Book Review: The Wobbit by Paul A. Erickson

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Most of the stuff I’ve uploaded here has been either horror or talking about horror, so I thought I’d change things up a bit with this next post.

The following review was originally posted on Goodreads about two years ago. While a lot can change in just two years, my high opinion of this book has stayed the same.

Keep in mind that this is not a review of Harvard Lampoon’s Hobbit spoof of the same name. To date, I haven’t read that one. It might be just as excellent, but if you want the book I’m about to talk about, make sure you get the Paul Erickson book instead.

Tolkien was no Stephen King; the novels published in his lifetime never exceeded single digits. Sooner or later, most Tolkien fans find themselves in the midst of this particular crisis: what do you do once you’ve finished reading his books but are still craving more? How do you revisit his magnificent worlds while keeping things fresh and interesting?

You might try reading one of the derivative knock-offs that came out in the ’70s or ’80s, or you might dig into The History of Middle Earth and read the early (and sometimes vastly different) drafts of Tolkien’s stories…or you might opt to revisit Tolkien’s work in the form of parody.

That brings me to The Wobbit by Mr. Paul A. Erickson. This book not only let me revisit one of the crowning achievements of fantasy literature but had me laughing out loud all the way through.

The basic plot is, as expected, the same, but the specifics have been twisted; I’m even tempted to call the end result wonderfully deranged.

Timid yet heroic Bilbo Baggins has been replaced by the sarcastic and ruthlessly pragmatic Bulbo Bunkins. Thorin Oakenshield, the grim “King Under the Mountain,” has become Borin Oakmanfield, an incompetent CEO with a penchant for holding business meetings at the worst possible times. Together, they, along with a band of Dwarves and a cowardly and publicity-obsessed wizard, set off on a dangerous journey to the “Only Mountain” to kill an evil dragon and recover Borin’s fortune.

It’s not just the leads who have changed either. Nobody from the original is safe in Erickson’s hands. Beorn becomes (the Incredible) Bjork, a jolly green giant whom you wouldn’t like once he gets angry (although our heroes learn that he’s just as dangerous if he becomes overjoyed). The trolls Tom, Bert and William become Joe, Harry and Shirley, three fellows (you might call them “stooges”) with a tendency for in-fighting and hair-pulling and whose injuries produce the most improbable sound effects. The vicious wolf-like Wargs become the Rargs, equally vicious beasts prone to odd exclamations (such as “ro boy!” and “rut ro!”). As for what Erickson does to Gollum, I don’t want to spoil anything; all I’ll say is that author is clearly familiar with Looney Tunes.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about all this is that it not only mimics the original’s plot-line but does a good job in mimicking Tolkien’s writing style. Take a look at this excerpt:

In a wholly below-ground apartment there lived a wobbit. His apartment was not as nasty, dirty and wet as a hole, but it wasn’t as fresh, bright and fun as a beach house. It was definitely at the “nasty” end of the home spectrum. Plants can cheer a place up, but the wobbit’s apartment only had the mold in the walls and mildew in the bathtub. It was a basement apartment, and that means fungus.

And this one:

Somehow his killing of the giant spider, without first begging for mercy or betraying his friends, made a great difference to Mr. Bunkins. He felt much fiercer and bolder in spite of his constant longing for a quiche Lorraine and a hazelnut latte.

Or how about this bit from when Bulbo uses a variation of Bilbo’s “Attercop” song to get more of the giant spiders to chase him:

Old Tomnoddy Sitting in a tree
Old Tomnoddy can’t catch me!
At-er-cop!
At-er-cop!
Hey you spiders follow me!

Not very good, perhaps, and mostly stolen from goblins, but Bulbo was in a bit of a rush. And it worked. The spiders follwed him, partly out of anger, and partly to ask Bulbo what “Tomnoddy” and “Attercop” meant.

So, if you love Tolkien or if you love gut-busting comedy, you really have no excuse, check it out.

What’s that? You say that Tolkien spoofs have a reputation for being, shall we say, “vulgar?” Well, fret not; other than one line of prose and the names of two of the dwarves, The Wobbit proves to be the exception to this rule, so if adult humor makes you uncomfortable, guess what? You still don’t have an excuse!

As for me, I’ll definitely be checking out Erickson’s other spoofs. I don’t know if they’ll live up to the bar he set here, but given how much I enjoyed this one, I’ll take that chance. In a sad bit of coming full circle though, I might end up in the same crisis I started with: what will I read once I’ve run out of Erickson books?

Pick up your copy here (US) or here (UK)

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