May 23, 9:04pm
Thanks for Piling it on, dernwyn, ever Higher and Deeper. Well, let’s get out the shovels and get to work.
A great wind clove the black cloud and dispersed it, revealing through the parting mists a great shield bearing the words CAUTION: CIGARETTE SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH A. A little smokers' humor here, with the black cloud from the smudgepots being dispersed with a health warning! That note had not been on cigarette packs for long at this point, the first time it appeared was 1966.
Ah, I think I’ve never noticed that joke before – perhaps because I’ve never warmed up to this chapter, which attempts to spoof seven chapters of the original book, and kind of trips over itself doing so. In this case, the smoking warning is kind of a funny comment on either Sauron’s evil device in the original, or Goodgulf’s clumsy deception in the parody, but it tiredly recycles a joke they made earlier (when Frodo sees ‘Mene, mene, what’s it to you?’ written in the sky at the end of chapter 4, when leaving Riv’n’Dell on his quest).
…the sky, though cloudless, thundered like a thousand stagehands striking a thousand metal sheets. B. Ever hear the sound effect of those metal sheets? Just a couple can set up a pretty nice rumble.
Yes, and the effect is antiquated, going back to Victorian theater or before. Add to this the parallel hyperbole of a mythic “thousand … thousand …”, and we have an epic-scale spoof of one of Tolkien’s eucatastrophic moments. The divine intervention of the Valar in the original turns out here to be an exponential amount of stagecraft and fakery.
There was a release of pigeons. C. The release of pigeons is a nice effect. Not doves, but - pigeons. They probably headed straight to the streets of Minas Troney.
I wonder about the wording. “There was a release of pigeons” could mean pigeons were released into the sky, in the centuries-old tradition of releasing white doves at ceremonies to signify a spiritual change (marriage, funeral, commemoration, etc.) – only with the grittier birds you’ve noted, the ‘rats with wings’ of many a city park and plaza. But the phrase could also mean it was the pigeons who did the releasing, from the sky down onto the joyful Twodorians.
From all points of the compass the joyful Twodorians saw great armies approaching D. Note that all directions are covered, easy to do when the city is a mound in the midst of a plain, but they'd have to go long distances roundabout to get lined up! Dwarves from the north, Roi-Tanner berserkers from the south. From the east, the band of Green Toupées and the host of Elves (never underestimate sharp fingernails!). From the west...well, no doubt Arrowroot and his party's strategy was their inconspicuousness.
I thought about the directions being wrong relative to the actual book, briefly -- but it’s really not important given how unformed the geography of Lower Middle Earth is. What the four directions evoke to me is Tolkien’s constant use of just the four cardinal directions in his writing about the landscapes, so that North, South, East, and West acquire symbolic importance – a “moral geography”, as someone once put it. So here that geography is put to use like the game of Twister, even if it has to be stretched by having two, not one, relief forces appear from the East, in order to provide the gag of Arrowroot showing up from the climactic final direction, West, with his pathetic handful of warriors (sic).
… Arrowroot leading a party of four warbadgers… E. Information on warbadgers is sparse. They appear in fantasy gaming, or as legendary "were-badgers". However, the Mispillion River Brewing Company's logo for its War Badger beer bears an uncanny resemblance to Goodgulf.
Good catch on the beer. Do warbadgers really appear in fantasy games?? I assumed this was a one-off, playing badgers for comedy much as the Merino sheep have been throughout. Is there … well, is there any chance that modern fantasy gaming got the concept from this bo--- ? ? ? Nah.
…the Lord of the Nozdrul was encircled by piqued elves who scratched out his eyes and pulled his hair until he fell on his own sword in embarrassment. F. That's a rather un-spectacular end for the Lord of the Nozdrul, considering what happened to his counterpart in LotR!
Well, I would pay ready money for that scene to be edited into the New Line film of RotK in place of what’s there. And Miranda Otto’s misconstrued line “I am no man!” could even be kept, only re-rendered much more powerfully as “We are no men!” in high-pitched tones of exasperation and pique.
…their Nozdrul pilots were pecked from the air by anti-aircraft gulls… G. I'm imagining the gulls converging on the airborne Nozdrul as if they were cast-off fish-and-chips. "Mine! Mine! Mine!"
That’s better than the image I got, of a lot of giant Noses being Picked, er, Pecked. But as funny as mashing ‘Finding Nemo’ is, my reading is (unfortunately) supported by Fergus’ Oath as inscribed on the door of dreaded Andrea Doria, curse of the living nipple. It reads in part, “… I shall endeavour at all times and in all places to Keep My Nose Clean by the most expedient possible means.”
…the dragon was cornered by the Cub Scout and peppered with rubber-tipped arrows until it suffered a complete nervous breakdown and collapsed with a heavy thud. H. Now why didn't the Dwarves of Erebor think to use rubber-tipped arrows on Smaug?
Who says they didn’t? In this ‘universe’, at least, we are still awaiting the “…soon-to-be-published-if-this-incredible-dog-sells account of Dildo Bugger's earlier adventures, called by him Travels with Goddam in Search of Lower Middle Earth, but wisely renamed by the publisher Valley of the Trolls.”
Just to be critical, I’ll note that the demises of the dragon and the Lord of the Nozdrul are almost exactly the same gag. “Steam, running out of” – see BotR, Ch. IX
Moxie and Pepsi drew their putty knives and wielded them deftly. Soon, not a fallen corpse had a nose to call his own. Goodgulf busied himself throttling narcs from behind with his rubber air hose and Arrowroot was very probably doing something or other that was pretty much brave. I. Ah, our bold Wizard and brave Arrowroot.
I actually like the follow-through of the boggies using their putty knives, and Goodgulf using his diver’s suit, in battle. I can’t be sure I like this vaguely “probably pretty much brave” reincarnation of Arrowroot. Earlier in the book he has shown a kind of courage in battle that can only be called foolhardy (“Taking a vicious swipe, Stomper missed his mark by a good yard and tripped on his scabbard.” – “Arrowroot waved Krona. ‘He cannot hold the bridge,’ he shouted and rushed forward.” - “Stomper's momentum carried him irresistibly onward until he plunged headlong into the lavender moat.”) and surely some funnier gag could have been invented for him here rather than altering in the final chapter what must be called, for lack of a better term, his ‘character’ in this spoof.
The narcs' bodies were collected into large mounds. Goodgulf then merrily instructed that they be individually giftwrapped and mailed to Fordor. C.O.D. J. A very clever way of dispensing with narc bodies! But who's going to do the giftwrapping, and what will they use? The poor postal workers...
Don’t forget that someone has to tell the delivery service what to write on each of the gift cards. This is certainly an original twist on the seemingly endless focus in the book on burial mounds after large battles. It also, possibly deliberately, echoes the joke of the Ring’s inscription from the very beginning of the book:
“If broken or busted, it cannot be remade
If found, send to Sorhed (the postage is prepaid)."
The Twodorians began hosing down the stained ramparts and the still-quivering bulk of the dragon was carted off to the Royal Kitchens for that evening's victory feast. K. Hosing down the stained ramparts! Love the image that evokes. I wonder if dragon tastes like chicken.
Actually the ‘hosing down’ gag doesn’t tickle me, I think because it doesn’t pick up any cues from the siege scenes. As I read it, the only staining was done by the pelicans’ guano – but a powerful phrase like ‘hosing down the stained ramparts’ would seem to demand more. Like, for instance, the brilliantly juicy imagery of the book’s previous battle, in which we read of how “… the narcs still fought back desperately, their long blades flashing, dripping with vitamin-packed gore. The ramparts were littered with chopped parsley, diced onion, and grated carrots. Rivers of red tomato juice ran over the stones, and a ghastly salad floated in the moat.” Now that must have called for some serious sink-sprayer work afterwards.
As for the dragon, of course it tasted like chicken. It was served in a cafeteria hot tray, after all (see next scene for how the fancy-sounding Royal Kitchens actually handle their catering duties).
Many good men and true had fallen: the brothers Handlebar and Hersheybar, and Eorache's uncle, the trusty Eordrum. L. Although Elladan and Elrohir did not die in battle, the names Handlebar and Hersheybar make a good parody of Tolkien's alliterative nomenclature.
Yes on the alliteration, and it’s good to see Theoden’s, I mean Eordrum’s, death included in a quick cameo.
The fair Eorache was cut upon her massive biceps and both her monocles had been brutally smashed. Moxie and Pepsi lost a bit of their right earlobes in the fray, and Legolam's left pinky was severely sprained. Gimlet's pointed head had been somewhat flattened out by a mashie's tenderizer, but the flayed skin he now wore as a mackintosh attested to the outcome of that particular duel. M. Alas, the poor monocles! Legolam's sprained left pinky seems a somehow fitting wound-parody for Legolas's apparent invulnerability. Gimlet's "mackintosh" is not so grisly when one remembers Beorn's "trophies". Comments on the other injuries?
Legolam’s injury (pinky finger) reminds me that in the good old days an extended pinky finger signalled a kind of delicacy or effeminacy in men (Mike Meyers revived it for his Dr. Evil character), so that’s just right for our less-than-manly Elf here. Gimlet’s flayed skin raincoat actually reminds me of Sauron using Celebrimbor’s body as a battle flag in Unfinished Tales, which of course the ‘Poonies in 1969 would not have known about. I do think I’ve read somewhere about some group of primitive warriors using flayed human hides as garments in real life, but happily I’ve forgotten the details.
Other injuries: It’s just right that Goodgulf’s injuries are entirely to his over-fashionable clothing - although how that reconciles with his wearing, and wielding in battle, a full diver’s suit and helmet is left unexplained. The “matching sling” with its indeterminate arm wound is no doubt a subtle but accurate homage to the end of the Battle of Five Armies in The Hobbit (“…and there stood Gandalf, with his arm in a sling. Even the wizard had not escaped without a wound…” – TH 18)
There was much laughing and embracing, particularly between Arrowroot and Eorache. Arrowroot, however, was not blind to certain glances that were exchanged when the Scheepess was introduced to the husky Farahslax. N. Well, this is quite a reversal of Tolkien!
Not entirely! As I think we discussed earlier when Eorache first spotted the royal crest of Twodor on Arrowroot’s drop-bottom long johns, Tolkien briefly considered an Aragorn-Eowyn romance when he first invented Eowyn (and a second woman) as the king’s caregivers in Edoras.
It’s notable that Farahslax’s reappearance in Twodor in this chapter seems almost completely divorced from his episode with Frito and co. in the previous chapter (Schlob’s Lair etc.). The writers even explain who he is, as if we the readers had not met him before: “Farahslax, son of Benelux and brother to Bromosel,…”
Granted, given the silliness of the story at this point in the parody, to try to actually include the incredible complexity of how Frodo’s mission to Mordor related to Aragorn’s defense of Gondor would probably have been a bad idea, structurally and/or comically. It’s notable that Frito is not mentioned by the characters (from Goodgulf on down) during this entire chapter about Minas Troney until after the ‘dustcloud’ finale, when the story switches back to Frito and Spam on its way to the grand (sort of grand) (well, not really very grand at all) ending.
"I am Arrowroot of Arrowshirt, true son of Araplane and true King of all Twodor." O. And we have another fine parody of Tolkien's nomenclature.
Yes, this recaps the really extended one from Chapter VI (Riders of Roi-Tan) based on the list in the actual LotR Book III: "Arrowshirt!" said Stomper. "Arrowroot of Arrowshirt!" In a flash he had drawn gleaming Krona from its holster and flailed it about over his head as he cried, "And this is Krona of he who has many names, he who is called Lumbago, the Lodestone, by the elves, Dunderhead, heir to the throne of Twodor and true son of Arrowhead of Araplane, Conqueror of Dozens and seed of Barbisol, Top of the Heap and King of the Mountain."
I notice that in his introduction to Farahslax he has dropped the “Arrowhead” relation and turned Araplane from a realm to a father, but that’s probably perfectly acceptable compression, given how fast the story needs to move at this point in the narrative.
"Let us all go to the House o' Healing," said Arrowroot finally as he inspected his mangled fingers, "for there are many wounds that I would heal." P. "for there are many wounds that I would heal" certainly sounds like it's straight out of LotR, but the phrase is nowhere to be found in that book.
Yes, it’s certainly Tolkien-sounding, and seems meant to belong to the bits of this book that parrot his style just before mocking it. The closest I can come to their source for this is, in fact, from the correct chapter: “…men came and prayed [to Aragorn] that he would heal their kinsmen or their friends whose lives were in peril through hurt or wound,…” (LR V.8, bolds by squire)
I love the confrontation between the two competitors for Eorache’s beefy charms: veiled insults and threats, stomped foot, crushed hand, “The two stared at each other with unabashed hatred.” Quite a change from, “…a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and [Faramir] spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’” (LR V.6)
Goodgulf was roundly congratulated for giving the attack signal with his flag. Q. If Goodgulf had not given the "attack signal", who would have? Or would anyone have?
There’s only so far we can go with gags like “white robes for white flag” stapled to a pool cue!
…the green giant and his trusty Vee-Ates had been most foully ambushed on the way back from Isinglass by a black herd of Sorhed's wraith-rabbits. R. I had thought the Vee-Ates demise was inspired by the vampire rabbit in "Bunnicula", but James Howe published that ten year later, in 1979. He must have been a BotR fan!
I admit I’ve never heard of “Bunnicula”. What really worries me is that these wraith-rabbits may have descendants in Rhosgobel.
"Heed my words," Arrowroot commanded, stomping a boot. S. "Stomping a boot"! Whence comes of course the nickname "Stomper".
Yes, there is that side of him. But as I noted just now, he rather effectively stomped Farahslax’s wounded foot out of childish aggression, not childish pique.
Arrowroot donned a white apron and a plastic stethoscope and ran hither and yon seeing after the patients. T. The plastic stethoscope, necessary component of every child's "doctor" kit! You can actually hear pretty well through those things.
Well, OK. I don’t think the point is that Arrowroot’s ridiculous masquerade as a doctor might actually be more effective than we are supposed to think!
It occurs to me just now that there is a heck of a lot less “vocab” in this chapter than we have been used to encountering in our reading of Bored of the Rings. That is, there are far fewer references to obscure mid-century American trivia, merchandise, trade names, TV shows, and other bathetic substitutes for Tolkien’s elaborate proto-medieval wordplay and Elvish vocabulary. Why would this be? (Or am I missing it?)
Not that there isn’t still, at points, just some purely excellent comic prose. I still smiled, after many readings, at these:
“Moxie and Pepsi shed bitter tears for the loss of their fecund carrots and danced a little jig of despair.”
“…Eorache, looking at Farahslax like a dog gloating over a pound of minute steak.”
Yards of twisted crêpe paper and glowing fold-up lanterns bedazzled the guests' eyes. Goodgulf himself hired the two-piece all-troll orchestra to serenade the diners from a low dais of old orange crates, and all drank largely from the kegs of rot-gut mead. U. The feast scene is obviously based on the authors' frat parties. I remember using twisted crepe paper strung bleacher-to-bleacher to make our gymnasium look "classy".
This is quite a clever scene, I think, for all that it recalls Bilbo’s party at the beginning of the book with its gravity-feed troughs and gravy-encrusted faces. I was never in a frat, but I did see Animal House. What really makes me associate this banquet with college parties is the scary degree of intoxication, which is comic but also drives the plot, weaving and banging into lampposts, forward.
”…the guests, plastered elves, drunk dwarves, reeling men, and a few schnozzled unidentifiables staggered…” [the last bunch are obviously the “banshees and not a few Republicans” of the chapter’s introduction to Minas Troney!]
“…Goodgulf blearily observed…”
“…the stinkoed boggies…”
"‘Where d'ya sh'pose they are?’ Moxie asked…”
But that bump, that fatal bump, 'twas his downfall. 'Twas water on the brain. 'Tis ninety-percent fatal. Forced I was to amputate. Sad, very sad." V. That simple phrase speaks volumes: "Forced I was to amputate." The rest is best left to the imagination. Or not.
Isn’t it a classic scene in 40s and 50s films when the gowned and masked hero surgeon emerges from the operating room through swinging doors, to tell the waiting family the good or bad news? That’s what I’m getting here, anyway, complete with medical gobbledegook to explain the prognosis. But… but… eerily enough, we’ve also all seen Aragorn, messed up and with a face lined with care, push open another set of double doors, entering center screen to deliver bad news to a waiting court – haven’t we?
"If you be the true King of Twodor," Magnavox fluted drunkenly, "you will fulfill the propheshy and deshtroy our enemiesh. Thish you musht do before you a King be. Thish deed you musht perform." W. Magnavox, the amalgam of Mablung and Damrod! Not quite the Last Debate, is it.
More like the Last Debauch! And as I said, there’s a lot to be said for this approach to explaining the universal acceptance by his new subjects of Aragorn’s suicidal grand strategy.
Arrowroot blinked anxiously. X. What did Goodgulf expect? That Arrowroot would abdicate his hard-won crown? Never challenge a drunk king!
"Enemies? But we here are all comrades--"
"Psssst!" coached Goodgulf. "Sorhed? Fordor? Nozdruls? The you-know-what?"
Stomper bit his lip nervously and thought.
"Well, I guess it behooves us that we march to Sorhed and challenge him, I guess."
Goodgulf's jaw dropped with disbelief,…
It’s actually a little hard to guess what Goodgulf, hardly the most sincere of actors in this group of jokers, was thinking when he reminds Arrowroot about the Enemy. As you say, what was he hoping Arrowroot would say to Magnavox’s challenge? But the final line “Goodgulf's screams were lost in the roar of alcoholic approval from the hall” is another classic, and also cleverly anticipates the soon-to-come dust-cloud!
I am, once more, reminded of yet another spin-off from this tale, again decades later, channeling this scene with comic resonance. From Shamus’ great, great spoof “DM of the Rings”, ep. 133:
”Those who still ride with the King of Twodor will live forever in song and legend! The rest may go." Y. This. This is PERFECT. Death-dealing hangovers. Ruined billboards. Those sent to return the stragglers, not returning themselves. The demotivational speech.
It is said that the dustcloud did not settle for many days after.
I love it.
Perfect – agreed. How it should have been, even in the real thing. Nursing a whopper, indeed.
And may I join them now, after a marathon like this? Excellent post, dernwyn, thanks for the memories once again.
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