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Literature / Roverandom

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Roverandom was a book written and illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's a largely-comedic children's story about a young dog named Rover who makes the mistake of picking a fight with an ill-tempered wizard and ends up being turned into a toy. The rest of the book focuses on Rover's attempts to find the wizard so that things can be set right. Unfortunately for him, this means a massive journey into space and into the ocean depths.

Despite it being penned early in Tolkien's career, it was never actually published until 1998.This may have been because Tolkien intended this story just for his three sons. Confused? Well, young Michael Tolkien had recently lost his beloved toy dog. Wanting to comfort the boy, his father improvised a story about the toy's origins as a real dog and its further adventures once it got lost. His boys got a kick out of the yarn. The book, having accomplished its purpose, was then shelved for over 60 years.

This Book Contains Examples Of:

  • Author Appeal: Throws in an extended narration about Arthurian times for no reason other than — well — Tolkien was into that kind of stuff.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: When Rover makes it to the moon, the wizard there can breathe just fine.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Artaxerxes’s mermaid wife. Middle-aged and stout, she is also always described as beautiful and charming.
  • Boring Return Journey: Roverandom spends an entire book having adventures on the Moon and then in the sea, only for Artaxerxes to turn him back in a moment just because he’s in the right mood. Then Roverandom comes home and reunites with the boy over the course of several paragraphs.
  • Cats Are Mean: Tinker, at least if the narrator is to be believed. When Rover is turned into a toy, one of his main fears is that Tinker will eat him.
  • Character Title: Rather than being the main character's real name, it's the nickname forced on him by the other characters whose names are also "Rover." This helps emphasize how little control he has over his own story.
  • Continuity Nod: Uin, a character from early drafts of Tolkien's Arda/Middle-Earth legendarium, makes an appearance. This was retroactively subverted when Uin was written out of the legendarium's later drafts.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Artaxerxes turning Rover into a toy over a pair of torn trousers.
    • The Great White Dragon wanting to kill Rover and the Moon Rover for the sole reason that they trespassed in his cave.
  • Dreams vs. Nightmares: The Man on the Moon is responsible for good dreams and the moon-dwelling giant spiders for the bad ones. Since they're all frightened of the Man, they make nightmares in secret and when they are sure he isn't watching.
  • Happy Ending: Rover succeeds in his quest to get turned back into a real dog, then reunites with the boy.
  • Living Toys: Rover becomes an animate toy after annoying the wrong wizard.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted at first, but later enforced in-universe. There are three different Rovers in the story. Each of the other Rovers makes the main Rover go by the name "Roverandom" in an attempt to make things less confusing.
  • Pun: The lobsters' claim of being "red with rage."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The only reason this story even exists is to create a fictional story of a missing real life dog.
  • Toy Transmutation: The titular character, a dog, gets transformed into a small toy by the wizard Artaxerxes. Later, another wizard Psamathos gives him back the ability to move, but Roverandom remains a toy nonetheless until Artaxerxes turns him back.