaev: Tartar's Ice and Flame)
  8. Мефодий Буслаев: Первый Эйдос (Methodius Buslaev: The First Eydos)
  9. Мефодий Буслаев: Светлые Крылья для Тёмного Стража (Methodius Buslaev: Wings of Light for the Dark Guard)
  10. Хулиганское фэнтези: Великое Нечто (Hooligan fantasy: Great Something)

Computer gaming company Akella will release a game based on the first Tanya Grotter book on March 26, 2008.


The Dutch court found the following similarities between Harry Potter and Tanya Grotter:

Harry Potter Tanya Grotter
Harry's parents are killed by an evil wizard, Voldemort (in Russian translation, Volan-de-Mort) Tanya's parents are killed by an evil witch, Chuma-del-Tort
He thinks they were killed in a car crash She thinks they were killed in an avalanche
He has a mysterious scar on the forehead She has a mysterious birthmark on the nose
He is left on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley She is left on the doorstep of her aunt and uncle, Ninel and Germain Durnev
They treat him poorly, spoiling their own son Dudley Dursley They treat her poorly, spoiling their own daughter Penelope ("Pipa")
When he is 11, having no previous knowledge of his powers, he is invited to Hogwarts, a school for wizards When she is 11, having no previous knowledge of her powers, she is invited to Tibidox, a school for wizards
The remote Hogwarts can only be reached by train from a secret platform The remote Tibidox can only be reached by flying or teleportation
He makes two special friends She makes two special friends
He becomes an outstanding player of Quidditch, flying on a broom She becomes an outstanding player of Dragonball, flying on a double bass
Voldemort seeks the Philosopher's Stone, hidden at Hogwarts Chuma-Del-Tort seeks an amulet, hidden under Tanya's birthmark
The story's climax is at the school's depths. The story's climax is in the school basement
Harry and friends fight Voldemort's henchman Tanya and friends fight Chuma-del-Tort
They win, but the Philosopher's Stone is by purpose destroyed. They win, but the amulet is lost
Harry's first school year ends Tanya's first school semester ends


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