Literature: Bored of the Rings
This ring, no other, is made by the Elves
Who'd pawn their own mother to get it themselves.
Ruler of creeper, mortal and scallop,
This is a sleeper that packs quite a wallop.
If broken or busted it cannot be remade.
If found, send to Sorhed. (The postage is prepaid.)
—Inscription on The Great Ring
An, and possibly the
, outrageous parody of J. R. R. Tolkien
's The Lord of the Rings
written and published in 1969 by the staff of the Harvard University humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon
. (The members of which, not coincidentally, would go on several years later to found The National Lampoon
Produced during the first wave of Tolkien's popularity, when LOTR
fandom was a hallmark of the counterculture
draws a deliberate parallel to the contrast between LOTR
's epic, almost academic, style and the bohemians and hippies who typified its fans at the time. In part BOTR
accomplishes this by slavishly mimicking the form
of the book, both in content and in physical layout — the original◊
paperback edition copied the design
of the first authorized Tolkien paperbacks published in the United States, right down to the back-cover note warning of the unauthorized editions which had been previously published. However, draped over this superficially Tolkienian framework is an over-the-top and frequently hallucinogenic tale that twists every element of The Lord of the Rings
into something ridiculous yet still recognizable.
The book manages to find and skewer all the high points of Tolkien's magnum opus
with considerable alacrity. In the first few chapters we meet a bevy of under-impressive characters, including
- Dildo Bugger, finder of the Great Ring
- Goodgulf Greyteeth, a self-proclaimed "wizard" whose only mastery of magic is legerdemain
- Frito Bugger, nephew of Dildo
- Spam Gangree, his half-witted manservant
- Moxie and Pepsi Dingleberry, twin morons
- Arrowroot, the weak-chinned and bucktoothed ranger who is the heir to the throne of Twodor
- But he goes by many names.
- Bromosel, son of Benelux, Steward of Twodor
- Gimlet, son of Groin, a deformed dwarf
- Legolam, an acerbic elf
Together they make up a fellowship intended to see to the destruction of the Great Ring (of elvish design but manufactured by Sorhed under license), a fellowship which sets forth across the nations of Lower Middle Earth with the dark land of Fordor as its goal, bickering and sniping at each other all the way. Although no one in this story is anywhere close to competent, the fate of the world (or something) depends on their quest being successful.
In a sense, it is one continuous novel-length example of Sophisticated as Hell
This book provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Eorache of the Roi-Tanners sits firmly on the line dividing an example and an aversion of this trope.
- Affectionate Parody: In a kind of "tough love" way.
- All Germans Are Nazis: The natives of the Plains of Roi-Tan are all German stereotypes ranging from Wagnerian opera to Nazis, sometimes mixing and matching elements.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Narcs
- Amazonian Beauty: Eorache. Arrowroot takes one look at her beefy charms and falls hopelessly in love with her. She finds him annoying, but eventually they get hitched, mostly because Arrowroot becomes king of Twodor.
- Ancestral Weapon: Krona, Arrowroot's sword
- Apocalyptic Log: Tim Benzedrine's note to the boggies, in which he enters a drug flashback while writing
- Arboreal Abode: The elves of Lornadoon live inside hollowed out dead trees.
- Arcadia: Subverted by The Stye, home of the Boggies. Anything Saruman and Wormtongue could do to this place would only be an improvement.
- Artifact of Doom: The Great Ring
- Beheaded Himself Shaving: The death of the last king of Twodor — in which he allegedly threw himself backwards onto several dozen knives and forks — and the series of "suicides" in "imitation" of his method amongst the other nobles of Minas Troney.
- Also, the death of Benelux, the steward, who leapt into a burning pyre after "ingeniously tying himself up".
- Beneath the Earth: The dwarven realm of Doria
- Big Bad: Sorhed
- Black Cloak: The Nozdrul
- Black Speech: The language of Fordor and Sorhed; parodied by being essentially doggerel constructed from 1960s pop cultural references
Grundig blaupunkt luger frug
Watusi snarf wazoo!
Nixon dirksen nasahist
— Inscription on the Great Ring
- Brawn Hilda: Eorache
- Briar Patching: Cornered by Nozdrul, Frito performs the entire Br'er Rabbit routine, knowing it's the oldest trick in the book. Naturally, it works.
- Brief Accent Imitation: The smitten Arrowroot to Eorache: "Ve going mit you."
- Camp Gay: Legolam
- The Cavalry: Subverted by the Riders of Roi-Tan, who ride bad-tempered sheep.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Tim Benzedrine
- Contemptible Cover: The original paperback edition parodied the infamous "Hippie Edition" of The Lord of the Rings
- Cosmopolitan Council: Pretty much averted, if not subverted, by Orlon's council at Riv'n'dell.
- Creepy Long Fingers: Boggies.
- Crystal Ball: The mallomar, which turns out to be nothing more than a Magic 8 Ball with a holographic display
- Department of Redundancy Department: Used several times, such as:
Arrowroot looked with darkened face at these ruins of a once fair land. "Look at those ruins of a once fair land," he cried.
- Deus ex Machina: Liberally employed for humor's sake. Gwahno the eagle is actually labeled "Deus Ex Machina Airlines".
- Dirty Coward: Everyone, except, maybe, Eorache
- Discreet Drink Disposal: Frito tries to do this to get rid of his Orca-Cola in the inn. The spy hiding in the pot plant takes it from him.
- The Ditz: Moxie and Pepsi Dingleberry ("whom no one would trust with a burned-out match") are a pair of twin ditzes with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
- Doomy Dooms of Doom
- Doorstopper Averted; for a book that manages to parody the whole of LOTR, it's surprisingly slim.
- The Eeyore: Goddam
- Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age: Subverted:
In his hand he carried an ancient and trustworthy weapon, called by the elves a Browning semi-automatic.
- Elves VS Dwarves: And how.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Threatened result of Sorhed regaining the Great Ring.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Eisentower, Chikken Noodul...
- Fantastic Racism: Starts where Tolkien left off and runs with it — everybody seems to hate everybody else in Lower Middle Earth.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Most obvious in the faux-German Roi-Tanners
- Fantasy World Map: Wildly parodying the original map in LOTR. Pop-up-ridden image here.
- Fictionary: The samples seen of the various languages of Lower Middle Earth are generally assembled from the names of commercial products, public figures, pop-culture references and nonsense sounds.
- Final Battle: Subverted; the Forces of Good are hungover and reduced to a handful by deserters, and the Forces of Evil flee and turn into pillars of garlic when the Ring is destroyed.
- Forbidden Zone: Fordor, Doria
- Fourth Wall Observer: Bromosel
- Functional Magic: Thoroughly and enthusiastically averted. Anything presented as magic is usually just a lame trick or worse.
- Genre Savvy: Most of the characters. It doesn't help.
- Giant Flyer: Gwahno the Giant Eagle
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Twodor called for aid, but no one wanted to give it.
- Got Volunteered: No-one actually wanted to be in the Fellowship.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Some creatures are implied to be such, and the prologue mentions a "halfling", which is defined as "half Boggie, half opossum".
- Moxie and Pepsi also somehow manage to get two of the Vee-Ates — who are plants — pregnant.
- Hand Signals: Stomper uses them to ask Frito to meet him in the inn's bathroom. This results in half of the patrons watching him and trying to figure out the signals.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Played with when the party are attacked by a group of narcs, the leader of which is wielding a large faggot. You'd think it'd mean a bundle of wood, until the "faggot" cries out "You dieth, G.I!"
- Healing Hands: Subverted by Arrowroot, who during the siege of Minas Troney shows up in blood-spattered surgical garb, and who appears to have killed Faraslax while "treating" him in order to get him out of the way.
- Heroic Fantasy: Averted by possibly the first parody of the genre.
- Hidden Elf Village: Riv'n'dell; Lornadoon is literally hidden inside trees.
- Hobbits: Viciously satirized by the lazy, slovenly and generally disgusting Boggies.
- Hollywood Tactics: Subtly lampshaded when Arrowroot stupidly suggests marching on Sorhed's overwhelmingly larger army after the siege of Twodor is over. Goodgulf can't believe anyone could be so cataclysmically stupid and tries to throttle him.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Bromosel dies when he trips and impales himself on his absurdly pointed shoes.
- Hooked Up Afterwards:
Of the ballhog and Schlob, little was heard either, but local gossips reported that wedding bells were only centuries away.
- Horse Of A Different Colour: The Nozdrul ride first pigs, then giant pelicans. The roi-tanners ride sheep.
- Hurricane of Puns: The endless plant/vegetable puns that lace every sentence uttered by Birdseye, Lord of the Vee-Ates.
- I Have Many Names: Stomper — AKA "Arrowroot son of Arrowshirt, True Son of Arrowhead of Araplane" — actually uses this phrase word-for-word; other characters also have many names, few of them complimentary.
- Insult to Rocks:
Heavily ridged over the eyes and prone to rather poor posture, [the men of Whee] were often mistaken for Neanderthals, a common confusion that the latter deeply resented.
- Intellectual Animal: The Black Beaver, others
- ISO Standard Fantasy Setting: Subverted, in the first parody thereof, by all manner of "foreign" elements and intrusions.
- Ivy League: A great deal of Ivy League stereotypes get trotted out in the introduction for the sole point of self-mockery.
- Jerkass: Pretty much everyone.
- Lady Mondegreen: Happy fun explosive toys arrive for Dildo's birthday party in crates labeled "with the elf-rune of a fairy whose name was something very much like 'Amy Surplus'."
- Lady of War: Eorache
- Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Parodied.
- Line in the Sand: As the Army of the West approaches the Gates of Fordor, many start to desert. Finally Arrowroot decides to shame them into being courageous.
Arrowroot: "Peoples of the West! The battle before the Black Gate of Sorhed will be one of few against many; but the few are of pure heart and the many are of the filthy. Nevertheless, those of you who wish to cringe and run from the fight may do so to quicken our pace. Those who still ride with the King of Twodor will live forever in song and legend! The rest may go."
It is said that the dustcloud did not settle for many days after.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: A surprising number for so short a book.
- Look Behind You: "Look! The Winged Victory of Samothrace!"
- The Lost Woods: The Evelyn Wood, once known — in a happier time — as the Nattily Wood.
- Magic 8 Ball: The Mallomar.
- Magic from Technology: If you define "technology" as "card tricks and con jobs".
- Three Rings of Power had to be recalled because they "tended to short out in the rain and fry one's fingers off".
- Mooks: The Narcs
- Mordor: Fordor
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Stomper to Faraslax
- Mushroom Samba: During the boggies' visit with Tim Benzedrine and Hashberry.
- Narration Echo: Does this, then lampshades it, near the beginning of the book.
- Narrative Poem: Numerous, often very witty, parodies of the original songs and poems.
- No Fourth Wall: Not only are the characters aware they're in a book, they wish the reader would just hurry up and finish so they can get on with something — anything — else. Even dying.
- No More for Me: The party is camped at a crossroads and manages to avoid a bunch of dangerous encounters by sheer fools' luck, resulting in this:
Circling far overhead, unseen by the company, the leader of a band of black spy-crows peered through a pair of binoculars, cursed in the harsh tongue of his kind, and swore off grapes for the rest of his life.
- Nonverbal Miscommunication: When the "tall, dark Ranger" tries to use Hand Signals to tell Frito to meet him in the men's room in five minutes, several onlookers think he's trying to play a game of Charades and start calling out "Famous saying?" and "Sounds like!"
- The Obi-Wan: Subverted by Goodgulf, who bullies, cons and lies to everyone, and never explains anything he doesn't absolutely have to.
- Oh, and X Dies: Bromosel arrives at the Council of Orlon with a prophecy that states "You cash in your chips around page eighty-eight." It's off by a few pages.
- Only Sane Man: Frito. Not that that's saying much.
- Original Flavour: Rich Drushel's parodies of The Scouring of the Shire and Appendix A, done explicitly to extend Bored.
- Our Elves Are Better: Parodied — wood elves are tacky low-lives who run tourist traps, and high elves are effectively white trash with delusions of grandeur.
- Parody: And how.
- Parody Magic Spell: As evidenced by the page quote, there's quite a few of these.
"Hocus pocus, in loco parentis, Jackie Onassis, Dino Di Laurentis..."
- Parody Names: Pick a character, nation or city from Tolkien, and you will find a parodic counterpart, such as Minas Troney for Minas Tirith.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Parodied by the lengths Goodgulf goes to while trying to open the gates to Doria, before noticing the doorknob...
- Plant Person: Lord Birdseye and the Vee-Ates.
- Population: X, and Counting: The village of Whee has a welcoming sign announcing its population as "96 and still growing!" with 1004 and 328 each crossed out before it.
- Pungeon Master: Birdseye; more generally, the authors.
- Put on a Bus: Birdseye and the Vee-Ates are conveniently disposed of off-screen.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Black Riders have "perfectly normal red glowing fires" where their eyes should be.
- Redundant Parody: On one minor point. So, the Gimli parody here is "Gimlet, son of Groin", ha ha? Gimli's actual Tolkienian grandfather is named Gróin.
- Refuge in Audacity: One of the first parodies you read in the book is changing the name of Bilbo Baggins to Dildo Bugger!
- Robe and Wizard Hat: Both embodied and averted by Goodgulf, who frequently changes into radically different outfits — like a Nehru jacket and bellbottoms.
- Rousing Speech: Utterly subverted; it causes the entire army to desert.
- Running Gag: Surprisingly, there are very few.
- Legolam and Gimlet's spats, which also mimic Legolas and Gimli's own rivalry.
- An extremely localized one is found on a page which lists other volumes in the Harvard Lampoon's Classic and Not-So-Classic Book series — part of every title in the lists is replaced by "Matzoh".
- Sdrawkcab Name: Numerous examples, although some — like "Serutan" — were simply lifted from other sources. In this case, a laxative.
- Second-Hand Storytelling: Subverted by Goodgulf, who deliberately skips the stuff his listeners really want to hear — like how he survived plunging into a chasm with a Ballhog.
- Sibling Team: Both subverted and strangely embodied by Moxie and Pepsi who do not so much kick asses as act like them.
- Sickbed Slaying: Strongly implied when a blood-spattered Stomper appears and explains that Farahslax died of his wounds despite his best efforts — and despite being almost unwounded. Stomper says that it was "water-on-the-Brain" and that he "was forced to amputate".
- Simultaneous Arcs
- Sophisticated as Hell: Numerous examples, most notably the overarching contrast between mimicking Tolkien's form while writing deliberately outrageous material.
- Spanner in the Works: Subverted by Goddam, who turns out to be precisely what Spam and Frito are looking for at the end.
- Speak Friend and Enter: Parodies the Trope Namer by having Goodgulf only consider using the doorknob on the gates to Doria after hours of futile guessing and spellcraft.
- Spiritual Successor: National Lampoon's Doon — a parody of Frank Herbert's Dune.
- Souvenir Land: Lornadoon
- Spoiled by the Format: Lampshaded repeatedly.
- Supporting Leader: Parodied by Arrowroot.
- Taxonomic Term Confusion: There is an appearance by "six different phyla of giant insects". Insects, whatever their size, are a single class of phylum Arthropoda — and you would think Harvard students would know that.
- Theme Naming: Some of the Parody Names run along brief themes, such as Twodor and Fordor, and Moxie and Pepsi.
- This Is Gonna Suck: The general reaction of everybody in the book to most everything they encounter.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Spoofed in the prologue where, after the answer to "What have I got in my pocket?" is demonstrated to be a .38 pistol, the thought behind "pity stayed his hand" is explained as "It's a pity I've run out of bullets."
- The Time of Myths: All but explicitly called that in the prologue, but judging from the pop culture references, not so much.
- Trailers Always Lie: On the flyleaf of the paperback is a passage allegedly from later in the book in which a beautiful, lusty elf maiden is about to seduce Frito. Naturally, it appears nowhere else.
- True Companions: Subverted; nobody actually wanted to join, but were volunteered by other people who hated them.
- Truth Serum: Goodgulf's method for learning how Dildo got the Ring.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: One minor character in the first chapter is described only as
...a stranger to the boggies of the Bag Eye, a stranger they had understandably overlooked because of his rather ordinary black cape, black chain mail, black mace, black dirk, and perfectly ordinary glowing red fires where his eyes should have been.
- Urban Segregation: The rings of Minas Troney.
- Vagueness Is Coming: Goodgulf tries to warn Dildo with a series of portentous statements, going from "Evil Ones are afoot in the lands" to "There is a dog in the manger." It takes several rounds of these, until Goodgulf is practically screaming "Doom is here!", before Dildo catches on.
- Volleying Insults: Gimlet and Legolam frequently trade lame epithets.
"Elf-dog," hissed Gimlet, retrieving his beard.
"Pig of a dwarf," suggested Legolam.
- Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Goddam's war story.
- We Are Not Going Through That Again: Frito, having returned to his digs at the end of the story, is visited a mysterious stranger who thinks he's the kind of person that takes quests. He slams the door, locks it and swallows the key.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A number of plot threads are deliberately left hanging for comedic effect, such as Spam and Frito's escape from the lair of Schlob.
- When Trees Attack: Subverted by Lord Birdseye and the Vee-Ates, who are not trees but giant vegetables.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: "Observing this near impossible escape from certain death, Frito wondered how much longer the authors were going to get away with such tripe. He wasn't the only one."
- With Friends Like These...: Pretty much everyone.
- Ye Goode Olde Days: Subverted by a world where pretty much everybody is some variety of scum and most of the animals are rabid.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Deliberately done for the sake of humor, and to skewer Tolkien's various archaic dialects.
- You Shall Not Pass: Parodied; Goodgulf tries to hold a rope bridge, but the Fellowship chops it down while he's on it.