Earlier parodies of Tolkien's work, like the mysteriously popular Harvard Lampoon BORED OF THE RINGS (which I thought had overstayed its welcome thirty+ years ago) and John Ellison's wonderful re-write of THE HOBBIT as a Jeeves-and-Wooster story, have tended to be relatively short. The same is true of pieces like "The Picnic" (published I think in an early issue of ORCRIST) and the online-only VERY SECRET DIARIES, suggesting that, where Tolkien is concerned, brevity is the essence of comedy.
This makes THE WOBBIT all the more unusual, in that while shorter than the book it parodies, it's still pretty long, and re-writes THE HOBBIT chapter by chapter, often paragraph by paragraph (e.g., cf. Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings for a Straight Wobbit). Erickson's humor comes from three sources:
(1) re-casting the plot of THE HOBBIT into terms of the recent fiscal meltdown, with the Chairman of the Board and board of directors of SmithiBank replacing 'Thorin & Co.' Thus, in what' probably THE WOBBIT's funniest line, Smaug's attack on the Lonely Mt & environs is described as a hostile takeover:
"As happens from time to time, a dragon showed up
& adjusted the market . . . [Smaug's arrival caused]
a huge loss of equity, & then Lake City property devalued.
Investor confidence failed . . . "
Similarly, Bilbo is hired to do "a quick bit of consulting", the Mayor of Lake City is
". . . v. excited w. the prospect of reducing unemployment,
stimulating the downtown business area & rebuilding his tax base",
and the human/elf siege of the Mt is viewed by the dwarves as a run on the bank:
"I suppose we cd fortify the entrance
& kill anyone who tries to close their account . . .
Paperwork & delay may yet win the day".
(2) having his version of Tolkien's characters talk like cartoons, comic book characters, personalities, and the like. Here's a not-quite-complete listing (I forget which character talks like Foghorn Leghorn):
--The trolls (Wm, Tom, Burt) = The Three Stoogies, with 'Joe, Harry, & Shirley' in place of Moe, Larry, & Curly.
--Gollum = Lady Ga-Ga (talk about a cultural reference with a ten-minute expiration date)
--the wargs = Scooby-Doo
--Beorn = the Incredible Hulk
--the first Mirkwood Spider = Charlotte (from CHARLOTTE'S WEB)
--The Elvenking = Schwarzenegger
--Bard = Dirty Harry
(3) Finally, the whole is written in a sarcastic style that's sometimes grating but once in a while throws off an effective line, as when the river-barrel stream exit to the Elvenking's Halls is described as
"a sort of riparian service drive"
Other examples include
. . . a fortnight, wh is what they call two weeks in Lake City . . .
the characters leave at 1st light and return at 1st dark
or the following line about Gollum:
"I don't know where he came from, or who or what he was,
but I'll try to make something up if I write a sequel."
My initial evaluation of this book was twofold:
(1) 'I read this book so you won't have to.'
(2) Erickson is no Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams;
he's not even a Tom Holt!*
Mulling it over a month later, I now think that's too harsh. I certainly don't think this book is a successful effort -- but then I'm a hard sell, and others might get more (or less) out of it than I did. And there were a few funny lines; it's just a matter of whether you personally find it worth reading through to find them.
*I'm thinking here of Holt's later works, like FLYING DUTCH, in which he lapsed into flaccid faux-Pratchett self-parody, not his early EXPECTING SOMEONE TALLER and WHO'S AFRAID OF BEOWULF, which are really quite good (esp. the latter). The man has talent -- his GOATSONG is quite possibly the best historical novels I've ever read -- which makes it all the more annoying that he apparently made a deliberate decision not to use it.
I've gone back in and corrected the spelling of "riparian" (from 'reparian'), as per David's comment; the error was entirely mine, not the author being quoted. So too with the abbreviations, which reflect my usage, not his. Generally I wdn't use abbreviations in direct quotes; in this case I was transcribing pencilled notes from my pocket notebook, not citing directly from the e-book source. I shd have taken more care to make that clear. --JDR