Most literary parodies are destined for short shelf-lives with a limited appeal to cult audiences. Anyone remember Adam Bertocci’s 2010 Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance, a take on the Cohen brothers 1998 film The Big Lebowski? On the other hand, the new The Hunger Pains: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon will likely appeal to a much wider readership as The Hunger Games book and film franchise is a current hot property. But will any of these books or parodies of them resonate with readers 40 years or more from now?
Speaking of the Harvard Lampoon, their new edition of their 1969 Bored of the Rings proves that some humor can remain funny long after the original publication. It certainly helps that the books of J.R.R. Tolkien have remained popular since the debut of Bilbo Baggins in 1937. It also helps that, this year, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was conveniently released at the same time as the Bored of the Rings re-issue. Of course, the book has never really been out of print, the most recent previous edition coming out in 2001.
It also helps that, unlike other parodies, Bored of the Rings isn't top-heavy with dated topical references or any attempt to satirize then current events. Instead, the authors engaged in considerable wordplay and creating comic dialogue that anyone familiar with the Tolkien books should understand. Character names are a demonstration of the playfulness in the parody, especially with allusions to brand names: Dildo and Frito Bugger of Bug End, Goodgulf the Wizard, Spam Gangree, Moxie and Pepsi Dingleberry, Arrowroot of Arrowshirt (the rightful King of Twodor), hunchback dwarf Gimlet (son of Groin), Legolam of the Elves of Northern Weldwood, and Bromosel, the man with pointy shoes. Heroes all, if you consider the strategy of playing possum and ratting-each-other-out strategic defenses. Along the way, we also meet the slithering creature Goddam who has the ability to put listeners to sleep by telling his life's story.
Henry Beard, who along with Douglas C. Kenney was one of the original authors, admits in his new introduction, “bore”ward," that the Harvard Lampoon gang had no lofty themes in mind when composing Bored of the Rings. They wanted to make some cash. This seems appropriate as their most oft repeated jabs are at consumer products and commercials of the day. For example, the travelers can't see the prophetic visions in a magical pond until after watery commercials are shown. The Naugahydes, a taller and wispier breed "than the other boggles"—the Lampoon's twist of Hobbits—"lived in the forests, where they maintained a thriving trade in leather goods, sandals, and handicrafts." These guys are an obvious take on the artificial leather Naugahyde.