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10 Parody Novels That Get the Last Laugh

Ask someone what his or her favorite parody movie is and you'll hear Blazing Saddles, Airplane!, or some other classic of the genre. But ask what their favorite parody novel is and you'll likely get a blank stare. To help you answer this difficult, life-defining question the next time you're asked, here are the stories of a few novels that get the last laugh.

1. Bored of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has sold more than 150 million copies and been translated into over 35 languages since it was first published in 1955. While it has never reached the original's level of success, the parody novel Bored of the Rings has become something of an institution in its own right. Written by Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney, the duo who would later found National Lampoon, the book has been reprinted and updated since it was first published in 1969, including a new version printed just this year.

As is typical of the Lampoon style, many of the place and character names in Bored use pop culture references, adult humor, or just plain funny substitutions for the originals. For example, the characters include Frito (Frodo), Spam (Sam), Pepsi (Pippen), Legolam (Legolas), Gimlet, son of Groin (Gimli, son of Gloin), and the especially racy for the time Dildo (Bilbo). The oft-updated parody map of Middle Earth, modeled after Tolkein's, includes locations such as "The Land of the Personal-Stereo-Wearing Goblins," "The Bodily Wastes," and the legendary land of "Gonad."

2. Snowball's Chance

George Orwell's Animal Farm tells the story of barnyard animals that throw off the yoke of their human masters and learn to live together, taking only as much of the farm's output as they need. However, their peaceful arrangement is usurped by the power-hungry pig, Napoleon, who ousts the unspoken leader of the group, another pig named Snowball. Soon, Napoleon rules the barnyard with an iron fist, and the animals find they're worse off than they were under their human master.

The book is an analogy of the downward spiral of the Soviet model of Communism and, because of its scathing, political satire, has endured as a classic of the post-World War II era. To many readers, this condemnation of Communism leads them to assume Capitalism is the better solution. What Orwell intended is a topic better discussed in many a high school English paper. However, this common assumption was enough to convince John Reed to write a parody sequel of the book called Snowball's Chance. Reed uses an analogous style similar to Orwell's to tell the story of political events since Animal Farm's 1945 publication in an effort to show that even Capitalism isn't all it's cracked up to be.

At the beginning, Napoleon has died, allowing Snowball the opportunity to return and regain power. Through political connections, he soon converts the farm into a very successful, money-making amusement park called "Animal Farm." As the barnyard's population grows, so does the demand for electricity, which the lone windmill constructed years ago cannot sufficiently supply. So they build a second mill and dub them The Twin Mills. Still, they hunger for power, so they sue their way to a controlling interest in a nearby river to set up power generators. This means the long-standing beaver dams that block the water must be destroyed. Expelled from their land, the beavers instigate a violent resistance movement, offering suicidal recruits the promise of a wondrous afterlife, rewarded with 1,600 trees to chew. The climax details the attack of the buck-toothed jihadists on the Farm and its symbols of power, the towering Twin Mills.

Snowball's Chance brought criticism from the Orwell estate, as well as other Orwell scholars. However, no legal action was taken, most likely to avoid a Wind Done Gone-style commotion that would only boost the book's sales.

3. The Wind Done Gone

While Alice Randall didn't set out to write a parody novel of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, by the time her novel was published, that's exactly what she'd done – legally, anyway. Randall's controversial 2001 novel, The Wind Done Gone, was actually written as a "parallel novel," a book written from the perspective of characters that were otherwise peripheral or unseen in the original. Wind Done Gone tells the story of Scarlett, Rhett, and the rest of the characters in Gone with the Wind from the viewpoint of Cynara, a mixed-race slave who was not in the original novel. To help separate the two, Randall never specifically mentions any of the places or characters from Gone with the Wind, but instead has Cynara use nicknames (e.g., "Other" is Scarlett, "R" is Rhett). Furthermore, the book is not a jovial look at Civil War Reconstruction, but actually a fairly serious criticism of this romanticized period in American history.

Still, the Mitchell estate felt the book was too close for comfort and filed a copyright suit in 2001. After a highly publicized courtroom battle, a settlement was reached in 2002. Under the terms, publisher Houghton Mifflin made a donation to historically black college Morehouse and agreed to print a large disclaimer on the front cover saying that the book was an unauthorized parody, to ensure fans of the original novel did not misinterpret it as an official sequel.

4. Cold Comfort Farm

The great thing about parody is there's such a wide range of comedic styles possible. You have your low-brow jokes, like Legolam, but you'll also find very high-brow comedy, like that in the 1932 novel Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.

Cold Comfort Farm gets its inspiration from a genre of English novels written primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as "loam and lovechild" books, examples include Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and more obscure novels like The House in Dormer Forest by Mary Webb and Sussex Gorse by Sheila Kaye-Smith. These stories revolve around a young, usually outcast, woman who leaves the city to live with relatives in the pastoral countryside. There she meets melodramatic characters whose lives are more intertwined than any you'll find on a modern-day soap opera. Inevitably, the characters confront tragedy and heartbreak, but find solace in traditional values, leading to a spiritual reawakening and, through that, a happy ending.

Fed up with all the doom, gloom, and religion, Gibbons wrote her own version of a "loam and lovechild" by borrowing many of the common traits of the genre and turning them on their ear. Her young, female protagonist, Flora, is a Londoner that moves to the country home of relatives after the death of her parents. There she meets a myriad of eccentric characters, including her Aunt Ada Doom, the coddled matriarch of the farm, who stays secluded in the attic because of "something nasty in the woodshed" that she saw years ago. Flora begins helping her new friends and family find their own version of fulfillment, not by using traditional country values and religion, but by consulting The Higher Common Sense, a handbook of modern age concepts and sound advice.

Although it's based on books written over 100 years ago, it's not a requirement that a person read these sources to appreciate the comedy in Cold Comfort Farm In fact, Cold Comfort Farm has been adapted into stage plays, radio serials, and made-for-TV films more often than most other "loam and lovechild" books. In fact, the most famous film version was produced as recently as 1995, starring well-known actors like Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), Rufus Sewell (Dark City), Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings), and Stephen Fry (Jeeves and Wooster).

Dis-Honorable Mention

This is, of course, only a small sampling of the novels out there that are poking fun at best-sellers. Here are a few more that might pique your interest:

5. Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream

Thanks to the political satire on nearly every page of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, it became a popular vehicle for other political parodists back in the early part of the 20th century. Aside from the 1907's Alice in Blunderland, there's also John Bull's Adventures in Fiscal Wonderland (1904), The Westminster Alice (1902), and Clara in Blunderland (1902).

6. Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody (or, in the UK, the Shameless Parody)

This very popular 2001 spoof of Harry Potter has sold over 700,000 copies worldwide, spawning the follow-ups, Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel and Barry Trotter and the Dead Horse.

7. Nightlight: A Parody

The first Harvard Lampoon book since Bored of the Rings takes a bite out of the Twilight series. In the book, Belle Goose meets Edwart Mullen and his "reddish, blonde-brown hair that was groomed heterosexually." She suspects he might be a vampire because he doesn't eat his Tater Tots. (Can you blame her?)

8. The Da Vinci Cod: A Fishy Parody by "Don Brine"

A man is found dead inside a museum, a cod stuffed down his throat. Next to his body is scrawled the mysterious message, "The Chatholic Curch Had Me Murdered!" What can it mean? Only "anagrammatologist" Robert Donglan can solve The Da Vinci Cod. (His answer, by the way: "H! The CCC Come Hard, Hurdle a Colt.")

9. Star Warped

This parody novel retelling all six of the Star Wars films features chapters such as "Episode IV: A Nude Hope," "Episode I: The Fans-of-Tron Menace," and "Episode III: Revenge of the Return of the Son of Psmyth Rides Again: The Next Generation – The Early Years." It also has Yoda in lederhosen, yodeling tidbits of wisdom.

10. The Chronicles of Blarnia: The Lying Bitch in the Wardrobe

This is quite possibly the best title of any novel ever published, parody or otherwise.

Do you have a favorite parody novel that didn't make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below so we can add it to our reading list!

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Thousands of Rare Stephen King Writings Lost in Basement Flood in Maine
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Famed horror novelist Stephen King has published over 50 books, which means there's a lot of King memorabilia out there for fans to collect. But the trove of manuscripts and first edition novels produced by the author got a little smaller on January 16. As Bangor Daily News reports, about 2000 rare Stephen King works were destroyed by a water main break in Bangor, Maine.

The ruined collection belonged to Gerald Winters, owner of Gerald Winters & Son Rare Books. He’d spent the past two decades traveling the world acquiring signed books, galleys, manuscripts, and rare prints from King’s body of work. Even though Winters makes a living selling rare books, he held onto the valuable King collectibles for a more noble purpose: opening a museum dedicated to the writer's works for more fans to enjoy.

A year ago, Winters moved from his home in Thailand to King’s hometown of Bangor, Maine to realize that dream. Now, following a water main break outside his business that filled his basement with a few feet of water, that dream looks a lot less likely. The writings, which Winters normally stored upstairs, had been moved to the basement so he could reorganize his shop. He estimates that only 10 percent of his original inventory remains.

Among the works that were lost were manuscripts of “Dolan’s Cadillac,” Maximum Overdrive, and The Eyes of the Dragon typed by King himself. Winters had also collected signed books from the authors J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and George R.R. Martin.

“You can’t replace this stuff,” he told Bangor Daily News.

After hearing about the tragedy, Stephen King told Bangor Daily News that he felt horrified. “As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” he said. He plans to contact Winters and offer what help he can.

[h/t Bangor Daily News]

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10 Fascinating Facts About The Thesaurus

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. ITS NAME COMES FROM THE GREEK WORD FOR TREASURE.

Greek lettering.
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Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean treasure! It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. YOU CAN CALL THEM THESAURUSES OR THESAURI.

Row of old books lined up.
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How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses, octopi, and octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. EARLY THESAURUSES WERE REALLY DICTIONARIES.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
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Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes' books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A GREEK HISTORIAN WROTE THE FIRST BOOK OF SYNONYMS.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
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Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. AN EARLY SANSKRIT THESAURUS WAS IN THE FORM OF A POEM.

Sanskrit lettering.
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In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A BRITISH DOCTOR WROTE THE FIRST MODERN THESAURUS.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. THE THESAURUS HAS A SURPRISING LINK TO A MATHEMATICAL TOOL.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY HAS ITS OWN HISTORICAL THESAURUS.

Synonyms for "love."
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In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. ONE ARTIST TURNED HIS LOVE OF WORDS INTO A SERIES OF THESAURUS PAINTINGS.

Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004.
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. THERE'S AN URBAN THESAURUS FOR ALL YOUR SLANG SYNONYM NEEDS.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course! The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

This story originally ran in 2017.

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