DISCLAIMER: This is a not-for-profit story, and is in no way meant for publication; therefore, both the Tolkien Estate and the members of Monty Python can rest assured, there will be no royalties due and nothing forthcoming in the way of monetary remuneration for the meager author of this farcical romp through Middle-earth.
~~BOOK I: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, Bein' the first par' 'o' Lor' of th' Rings, an' all~~
Chapter None: An Explanatory Introduction with Various Oddiments Meant to Increase One's Appreciation for the forthcoming Story, in Two Parts, that being the Foreword and Prologue...
Just like it was the Authentic Novel (not bloody likely)!
The scene is one of a somewhat austere but comfortable library, ostensibly in Oxford. The yawning oak bookcases are home to a disorderly rabble of volumes leaning drunkenly one against the other, seeking slumping support as if the accumulated knowledge housed beneath their well-worn leather bindings has left them vertically challenged like rows of garrulous Gaels in a pub on St. Patrick's Day. The writing desk faces the window to take advantage of the diffused light of another dimming English evening. At the desk, behind a voluminous pile of correspondence, tightly bound bundles of manuscript and wayward pages of hastily scribbled notes that jut in wrinkled abandon from the main melee, sits a scholarly looking older gentleman abstractedly puffing away on a smoke darkened pipe of burnished briar. His gray tweed jacket with suede patches at the elbows speaks volumes of his staid, button-down nature, but such conservatism is belied by a bright blue waistcoat that peaks from under his dreary lapels like sky from behind storm clouds. He is, of course, writing intently in a dog-eared notebook with a spidery scrawl that would require the patience of a saint for any editor to decipher. Noticing me at the doorway, he grins mischievously with the pipe clenched firmly in his teeth, and beckons me to come sit at a rather severe-looking straight back wooden chair next to the desk.
"Hello, so good of you to stop by," he says with a welcoming drawl and a wafting exhale of pungent pipe smoke. As he speaks, it is clear his clipped and precise English accent has accumulated the heavy patina of academia after decades as an Oxford professor, but he is prone to rambling and slurring as his tongue can never quite catch up with his quick mind. I mention what a delight it is to finally meet the revered author, J.R.R. Tolkien, but the man suddenly stops in mid-slur and gingerly places his pipe in an ashtray piled high with spent stick matches.
"I 'ate blinkin' pipe smoke," he groans, sticking out his tongue for added emphasis.
He sighed sadly while fidgeting with his hands, and then he eyed me rather pensively. "Im terribly sorry," he blurted at last (changing tenses abruptly from one paragraph to the next), "but this aint Oxford, and I aint no professor. You see, what with compu'er gen'rated images and the death of John Houseman an' all, there aint much callin' for crotchety old fart roles these days; and since I fit the suit and look the proper part…well, 'ere I am.
"You mean…" I grumbled in disbelief.
"Aye, sorry to say, but I'm just a stunt-Tolkien."
The interview became decidedly colder after that, but the stunt-Tolkien made a valiant stab at continuing the part he was paid to play. "I could share me views regardin' alleg'ry and apple-lick…erm…applicability, if'n you'd loike."
"Well, that won't be necessary…" I mumbled. But the pseudo-professor waxed poetic over Saruman and the atom bomb, and "ther subsumed noiture of Chris-chin' symbo-loggy" for nigh on half an hour.
Finally, I cut him off by saying, "And so, there is no allegory evident in Lord of the Rings?"
"None whatsoever," he said firmly, but he became fidgety once again, and added, "Well, leastwise none in the script I scribbled on me palm." So saying, he presented his hand which had writing scrawled all the way from the tips of his fingers to below the cuff of his shirt. "Truth be told," he winked, "I aint never read th' books. 'Aven't really even seen all the movies – just that there 'Fellership 'o' ther Ring' on cable. Quoite silly, really, what with them 'airy li'l 'obbits 'n' all fightin' some monster eyeball. I could never quoite achieve a sense 'o' suspended disbelief, if you get me meanin'. As it is, I aint much fer fantastical movies 'n' such.
"Oh no?" I said in mock surprise.
"No Sir-ee!" he said in evident delight. "I'm a Shakespeare man, meself: "But sof', wot loight threw yonder winder breakest? 'Tis th' east, 'n' Juliet is ter sun…"
"That's quite...enough," I grunted in a vain effort to stop him.
" 'Tis ther hour 'o' my discontinence, made gloooorious summer by th' Sun in York -- 'at's from Richard the Third, it is."
"However remotely, I suppose."
"Me 'orse, me 'orse! A kingdom fer me 'orse!"
"Shall we get on with the story?" I hissed angrily between my clenched teeth.
"If you'd loike," he sighed in relief and started unbuttoning his restrictive waistcoat, "this bit's gettin' bleedin' old in any case."
PROLOGUE – Concerning Hobbits
War-correspondent Borstal Ulysses Rabelais-Picaresque here in the troubled Shire, a once pastoral but peculiarly anachronistic hideaway for those harmless, albeit dim-witted, hobbits; but this Periannath paradise trembles in dismay and fear as a virulent storm threatens to hew the placid hobbitish way of life right out from under the halfling's furry little feet. I have uncovered a sordid tale of graft, political intrigue, mismanagement, bullying, rampant urbanization and industrial pollution that could fill several cozy hobbit-holes up to the bursting hinges of their quaint, but architecturally unsound, round doorways.
Here in Hobbiton, the once picturesque heart of the Shire, the hobbits -- a jovially overfed but undersized race thriving in the backwaters of Middle-earth -- have fallen on hard times. Sullen and starving after having their six to seven meals a day reduced to a mere three due to rationing, the rustic locals are also grumbling over the introduction of a new morality code that has forced the closing of their beloved taverns, those cultural oases of drunken merriment where handfuls of hammered halflings would wile away the hours in the meaningless prattle and idle gossip that are the intellectual hallmarks of hobbitish society. One spunky old fellow, known about-town by the odd nickname of 'The Gaffer', had this to say: "It's an ill-wind as blows nobody no good, as I always said, what with them Shirriffs turning up my 'taters and all! I don't go in for all this tomfoolery, whether it's s'posed to be by-the-book or no. That Lotho'll be answerable for his shenanigans someways, and the sooner than later, if you get my meaning."
What the Gaffer actually meant, I am not sure, but he said it with such conviction that I felt positive I was onto something. One thing was certain; the brunt of the senile hobbit's ire was directed at Lotho Sackville-Baggins, known throughout the Shire as 'The Chief' (or sarcastically as 'Pimple' in some dissident circles). Who is 'The Chief', and why is he so despised by rank-and-file Hobbitry-up-in-arms? Finding the answer was not difficult. From the low set and grimy portal windows of the Hobbiton-Bywater Holiday Inn, one can see the grim results of an ambitious push for industrialization in this rural area primarily known for agriculture, particularly the crops commonly referred to as The Three P's: pipeweed, potatoes and mushrooms (as the Gaffer readily admitted, "Edication aint a'portant for farmin'").
The traditional hobbit holes, praised by ecologists as Middle-earth-friendly, well-insulated and unobtrusive underground homes, have been unceremoniously dug up, and in their place one now finds haphazard rows of mean tract housing and slipshod shacks, which a middle-aged hobbit-matron referred to indignantly as "absolutely Orkish". The town's mill, which had long been powered by energy-efficient water propulsion, has given way to a monstrously ugly, brick-chimneyed megalith belching out black soot from an iron blast furnace fired by fossil fuels such as soft coal and wood. In fact, the once tree-lined Bywater Road, the main thoroughfare through the city, has been totally denuded of trees for industrial use, and the clear-cutting of forests throughout the Shire has brought bitter complaints of erosion and de-elvestation. A particular root cause of irritation and disbeleaf among the Hobbits stems from the toppling of the 'Party Tree', which has some significance in a certain branch of local legend; but for the sake of time I will not bore the readers with the ludicrous fable of a well-preserved 111 year-old Hobbit vanishing into thin air, as it does not ring true (particularly since Oscar Wilde's 'Picture of Dorian Grey' will not be written for several thousand years).
But why this aggressive shift from the time-honored practice of farming, with halfling hoes and plowshares being suddenly beaten into grinding metal gears and fuel-guzzling, filthy contraptions? More to the point, how did the whole process of hyper-industrialization take less than one year from its inception to transform a bucolic and backward country of half-pint yokels into a decidedly modern and modular country of half-pint yokels? All short, stubby Hobbit fingers point directly toward that portly purveyor of pompous pronouncements, Lotho Sackville-Baggins. Sackville-Baggins, a former resident of Hardbottle, rose suddenly to power in a bloodless coup several months ago, using a seemingly limitless amount of laundered money (said to be garnered from the illicit pipeweed trade) for flagrant bribes, institutional takeovers and massive real estate purchases -- in effect, the time-honored method of buying one's way to dictatorship.
Lotho, or "The Chief" as he demands to be called, refused several requests for an interview, but I did manage to catch up with him, along with his prudish prune of a mother, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, outside their somewhat less-than-palatial digs in the newly renovated area of Bagshot Row, the ancestral home of the Baggins Clan, a notoriously adventurous extended family of nouveau-riche Hobbits. My attempt to get at the truth was stymied by the confustications and bebotherments of the flummoxed pair:
Borstal Ulysses Rabelais-Picaresque: Excuse me, Mr. Sackville-Baggins? I am B.U.R. Picaresque, reporter-at-large and author of this particular fan-fic; may I have a word with you?
Lobelia: Lotho prefers to be called 'The Chief' by his inferiors, thank you very much. Now, if you don't mind, Lotho don't wish to speak to the press. G'day.
BURP: Chief Lotho, what exactly do you mean by 'good day'? Are you referring to the weather as being good, in that you find it pleasant this morning? Or do you believe the day has been, in fact, good in a personal sense? Or are you merely using the ambiguous phrase 'good day' as a vague abstraction for lack of an intelligent response?
Lobelia: All or none, it matters not to Lotho. 'Ee's a very busy gentle-hobbit, he is, and 'as many pressing affairs. Again, good day!
BURP: Ah! So by 'good day', Chief Lotho, you mean it would be a good day if I refrained from asking any further questions and left immediately?
Lobelia: Aye, 'at's precisely what Lotho meant!
BURP: Hmmm…throwing your voice like that must be in big demand at birthday parties…but Chief Lotho, can you answer the claims of your detractors that you have usurped the reigns of power in the Shire for your own enrichment?
Lobelia: Detractors? Upstarts, gluttons and loiterers, the lot of 'em! They are against progress and morality, and Lotho has rightly placed these criminals in the Lockholes for breakin' the rules -- particularly rules 5, 7 and 9 -- which are deemed acts of sedition under the 'Gatherers and Sharers Act of Year 1419'...that's in Shire Reckoning, if you weren't aware.
BURP: Right. But political prisoners, such as the former mayor Will Whitfoot, are said to live in atrocious and degrading conditions in your Lockhole Detention Facility; yet even under such trying circumstances they declare that you are actually a puppet under the influence of the shadowy Sharkey, who is said to be the true power in the Shire. Will you comment on that, Chief Lotho?
Lobelia: It's all utter nonsense, 'at's what my Lotho 'as to say! The very idea! Rumors and gossip started by them jealous Brandybucks and Tooks, no doubt. Decadent aristocrats of the faded Squirearchy, 'at's what they are -- all part and parcel of the Shire's stagnant economy! My Lotho was duly elected and operates in accordance with accepted practices of good governance as administered by the local authority.
BURP: Ummm…yes, whatever that means. And what of the rebels who are bravely holding out up in the Brokenbores?
Lobelia: My Lotho deems them to be terrorists, and promises the majority of decent Hobbitish citizenry that these traitors will be brought to justice -- as soon as Lotho can find 'em. For the last time, Lotho says, 'good day'!
Any further attempts at dialogue were squelched by a menacing band of rather ill-clad mannish paramilitaries that barred my way. It is said the mysterious power broker Sharkey first introduced these uncouth mercenaries here, and they operate within the bounds of the Shire under the code name: Ruffian. These Ruffians tried to place me in custody, but when I demanded my rights as a journalist under the Gondorion Convention, their only doltish reply was "Garn!" (an undefined expletive particular to the men of this region). Incensed by the rude behavior of these 'Aftercomers', I had no choice but to mercilessly slay three or four of them before the remaining cowards ran off squealing like little girls. Pffft! Witless fools, bringing clubs and cudgels to a sword fight.