Friday, December 25, 2009

Bored of the Rings (book)

By Douglas Kenney and Henry Beard of the Harvard Lampoon
Wikipedia Entry

imageBack when I was around 14 and a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, I picked up an interesting book in the library: The Fellowship of the Ring.  It was something was seemed right down my alley, yet I only got a quarter of the way through when I lost interest* and returned it.

A few years later, my friends were talking about Lord of the Rings and insisting I read it.  I was reluctant.  Then they started talking about Bored of the Rings. 

That I wanted to read.  But they insisted I read the trilogy first.  I reluctantly picked up The Hobbit, which I found I liked a lot. But Fellowship was still tough going for me.  Eventually, I found the answer:  I purchased a copy of Bored of the Rings and kept it in the original paper bag, stapled together, until I finished reading the entire trilogy.  Then, I tore into the bag and began to read.

It made slogging through the trilogy worthwhile.

Bored of the Rings was written by two Harvard undergraduates, Henry Beard and Doug Kenney.  They later became founders of what was the most influential humor magazine of its time:  the National Lampoon.**  Bored of the Rings was pretty much a test run for that.

The book was a wicked parody of the trilogy, sort of like Mad Magazine only with a much greater eye for the ridiculous.  The character names, for instance, were all based upon trademarks:  Frito, Spam, Pepsi, Moxie, Goodgulf, etc.  There was inspired doggerel,*** silly jokes, bawdy humor and a general parody not only of the book, but of heroic novels in general.  Think of Monty Python before they were known in the US.

The book became a minor classic and, of course, its authors went on to revolutionize American humor.

And it did get me to read Lord of the Rings.


*During the Tom Bombadil section. It was the first book I ever started reading and didn't finish.

**People may know of it due to movies like Animal House and Vacation, but the magazine was much more important that.

*** Like the prediction, "Five nine is your eight and 180's your weight/You'll cash in your chips around page 88."

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