Thursday, May 30, 2024

Bored Of The Rings!

I'm not sure how much off a crossover there is or was for The Lord of the Rings and The Harvard Lampoon, but there must have been enough for Signet Books to publish Bored of the Rings in 1969. Parodies of this kind are exceedingly timely affairs, speaking to the concerns of a moment, but this book has stayed in print for decades ever drifting off the sails of its highly successful inspiration. The main purpose of a good parody is to take the source material and identify what makes it silly and stupid if pushed to a limit. The writers Henry Beard and Doug Kenney saw clearly that the somewhat overly serious and sanctimonious tone of Tolkien's epic was easy pickings. And they were right. 

Michael Firth produced the first cover (see above) which takes a slap at the wonderful triptych covers produced by for the Ballantine paperback editions of the trilogy. That is my favorite cover image for the series, which sadly has gotten far duller and more traditional in the ensuing years. The map seen in the books is parodied and evokes the feel of the tasty originals. 

In the story itself we follow four Boggies named Frito, Spam, Pepsi, and Moxie as they follow the questionable advice of the wizard Goodgulf and are assisted by Arrowroot the son of Arrowshirt as they leave Bug End and follow a quest begun years before when Frito's uncle Dildo Baggins stole a ring from Goddam, a ring coveted by the sorcerer Sorhed. They encounter all manner of friends and foes such as the helpful but stone Tom Benzidrine and his best gal Hashberry. Resistance is futile as someone said. 

Even as a devoted Tolkien fan it's a hoot to see this nigh sacred text shredded in this way. The Middle-Earth books are if anything earnest and that's something which is well ripe for parody. Tolkien was building a mythology, and he spent a lifetime making it a vibrant and rich one. The two chaps who churned out Bored of the Rings took a few weeks to show us all that even the mightiest of epics can withstand mockery. If it can't, then it wasn't as potent as we thought. 

It was the success of Bored of the Rings that at least in part inspired the creators to license the "Lampoon" name and begin the humor magazine National Lampoon which poked holes in sundry sacred cows for years to come. 

 Rip Off 

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I may have given this a quick read in the seventies but didn't get into it. It might reward a new reading. I had no idea it had remained in print, so maybe that's more of a possibility than I'd thought.