Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney, Bored of the Rings: A Parody of J.R.R. Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings
(Signet Books, 1969; New American Library, 1993)

In his essay titled "On Language," James Fenimore Cooper wrote, "The common faults of American Language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms." He could quite easily have been referring to Bored of the Rings.

Although published by the Harvard Lampoon as a parody, in a rather bizarre fashion this small volume is an attempted homage to both Tolkien as an author and the concept of the grand, sweeping quest as a whole. According to the authors, they worked rather a long time to craft this "surprisingly brilliant satire on Tolkien's linguistic and mythic structures, filled with little takeoffs on his use of Norse tales and wicked phoneme fricatives." Please note: the praise was a direct quote from their foreword; it certainly did not come from me.

When one picks up the tale of Frito Bugger and his faithful Boggie companion, Spamwise Gangrene, one is initially charmed; conversely, when one eats three pounds of badly-refrigerated raw shellfish at one go, one is initially full.

At first glance — when I was much younger — I was struck by how fresh and punchy it seemed: it had crisp prose, biting satire and astoundingly well-realized caricatures; however, as its 1969 publication date has continued to recede into the mists of time, the story has lost some of its luster, and has managed to acquire a rather nasty odor of banality. The authors apparently strove to shoehorn in every possible bad joke, obscure drug reference and literary burlesque they could; unfortunately, in part due to a more jaded populace and in part due to sheer overabundance, the constant barrage of ineptly-utilized puns loses its impact.

Then, too, for all that it holds to a slapdash pace, and the fact that it condenses the various premises and plot elements of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy into less than two hundred pages, the book plods along mercilessly, dragging its readers through poorly-realized scenes and egregious grammatical missteps: it is rife with misspellings, gorged with conflicting verb tenses, and chock-a-block with dithyrambic prose.

One might say "it's full of it."

Goddam still holds hatred in his heart for Dildo, who stole the precious ring from him. Sorhead has sent his Nozdrul to the Sty to search for said ring, But Frito, Moxie, Pepsi and Spam escape thanks to the warnings of Goodgulf Grayteeth, and hie themselves toward Riv'n'dell and the house of Orlon, where the rest of their band (Gimlet, son of Groin, Legolam, Arrowroot [or Stomper, as he's known] and Bromosel) await. As their quest progresses, they learn that Sorhead's "Dark Carbuncle of Doom has swollen and will soon come to a head, covering the face of Lower Middle Earth with his ill humors. If [they] are to survive, the boil must be soundly lanced before Sorhead begins his own loathsome squeeze play," and they needs must combat the darkness with every trick at their disposal, including enlisting the aid of Tim Benzedrine, the Jolly Green Giant, a duet of soon-to-be pregnant carrots, and the Sheep Riders of Roi-Tan, led by the fair Eorache.

To borrow from the book, "Shakestoor it's not."

I have always believed that no book is irredeemable: all books have some intrinsic value, even if one must delve assiduously to find it; therefore, I wish to say a few words in support of this work. That being said, I apologize if I seem to be damning it with faint praise, but even in its defense I must be honest: if one is a true Tolkien fan who is not easily offended, and has an hour and a half to rather gleefully slaughter (trust me, this is not a book with which one may merely kill time), then it is an acceptable one-off. Borrow it from a friend who may well insist you keep it, check it out from a library or-should you have money to burn-pick up a copy at a used bookstore. It is worth reading once, if only to appreciate Tolkien's original even more.

As much as I love animals, this is one dog that deserves to be put down.

[Jonathan Northwood]