Thursday, August 28, 2014

Halflings III: Boggies and Hobbits: closer than you think


Back on Day 1 of what is turning out to be Hobbitfest '14, Leicester provided a bit of text from the Lord of the Rings parody Bored of the Rings to help folks unfamiliar with boggies to understand what they were all about. Here is the quote from Leicester (who was quoting The Harvard Lampoon [who were satirizing JRRT]):
"While there was still a King at Ribroast, the boggies remained nominally his subjects, and to the last battle at Ribroast with the Slumlord of Borax, they sent some snipers, though who they sided with is unclear. There the North Kingdom ended, and the boggies returned to their well-ordered, simple lives, eating and drinking, singing and dancing, and passing bad checks."--Harvard Lampoon, Bored of the Rings

The quote provides a slender glimpse into the uncouth, gluttonous, and devious ways of the Boggie race, but what is beautiful about it is how easily Tolkien's original text lent itself to such an interpretation of his precious Hobbits.  Here's the original text from M. Tolkien:
"While there was still a king they were in name his subjects, but they were, in fact, ruled by their own chieftains and meddled not at all with events in the world outside. To the last battle at Fornost with the Witch-lord of Angmar they sent some bowmen to the aid of the king, or so they maintained, though no tales of Men record it.  But in that war the North Kingdom ended; and then the Hobbits took the land for their own." -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring  [emphasis mine]
Doesn't Tolkien's text already make the little buggers sound a bit shady?  In the ultimate war to save the Kingdom, the tales of men don't acknowledge any assistance from the Hobblers, and yet they took the land for their own in the ensuing collapse. It's as if they made up the whole squad of archers bit to justify their land-grab even though they were really just a bunch of pint-sized opportunists plucking at low hanging fruit left by the defunct kingdom.  Or, worse yet, they made a deal with the Witch-lord to either stay out of the fray or side with his forces in exchange for the lands.  This might explain why, after wiping out the Men of Fornost, the Witch-lord didn't swoop down on the Hobbits and snarf them up as a post-battle snack.  In this light the deviant bastards of BotR don't seem to fall all that far from their literary progenitors.

9 comments:

Leicester said...

Great comparo! The Lampoon guys definitely knew their source material, and yes, that reassessment of JRRT's little dudes does make them a bit sketchier...

Jeff B. said...

Before reading this post, it had never occurred to me to use the boggies from Bored of the Rings in a game setting. I'd read Bored of the Rings by the time I started playing D&D in '79, and reread it a few times since, but it never struck me as an idea mine for gaming. Now, it makes a lot of sense - I like the idea of an offshoot of halflings that is more, let's say, pragmatic than their bucolic cousins. Even as unsavory as BotR portrays them, boggies are still more palatable than kender to me.

Lum said...

From Wizard World republished by Goblinoid games, originally published in 1983:

DEMON HALFLINGS
Demon halflings were once ordinary halflings, but all they ever
talked about was treasure, magic and adventuring. Now this
went on for some time, until the righteous, upstanding halflings
could stand it no longer. Finally, the normal halflings drove the
demon halflings out of the area while muttering something
about "a bad influence".
The outcasts wandered (as halflings are prone to do) for many
days. At long last they stumbled into hell. There they met Lucifer
and Mephistopheles, two demons of tremendous power.
After many generations of servitude, some of the halflings, now
called demon halflings, were given their freedom. At once, they
journeyed back to their home plane to flaunt their powers, and
take their revenge.

Timrod said...

Hey Lum, Not sure if this is related to demon halflings but there's a junked car in front of your old place.

Lum said...

Joyriding Demon Haflings strike again!

Pere Ubu said...

Boggies would make good Black Hobbits for Tunnels & Trolls, just sayin'.

For some reason these days I'm envisioning hobbits as hillbillies and hill folk - given to moonshine, feuds, superstition and mayhem. They know the secret of gunpowder but only use it for dynamite fishing and stump blowing. A dnager to themselves and others.

Timrod said...

Bo and Luke Took, along with cousin Daisy and Uncle Gamgee, always were outsmarting Boss Nob and Sheriff Roscoe P. Cotman.

Gary McCammon said...

Bo and Luke Took, along with cousin Daisy and Uncle Gamgee

EXACTLY.

Exactly what I first thought of, including trying to figure out an equivalent for the General Lee. We think frighteningly alike, we do.

Timrod said...

Gary: I'm still working on the Hillbilly-Shire version of the General Lee; I haven't forgotten.