The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Should "Lord of the Rings" be parodied?

There's a book out: The Last Ringbearer. This book riffs on Tolkien's Ring cycle, obviously. I'll be posting a few articles on this. But before I even read it, I'd like to get out of the way whether this book should have been attempted in the first place. Because many Tolkien fans don't appreciate this treatment. Here is one counteropinion to round them all: "who trades on someone work in this manner should be horsewhipped" - Glen, at Ace, ONT 27 Feb 2011

I'll give some consideration to this comment. I'll get to why.

Some disclosure: I owned a book like The Last Ringbearer once, Psychohistorical Crisis. It developed Asimov's premise for the Foundation novels, and led it into a future perhaps even Asimov himself would not have wanted. I only got through the first chapters, but based on them I gathered that it assumed the ethic of CS Lewis's "abolition of man". For Lewis, if man can foresee the future and direct the future ... he has no future. (Philip Dick floated similar themes in "Paycheck".) So - yeah, Asimov needed the critique which Psychohistorical Crisis laid out.

Against Lewis's own creation, there's Neil Gaiman's "The Problem of Susan". For my part - I hope to live to see a parody against certain efforts by Gaiman himself, that SWPL goofball; not for "Susan" so much as for that overly-famous "Ramadan" Sandman comic.

And then we get to Respectful Revisionism. Lev Grossman in The Magicians treats Lewis with respect, instead choosing to grapple with Narnia as a Jew grapples with... well, all G*d's Creation. Robert Silverberg put in a good word for the Cult in Asimov's "Nightfall".

I think I've made it clear that I agree with the premise of this parody genre. Oppositional literature is a worthy corrective to any novel putting forth a Big Idea without regard to us mortals. Asimov had his psychological technocracy; Lewis had his theocratic monarchy; Gaiman has his short-sighted and oh-so-politically-correct humanism. These ideas are totalitarian, and antihuman - yes, Gaiman too - and they deserve a rebuttal. (Asimov may even have attempted his own rebuttal to Foundation: The End of Eternity. But this wasn't one of his better books.)

All this said - I cannot stand between Glen's horsewhip and The Last Ringbearer. Such authors deserve their castigationes. They are squatters; they are thieves. They didn't build the world; they didn't develop the characters. All of this, they stole.

By contrast with them, Grossman in his parody has handled the fantasy cliches best. The Magicians doesn't place itself in the world of Rowlings and Lewis, exactly; it does steal the Wood Between The Worlds, but I suspect that Lewis had stolen it from someone else, and the Wood is just a plot device anyway. The important part of The Magicians - the last part - is a style parody: Fillory has features of Narnia, Wonderland, and Oz.

So, yes, Glen is right. And so is Shrek, the master of the style parody - if you want a princess, go get your own.

UPDATE 5/13/2017 - against the death-cult of Clark Ashton Smith.

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posted by Zimri on 18:12 | link | 0 comments

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