Lest this blog be accused of taking itself too seriously, the following posting is entirely silly.
The other day, some friends and I were toying with the utterly frivolous question of “What if H.P. Lovecraft had written Jaws?” (If you survive this posting, maybe I’ll subject you to my answer to that question next time around.) (This is the sort of thing writers do when they should be doing more responsible things like meeting the deadline on the chunk of the grammar dictionary they’re supposed to be editing.)
So gather ’round, Gentle Readers, and before you drop off to sleep tonight, I’ll read you a little story. The question before us is, What if J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling had been collaborators? What if, instead of the works they’re most famous for, they put their talents together and came up with the epic romance suggested by the title of this posting? [Writer’s note: in light of some of the responses I’ve been getting, I feel it’s necessary to say here that the following is a loving sendup of two writers whose work I greatly admire. It’s not intended as an attack on either one of them. I hope fans of either or both will find a lot they recognize here, perhaps with a twist or two that may induce laughter.]
Here we go, then — here’s what might have resulted. We pick it up in medias res:
Frody Bagger and the Terrible Ring of You-Know-Whom
When everyone had settled down after the excitement, Gandalf clinked his pipe on his water-bottle for silence.
“Hsst! Frody!” whispered Merry. “Have you heard the one about the traveling salesman from the Westfarthing?”
“Shush!” said Legolas, scowling as darkly as his fair countenance would allow. “Gandalf’s going to speak.”
Gandalf cleared his throat and looked solemn. “Before we begin the next phase of our journey — which I think, given the lateness of the hour, shall involve resting first — I regret to inform you that the doors of Moria are now firmly closed behind us, and we have no choice but to go forward into the dark.”
Groans passed throughout the Fellowship. Boromir caught Frody’s eye and shook his head. “I told you all we should have made for the Gap of Rohan, but noooo.”
“Shush!” said Legolas.
“I think we are all tired,” Gandalf finished, “so I shall conclude my remarks with the advice that we all get a good night’s sleep. Moria is not to be trifled with, and many of your parents are already concerned that this Quest is dangerous.”
“Parents? Concerned?” murmured Merry. “Mum thought this would be good for us. Whose parents have got their shorts in a knot?”
“Don’t look at me,” Frody hissed back. “My parents drowned.”
He was still feeling peevish from his soaking in the pool outside the gate. While Sam spread the bedrolls, Frody wrung out his shirt. “Sam,” he said under his breath, “why d’you suppose that tentacly thing singled me out? D’you suppose it has something to do with this burden I bear?”
“Oh, go on there, Mr. Frody. Everybody turns fifty sooner or later. It’s not so bad. Why, look at Mr. Gandalf. . . .”
“I meant the ring, Sam.”
“Oh! That I wouldn’t know nothin’ about.”
Across the camp, Gimli scrunched his brows, appraising Legolas’s bow. “Well now, Leg’las,” he said, “How did yer know ter use arrows agains’ that Thing in the water?”
The elf rolled his eyes. “If you’d read the Quest Manual, you’d know there’s a whole section on ‘Attacking Enemies From a Distance.’ It tells all about the bow and arrow. Tsk! Honestly, do any of Durin’s folk ever crack a book?”
Gimli patted the head of his war axe. “We c’n crack purty much anythin’, Master Elf, if yer take my meanin’.” Gimli was a stout and formidable warrior — a Giant Dwarf, which made him exactly 5’10” in height: precisely as Ralph Bakshi had portrayed him.
Legolas threw up his hands and stalked away to his own space.
Frody and Sam sat awake for a short while in the Common Area of the camp, beside the fire.
“Here, then, Mr. Frody,” Sam said. “Have a cup of pumpkin juice and a bite o’ these conies and taters. Things’ll be better once we’re through this dark — you’ll see.”
“You’re a bonzer friend, Sam, and an amazing hobbit. Where would I be without you?”
“Oh, go on, Mr. Frody.”
“No, it’s true, Sam. When the pony was making all that fuss earlier, you knew he needed feeding.”
“You’re makin’ me embarrassed, Mr. Frody. You know that was just because I took that there seminar Master Elrond arranged for us — that there ‘Care of Ordinary Creatures.’ Sharp folks, them elves, if you ask me. Knowin’ just what — crikey, Mr. Frody, what’s that?”
They sprang to their feet as a pair of luminous round eyes flashed in the dark. Frody checked his new sword, the Sting 2009, but it wasn’t glowing blue, as it did when goblins and such were about. It did, however, launch into the current time and temperature until he re-sheathed it.
“Oh, relax,” said Frody, taking a second look into the spooky shadows of Moria. “It’s just Golly.”
Whining and wringing his bony hands, Golly slinked into view and sidled up to the fire.
Sam growled, and Frody sighed heavily. “Hullo, Golly,” said Frody.
Golly rolled onto his back with an ecstatic shriek, kicking his gangly feet in the air. “Aaiiieee! Golly is tremendously honored that Mr. Frody Bagger deigns to speak to him! Oh, fortunate, fortunate Golly! But Golly is undeserving, Sir! Golly would prefer Mr. Frody Bagger’s fist against his jaw. Golly’s teeth should fly! Mr. Frody Bagger should hold Golly in the fire until he scorches, Sir!”
Golly had followed the Fellowship for many leagues. He had originally called himself a House Elf until Legolas had asked to see his Elf Card. Having none — nor pockets to carry a card in — Golly immediately declared himself a House Golem.
“Golly, please!” cried Frody. Golly had seized Frody’s ankle and was using Frody’s foot to kick himself in the stomach.
“Mr. Frody Bagger –” said Golly, between gasping retches as the boot pummeled him — “must not — go into the Wild. Must not — go anywhere — but to Cirith Ungol. Yes! Straight Stair, Winding Stair! He is safe there, is Mr. Frody Bagger. Panic room is there. Lead-lined vault, full of provisions. Pipe leaf, yes! DVD player! Hole up for the duration of nasty war! Keep the Precious safe! Golly comes to lead Mr. Frody Bagger there!”
Boromir’s horn sailed through the air and beaned Golly on the noggin.
“Ooooh!” squealed Golly. “Golly is thanking you, Sir!”
“If we can’t go to Gondor,” grumped Boromir, “we’re not going to your ‘Cirith Ungol,’ wherever that is.”
“Tsk!” called Legolas. “Some of us are trying to sleep!”
As Golly carried on, returning the horn to Boromir and offering his head as a target, enthusiastically inviting a second shot, the hobbit twins sneaked up behind him. Laying hold of the sinewy creature, one lifted him bodily and dropped him into an open well at the chamber’s corner. Golly’s piteous scream faded into the depths. Somewhere far below, an ominous drum began to beat. Doom . . . doom . . . doom. . . .
“Fool of a Took!” snarled Gandalf. “Throw yourself in next time!” The wizard disentangled himself from his bedding, and as he stood, he seemed to grow taller and darker in his anger. (It was rumored that at meetings of the White Council, the Wise had “Get Momentarily Scary” contests. Gandalf and Galadriel generally traded off the trophy back and forth, year by year, throughout the Third Age.)
“Ah, ha, ha, ha!” laughed the other twin, slapping his knee. “He’s not Pippin! I’m Pippin!” But seeing the stormy shadow pass across Gandalf’s face, seeing the wizard’s eyes blaze with wrath, the hobbit changed his tune. “Just kidding. He’s Pippin.”
Slowly, the drum beats faded to silence.
“Likely they was just practicin’,” said Gimli. “Or horsin’ aroun’ wi’ an ol’ kettle drum. Our folk always carry aroun’ their music’l ins’ruments. Bass viols, an’ such. Bombur prolly left some percussion stuff set up down there.”
“Regardless,” said Legolas, “it was foolish, Master Took. Like that time you threw all our chocolate at the troll.”
“How was I to know,” said Pippin, “that chocolate only works against the Wraiths of the Land of Serious Black?”
“Right!” added Merry. “And chocolate sort of worked against that horrible thing with the one wheel — that wheelbarrow-wight.”
“At any rate,” said Legolas huffily, “we’re without chocolate until we get another package from your mum.”
Boromir was looking forlornly at his horn, which had broken in two after its impact with Golly’s head. It lay now in two neat halves, as if it had been cloven with a blade. “So much for that,” he said with a sigh, tossing the pieces into a sewer that drained into the Great River Anduin. “Hope my dad doesn’t find out.”
“Ahem!” said Gandalf. “Bed? More questing early tomorrow? Do I have to come over there?”
Everyone lay down again except Legolas, who sat reading the Quest Manual, and Frody and Sam, who returned to the fire.
“Gandalf?” called Pippin meekly in the dark. “How d’you figure on getting us out of these mines?”
“Not to worry,” said the wizard soothingly. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now do try to sleep.”
Again, when all was quiet, Frody sighed. “I wish Aragorn were here. I have so many questions for him.”
Sam looked wistful. “Strider — your godfather, yes. He’s a good feller to have on your side in a scrape, an’ no mistake. Can’t say as I trusted him at our first meetin’, though.”
“Sam, I know he looks foul. But he can’t come in out of the Wild and wash his hair, because the Ministry of Stewardship is still after him. They don’t like this business of ‘Heir to the Throne.'”
“Why don’t you write him a letter, Mr. Frody?”
“Crikey, Sam! That’s brilliant! You’re a genius!”
“Oh, go on then, Mr. Frody. Don’t be makin’ fun.”
Smoothing out a piece of parchment, Frody uncapped his ink bottle, dipped his quill, and began to write.
Our Quest is going well. I miss you and wish you were here. Join us when you’re able. We are now at 35 degrees 7 minutes east longitude, 40 degrees 3 minutes south latitude, and doing our best to stay hidden. Secrecy is of the utmost importance, Gandalf says.
By the way, in case you’re worried, I still have It safe — you know, the Thing I’m carrying that You-Know-Who wants.
Hope to see you soon.
Sam read it over Frody’s shoulder. “That’s perfect, Mr. Frody, but how are you going to get it to Strider?”
“I think I can just throw it out that window,” said Frody, pointing to an aperture in the stone wall. “Aragorn’s all over the Wild. He’s the guy out there. If something’s in the Wild, he’ll find it.”
“Right!” agreed Sam.
Tiptoeing to the window so as not to wake the others, they peered out into the night beyond the walls of Moria. Frody flung his letter into the breeze, and it zigzagged toward the ground — until a huge, black, reptilian shape swooped out of the clouds, and a cowled figure on the monster’s back snatched the parchment in a skeletal hand.
“What d’you suppose that was, Mr. Frody?” asked Sam, sounding a little worried.
“A friend of Aragorn’s, I expect,” said Frody. “He’s got many friends.”
“And many names,” added Sam.
“He says that’s to stay ahead of the bill collectors.”
“He is so cool,” said Sam.
Their gazes drifted downward to the winding path leading up to Moria’s side entrance. A red carpet lay unrolled on it, and along this carpet trooped a host of shadowy figures — mythical creatures, all having come to make gratuitous cameo appearances in the story, so that an entire generation of readers might grow up believing they had appeared here first. Frody and Sam stared in wonder at centaurs, gargoyles, griffins, hippogriffs, Ki-Rin, fauns, platypi, talking beavers, Daleks, and mermaids flipping and thrashing, dragging themselves forward with their hands. There were owlbears, wyverns, sphinxes, a couple of Shoggoths, banthas, Jawas, Untowards, chupacabras, and a Sasquatch.
All these fabulous beings were emerging from an endless line of arriving limousine carriages powered by invisible engines — or so one could only surmise. There were misty, empty spaces above the front wheels, where the motors and bonnets ought to be.
Paparazzi sprang now from the bushes — the fell paparazzi of the Misty Mountains, a strain of their vile kind that You-Know-Who had cross-bred with Men, that they might go about in daylight and march over great distance beneath the weight of camera bags. Their cameras flashed now, lighting the forest with an eerie radiance like a false dawn.
More mythical celebrities arrived on the carpet. Scylla and Charybdis had obviously tried to outdo each other with their off-the-shoulder evening gowns. Nosferatu sprang up end-ways out of his hearse-bed limo. Pan waved to the crowds, looking chic in his designer shades, a fur-draped chimaera on his arm. Her breath incinerated one of the paparazzi who got too close. Dr. Zaius, with distinguished silver highlights in his orange mane, was obviously playing the elder statesman.
“Mr. Frody! Is that . . . can it be. . . .?”
“Yes, Sam,” said Frody with a smile. “That’s Grendel.”
“Oh, I’ve always dearly wanted to see Grendel! But — but who’s that he’s with?” Sam’s face contorted in revulsion. “Oh, that would be gross, an’ no mistake!”
In the light of the moon and the flashes, they saw that Grendel was escorting Medusa. When she lifted her own shades to glare meaningfully at a cameraman, he promptly turned to stone, camera and all. She was wearing high-heeled feet, which were all the rage since Angelina had worn them in Beowulf.
“She’s put on quite a few pounds,” said Frody. “And can you believe that? — Botox for every one of her snakes.”
“And that dress, Mr. Frody. That’d be just wrong in my book, if you take my meanin’. ‘Mutton dressed as lamb,’ as my old Gaffer always says.”
When at last they pulled themselves away from the view of the bizarre menagerie, they discovered Gandalf sitting at the divergence of two corridors, one descending to the left, the other climbing away to the right. He was clearly confounded.
“Hmm,” he said broodingly. “If only I’d brought along the Hallway-Sorting Hat.”
Merry sat up, yawning. “Maybe you should try saying ‘Friend’ again.”
Pippin high-fived him from the adjacent bedroll.
“Tsk!” said Legolas.
“I have it!” cried Gandalf, bounding to his feet with a laugh. “Gandalf, you old fool! I have the solution to everything!”
“What is it?” they all cried, gathering close behind him.
“There are too many adults here!” He danced from foot to foot, rubbing his hands together in glee. “We’ll never advance the plot that way! These books always start to move when you young folks are left to your own devices. Hobbits, take the descending path.” He clutched Frody’s shoulder soberly and patted the ring through Frody’s shirt. “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” Then he brightened. “The rest of us will go this way, up this tunnel marked ‘EXIT.’ We’ll be back for the denouement — to thump you on the backs, make some pithy philosophical comments about life, devotion, and friendship, and tell you ‘Well done, but now things are going to get darker.'”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Legolas.
“But –” Frody began.
“Gimli,” said Gandalf, “you’d better go with the kids.”
Gloin’s son blustered. “Yer hadn’t ought ter send me away, Mr. Gandalf!”
“Ooo,” said Legolas — “short-tempered, are we?”
“Now, now,” said the wizard, “enough talk. Everybody, do your thing. We’ll see you on the beach. Let’s do some good.”