"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bored of the Rings

Beard, Henry N. and Douglas C. Kenney. Bored of the Rings. New York: Signet, 1969.

"'Never have I laughed so hard at any other book. The Harvard Lampoon's BORED OF THE RINGS is unquestionably a comic masterpiece as well as a brilliant parody of J.R.R. Tolkien's famous THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. A gem of irreverence...filled with an incredible menagerie of mad characters including lustful Elf-maidens and a roller-skating dragon. A side-splitting swipe at the Eternal Quest and the castles, wizards and other folderol of 'ancient' lore...a CATCH-22 for lovers of the days of yore.'" (Harvard Daily News description from book jacket)

Overall Review: *** (out of five)

  • Intelligent Humor. It is obvious that the writers of this book both know the material they are mocking and a great deal about intellectual history and the pop culture of their time. Most of the jokes in the book are spot on, including the meta-humor.
  • Dated Humor. Many of the jokes are very specific to the culture of the '60s.  This means that some of these jokes would go over the head of younger audiences, unless they happen to be up on their 1960s history.
  • General Drug Use and Amorality. It is difficult to mock the '60s without their being references to drugs and sex. So, while there is pervasive bad behavior, it is important to remember that it is mocking these practices, not condoning them.

This book is a mass of opposites. It is crass and intelligent, blatantly obvious and subtly witty.  The book is trying to do a lot, and for the most part it succeeds.  The heroes are bumbling fools, cowards, or charlatans, and the villains are fairly idiotic, which puts them all on a level playing field.  Tom Bombadil's poetry and vague peacefulness turns into drug-induced hippieism. Saruman's industrialism is sinister capitalism. Hobbits are turned into Boggies, lazy gluttons a la the end of Rome (eating until you vomit). Most humor surounding the Boggies is juvenile and based on bodily functions, which can be a bit overdone at times.

The book covers the highlights of the three books, with a heavy focus on The Fellowship of the Ring (which says a lot about what the authors think about the important parts of the plot). I am a personal fan of the Roi-Tanners (Rohirim) riding sheep and Stomper mooning after their leader Eorache.  The Boggies are a bit much, but the monsters are hilarious (the Ballhog and Thesaurus are awesome, as is Schlob's backstory).  The book won't mean much to anyone who is not familiar with The Lord of the Rings. However, anyone who was dragged along to see one of the movies against their will might get a perverse pleasure from it, as will fans of LotR with a good sense of humor.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! We love all things LOTR, and I was a pre-teen in the 60's but my husband is older and went to Woodstock, so maybe we could relate to this book in a fun way :) Sounds like it has its share of juvenile body function humor, which I don't care for, but otherwise, I don't know. Yes, it's dated, but since the 60s are so far behind us now, it's kind of like historical fiction (wink, grin). Rae