Frody Bagger and the Terrible Ring of You-Know-Whom

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.

Dear Aragorn,

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.”


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10 Responses to “Frody Bagger and the Terrible Ring of You-Know-Whom”

  1. I built a cairn for Chris Says:

    The other posters may come after me for this, but I refuse to read any “Potter” books. I held off from reading the Thomas Covenant six-parter for years and wish I had stuck to my guns. There is no way I will touch the new trilogy being added by Donaldson.
    Does this make me close-minded? Probably, but sometimes it is best to leave enough alone.
    Anyone who was there at the beginning of D n’ D in the late 70’s has to agree — once it got out of the hands of the creators in 1983 it all went commercial (which is to say, to hell).
    I enjoy Fred’s parody, and if Rowling’s style is anything like what is being mocked here, I am grateful to leave Harry behind (even though Emma Watson is a babette).

  2. Catherine Says:

    I am laughing so hard over here! “ ‘There are too many adults here! . . . We’ll never advance the plot that way! These books always start to move when you young folks are left to your own devices.’ ” That had me off in gales of laughter! (But shouldn’t you have saved this post for Hallowe’en? I mean, J.K. Rowling doing the Lord of the Rings is TERRIFYING!) 😉 Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

  3. fsdthreshold Says:

    Well, Cairn, I distinctly remember that we both devoured and enjoyed the first three Thomas Covenant books when we were teenagers. But I never read any of them beyond that — at least I don’t think I did. I may have read that first one in the Second Chronicles (with the purple cover) and didn’t like it, so didn’t continue. At the time, our mutual musical friend Steve (who reads everything in print) said that it was as if, in the Second Chronicles, Mr. Donaldson stopped doing any revision on his manuscripts.

    Interesting about Potter: at the World Fantasy Convention, panelists can be really outspoken about things. One (who I won’t name here, but a very knowledgeable and respected person) talked about “the crappy, crappy _Eragon_ and the crappy, crappy _Twilight_” (upon which the audience burst out laughing, and someone yelled: “Tell us how you feel!”) — and one panelist ripped heavily on Tolkien (upon which the audience silently judged him — the disagreement was palpable!). But everyone is very respectful of Harry Potter. It’s true that there are a few things J.K.R. _doesn’t_ do well in her writing (which I won’t get into), but even the most envious of us have to admit the books are very, very well-written. The depth and complexity of her plotting is extraordinary, she understands pacing and getting readers emotionally involved with the characters — but if I had to put my finger on the #1 reason those books are so engaging and nauseatingly successful, it’s this: she manages to have something fun/amusing/suspenseful/scary on every single page. Every other book in the world is constructed in waves, with setup stuff building to payoffs. J.K.R. does that, for sure, but she also does it in what I’d call “microwaves” — she has those little payoffs ALL THE TIME. Which is why the books have sold so many. . . .[grumble]. What she’s constructed is essentially a literary form of an amusement park. In and around the Hogwarts castle, she’s got all this scintillating, fun stuff going on everywhere. As characters physically move from place to place, they have to pass A and B and C — all these elements and characters that readers quickly become familiar with and want to revisit, with interesting variations. Woven into that are quirky, lovable, detestable characters and a dark, dark overarching big plot. If you can pull all that off, you’ve got a runaway bestseller.

    So, yeah, don’t judge the Potter books by the overcrowded, frenetic movie versions.

    As to D&D, the game my group and I played for about six years actively — and still keep alive through occasional correspondence and continued writings of background material from our campaign world — had very little to do with what TSR and WOTC were publishing. We were playing straight out of our imaginations, fueled by books, friendship, and a steady diet of life. But yes, I agree with you, the inspiration came from that first little old boxed Basic Set (which I still have right here in my closet in Japan, minus the original contents).

    And Catherine, thanks! I’m glad you liked this posting! Happy Second Day After Thanksgiving!

  4. fsdthreshold Says:

    Oh — the point I started to make is that at the World Fantasy Con, one panelist carefully said something to the effect of: “. . . I have to say, though, that one problem I have with those books is with the minions of the bad guy, Mr. V. I don’t understand what’s in it for them. What do they get out of serving him? He treats them terribly. . . .” Heh, heh. But that’s a pretty universal problem in fantasy stories. Who would want to work for Darth Vader, for any given James Bond villain, or for Sauron? You get ordered to do the impossible, you get slapped around while you’re doing it, and you get killed by the boss if you fail. Oh, wait — that’s life in corporate America, isn’t it? 🙂

  5. Chris Says:

    I am still going through this JKRowling thing and it’s hard to do without laughing out loud at work (and yes I should be doing work).

    The Harry Potter thing almost destroyed my marriage. My wife had never read LotR but decided to read the first Harry Potter. I told her this was simply an abomination (to be fair I’ve never read any Harry Potter, but c’mon, if you fail to read LotR but decide to plow into HP…well, it’s just wrong. QED.)

    As for the THomas Covenant thing, well I never read beyond the first trilogy but that changed my taste in fiction. It was like someone dropped an atomic bomb into the world of fantasy fiction by introducing “real live adult characters” with conflicts and mental horrors more like the real world, but surrounded by the kind of sword-and-sorcery stuff I liked to read at the time.

    I loved Thomas Covenant (first trilogy) precisely because the main character was so conflicted. To this day I find the allegory of the character “Vain” to be extremely relevant to life in general.

    Now, back to J.K. Rowling (and please do post what if HPLovecraft had written Jaws. You do realize you have here several salable ideas for various outlets, right?)

  6. fsdthreshold Says:

    Heh, heh — okay, thanks! We’ll do Lovecraftian JAWS in the very near future. (It’s not nearly as long as the “Frody Bagger” one.)

    I totally, totally agree with you: If a person hasn’t read LOTR, choosing to dive into Harry P is . . . yes. Just wrong.

    I really am glad you like that little satire. I do very, very little humor writing, but that one insisted on coming out. For about 24 hours I was bombarded with ideas for it, and I scribbled them all down, quite a few at the university. I ended up putting a lot of what I think is the best stuff in when I was keying it from my manuscript into the blog. Ultimately, it’s more about LOTR than HP — the more a person knows and appreciates LOTR, the funnier (I’d like to believe) it is.

    It really is interesting how most of the main characters in both works lend themselves so well to parallels/combinations.

    VERY interesting insights on why the Thomas Covenant books appealed to us! I’d say the same. Thomas Covenant is really not all that likeable — which, correct me if I’m wrong, was pretty much unique at the time in heroic fantasy. (It’s probably changed quite a bit since the eighties.) Here we are following a protagonist who, the moment he gets into the fantasy world, commits a violent crime.

  7. I built a cairn for Chris Says:

    It took three years for Steve to convince me to read the TC books. I did thoroughly enjoy the first three, but the second three were a let down, and I HATED the character of Linden Avery.
    To this day I believe TC is a unique character. He is hard to like, hard even to pity, but those around him are sometimes even less so.
    I agree with Chris on “Vain” and wonder about his thoughts on the Elohim. I could not stand them, but once they were introduced I understood where all TC’s kvetching came from — he is a Jew. hahaha
    The point I failed to make was this — it is hard to keep the strand going, and maybe that is Rowling’s genius. Take the Dune saga … 1-2-3 great, 4 decent, 5-6 horrible. In retrospect Herbert should have stopped at the first book (his best work is “The White Plague” I strongly encourage all to check it out).

  8. Gabe Dybing Says:

    I just had to pipe in here and say I was laughing out loud the whole time I read this. Thanks, Fred!

  9. tandemcat Says:

    Brilliant! Brilliant! After I died laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I resolved never to read any more Harry Potter books!

  10. fsdthreshold Says:

    I appreciate the compliments, but some of the responses have me perplexed and troubled. This parody is in no way intended as an attack on the Harry Potter books or their author. Do you all remember the Harvard Lampoon’s _Bored of the Rings_? This is my own _Bored of the Rings_, expanded to include Harry. The Harvard Lampoon didn’t write their spoof to attack Tolkien–they wrote it because they loved the stuff. My parody, too, is intended as a loving takeoff on two great works, two great authors. I think the combination of the two, and the way I found to fit them together, works pretty well and is quite funny. But it’s no more a slam on Harry than it is on LOTR. Yes, it closely imitates the way scenes are drawn and dialogue is done in HP, but look at the way Sam talks: that’s straight out of LOTR, exactly as Tolkien has Sam talking.

    I agree that it’s a good parody. I put quite a bit of work into it, and I think it’s an effective sendup of both books. But I’m not out to discourage anyone from reading either one of the works being parodied. If I didn’t have quite a bit of affection and respect for both, I wouldn’t have sunk so much time into writing this!

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