In celebration of Tolkien’s twelfty birthday this year, the publisher Little Brain and Miffed is bringing out a heavily revised version of Lord of the Rings which they say is, ‘more resonant with today’s sensibilities.’
So, what have they changed?
Well, for one: magic. It was deemed a touchy subject for readers of a fundamentalist disposition. “It was either remove magic from the manuscript or print the book with flame retardant paper,” said the book’s editor, Sebastian Took (no relation).
So out went the magic. The Wizards became clerics, and ‘the one ring’ became ‘the lead ring.’
“That was a difficult one,” said Took. “We had to account for its deleterious effect on the ringbearer’s health (Gollum), the visions (Frodo) and its great weight (Frodo again). Eventually we plumped for lead. Lead poisoning explains the health problems and hallucinations, and Frodo’s a little hobbit wearing a heavy lead ring. I think it worked very well.”
Next in line for a 21st century rethink, was the violence. “Have you read the original book?” asked Took. “Everyone’s fighting. No one even considers arbitration or diplomacy. It’s a terrible example to set the youth of today.”
The first casualty of the publisher’s war on war was Boromir. “Too violent. Too mired in outdated thinking. You’d think he was fighting Napoleon in the Peninsula War, he’s so dated.”
Boromir’s place is taken by his peace-loving younger brother, Dovemir – a minstrel with a pet puppy. “Everyone loves puppies,” said Took.
Other name changes were thought necessary. The Dark Lord (too racist) is renamed The Morgul Lord. The Black Riders (even more racist) become the Beige Riders. The Dwarves (pejorative) become the Petites – a race of sensibly-sized mining folk and not at all swarthy. Or violent. They prefer to carry placards rather than axes as they have a strong tradition of peaceful protest. Gimli, one of the hotter headed Petites, arrives at the Council of Elrond with a placard calling for regime change in Mordor and is swiftly admonished.
Next came the battle scenes. “We talked this over with the marketing department,” said Took. “And everyone agreed – Elrond and Gandalf would seek a peaceful solution first. We found it inconceivable that no one in the original book thought to talk to Sauron and ask for his side of the story. Everyone assumed just because he’d once been evil – and who hasn’t erred in their youth? – that he couldn’t have reformed.”
This led to a considerable re-write of the book. The Council of Elrond does not send out a party to destroy Sauron. They pass a motion instead, reprimanding Sauron for the intrusion of his Beige Riders, and Saruman for his imprisonment of Gandalf. Sanctions are threatened, including a travel ban on Sauron, Saruman and the Nazgul unless they apologise and make reparations. Development aid to Mordor is cut and Saruman’s foreign stashes of gold are frozen.
Sauron is not best pleased and Saruman threatens to recall his ambassador, Grima Wormtongue, from Edoras. All of Middle Earth is on the brink of a nasty diplomatic incident…
Until brother Frodo calls for a peace march on Mount Doom. A thousand hobbits will walk barefoot to the very heart of Mordor to show their displeasure and shame Sauron into changing his mind. And brother Gimli agrees to lead the Petites in a mass sit down outside the White Tower of Isengard.
The Occupy Isengard movement is too much for Saruman who ends his alliance with Sauron and builds a new tower – The Green Tower – made from organic straw bales. He promises to plant a thousand trees every day and create a fund for unemployed Uruk-hai (aka beige orcs).
Shamed by the silent march of a thousand disgruntled and barefoot hobbits, Sauron recalls his beige riders and promises a new era of peace and goodwill.
But it’s not all peace and goodwill in Middle Earth. Sauron’s decision to emancipate orcs and cave trolls and hold elections within three years shocks the elder kingdoms.
Aragorn and the elves counsel that this might be going too far. Everyone knows that monarchy is the highest form of government. All the prophecies say so.
But democracy is catching. Eowen forms the Popular People’s Party of Rohan and demands votes for women, free elections and equal status for shield maidens in the military.
All this is too much for the Elves, who decide to relocate across the sea to Middle West where they set up a libertarian paradise.
There is though a happy ending for Gollum. After collapsing on the thousand hobbit peace march to Mount Doom, he’s taken to the Beige Tower hospital at Minas Morgul where doctors diagnose lead poisoning. His condition is treated and Sauron himself pays for the sickly former hobbit to spend a month recuperating at Theoden’s spa at Helm’s Deep.
And there’s good news for Frodo and Sam too. They return to the Shire and, after dabbling with a cart detailing franchise – to help cleanse the Shire – they open a chain of second breakfast restaurants. Smoking Old Toby is, of course, banned from all premises after medical research shows that not only is it carcinogenic, but it stunts your growth and makes unsightly hair grow on the soles of your feet.
“This is a tale of hope and redemption,” said Took. “We’re even thinking of sequels. Now that Sauron’s the reformed bad boy, we’re thinking of a love triangle with Sauron, Arwen and Aragorn. Maybe Eowen too.”
I can’t wait.
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf.
An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.