Has anybody got ‘Bored of the Rings’?

In the last few posts I’ve been exploring how Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings became a major part of mainstream culture. The transition began in the mid-1960s on the back of the counter-culture, and the place of Tolkien’s imaginarium was cemented by the mainstreaming of fantasy and science fiction in the 1970s – a transition Tolkien’s own popularity helped drive, further buoyed that decade by Star Wars and Star Trek.

This is the edition I own (image via Wikipedia).
This is the edition I own (image via Wikipedia).

Long before that, though – in 1969, in fact – Tolkien was mainstreamed in a very different way, in Henry N Beard and Douglas C Kenney’s parody Bored Of The Rings. Being targeted by the Harvard Lampoon was a fair sign that Tolkien had ‘made it’ – and his imaginarium wasn’t the only thing they skewered along the way. They also took on the ‘bog’ Irish, hippie culture, drugs, Disneyland, frozen vegetables, Cinderella and the Lone Ranger, among other things.

The book was filled with battles fought by ambulatory pumpkins, over-sexed elves, evil black riders cavorting about on flatulent pigs, and a gonzo wizard named Goodgulf. There were places and characters named after everything from soft drinks to well known laxatives. Indeed, laxatives were a bit of an – er – running gag through the whole thing. As was potato salad (don’t ask).

The cover itself parodied the artwork of the 1965 Ballantine edition. It also featured a map at the front that didn’t correlate with anything in the book, but which echoed the “2.5 dimensional” cartographic style adopted by Tolkien – and by his son Christopher, who drew the master Middle Earth map.

Some fans, I don’t doubt, were horrified at the skewering of their sacred cow. I wasn’t. When I first read Bored of the Rings, around 1978, it was laugh-out-loud territory. And it still is today. The late 1960s pop-culture references are a little dated, but that doesn’t reduce the cleverness of it, especially the way Beard and Kenney used product names as homophones for Tolkien’s (Frito/Frodo, Spam/Sam, Pepsi/Pippin, Arrowroot/Aragorn, Orlon/Elrond, and so on).

I always thought it was rather apt. There’s a form of Russian literature in which long and deeply serious saga stories are usually wrapped up with a brief comic coda. And this was Tolkien’s, after a fashion. Not written or authorised by him, but a comic coda nonetheless. So – to close this series on Tolkien, a question.

Have you read Bored of the Rings? Were you offended – or did you roll around on the floor laughing?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


16 thoughts on “Has anybody got ‘Bored of the Rings’?

  1. I usually love this sort of thing, but the title stopped me buying it. I’m majorly pedantic about stuff like “bored of” instead of “bored with”. It irritates me sooo much. Yes, I know I’ve just made heaps of people hate me, or at least roll their eyes! 🙂

      1. Yeah, I got the homophone, and it would have been all but impossible to resist as a title. Blame it on determinism, 🙂

  2. Though I’ve heard of it for decades I had never seen an actual print copy until last week, when there was one in the used book section of a local bookstore. (I didn’t buy it as I’m trying to be very careful about my book-buying right now, though.)

  3. I have yet to read the original, so I’ll have to put this parody on the back burner until I’ve covered the basics. But thank you IMMENSELY for this series of posts, Matthew. They’ve all been insightful, thought-provoking, and just downright fun. I won’t be surprised at all if my husband sends you a note thanking you for “converting” his wife. 🙂 Thank you, again.

    1. Glad you enjoyed them. They were a lot of fun to write, Tolkien and his imaginarium are a huge and rewarding field. I’ll certainly be writing more about him in a while.

  4. My husband has this book – the same as in your picture. I haven’t read it yet, but he certainly has. He has made reference to it a number of times over the years and the Kamikaze Kumquats always cracks me up. Thanks for sharing Matthew. 🙂

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