The Lord of the Grins

A walk through the mind of Mark Egginton.

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Mark Egginton has dedicated over twelve years of his life to write a new parody of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s most well known work. He called it ‘The Lord of the Grins’, one day to be followed by ‘The Halfbit, There or Thereabouts’ and the ‘Question of Errorbore’.

FB: What is your relationship with Tolkien?

ME: My first introduction into the world of Tolkien was as a ten year old in Primary School, yet that is not where the story starts, it starts as a four year old who hadn’t yet learned to speak. It was thought at first there was something wrong with me (well there is, as many can now verify). With the love and patience of my Mother, I was coaxed into the jabbering world of chatting rubbish. It can be said that from the off, I was an introvert, I never mixed well, and moving around a lot meant I never bonded with friends much, I had my own friends, mainly ones cut from the back of a cereal box. Because of my late growth verbally, this had a knock of effect with my reading ability. Once again the patience of my Mother was sorely tested,  but with much iron will, and lot’s of wailing, I set upon the Road to Reading (that’s books not the place). Something magical happened to me in the Summer of ‘66, I discovered that steam engines could talk, and the seeds were sown which would one day lead me to the Land of the Fay.

Mark EggintonIn ‘67 something else happened which would one day deposit me at the front door of Bag End, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ appeared on our television screens in England. I would sit enthralled by the story, and if you can believe in trains talking, then a lion is far easier, it has a mouth. As my friends played their silly games outside, I was in a dream world, I couldn’t speak until I was four, could not read properly until I was eight, yet my brain was active, overactive some would say, because I was filling in through my visual understanding of the world. Because Aslan could talk surely all lions could, not so, for the answers were within the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, but these were still five years away from me though, and I would not complete their reading until ’72.

In 1970 I moved not only to my sixth school in five years, but I moved town. My new school  was a Primary attached to a church, Balderstone St Mary’s thank you, for here I discovered Tolkien, well sort off. We had a trainee teacher, and I wish I knew her name. She was put in charge of organising the school play, she chose The Hobbit. I am sad to say that the hyperactive hooligans who had consumed too many additives (which we knew nothing about back then), spoiled everything and sent the young trainee to the psychiatrist in tears. However that story stuck in my mind, and in ‘72 when I eventually put the last C.S Lewis book down in the school library, my question was, ‘Are there any more?’…… ‘No!’ came the reply, ‘and he won’t be making anymore, because he is brown bread’ (sorry, that is dead for you non-cockneys)….’OK what else is like it?’ I asked, ‘Well you could try this, it’s about some furry creature who lives in a hole’ says the half-daft librarian holding up The Hobbit, I went away and  read it three times non-stop, Tolkien taught me to read, to talk and he gave me eloquence beyond my years, and he gave me imagination surpassing  the norm, because of Tolkien I thought and saw those thoughts in strange ways, he awoke that which slept deep within me. In ‘76 I joined the British Army, I read The Lord of the Rings that year, and standing on the battlements of Windsor Castle as a Guardsman, I was in Minas Tirith. Many years later, on holiday in Egypt, I took a copy of The Return of the King into the tomb of Tutankhamun, it was a great moment for me, for I carry a copy, and have done so  into  places and situations none would know about … great stories never end.

FB: The Lord of the Grins is not the first Parody written on Tolkien’s better-known saga, what prompted you to revisit it.

Mark EggintonME: I joined a Smial in the North-west of England and we met once a month in Burnley. We decided that we would set up a website to further our message and swell our membership, thousands had watched the film, but not read the books, some didn’t even know that a book existed, some even thought that J.R.R Tolkien had something to do with the writing of the Potty Harry novels, so we didn’t expand much. One of our first meetings resulted in assigning different tasks for our brave new world wide web, mine was a self induced monthly take on a parody type situation. I decided to do this myself, because I had this magic formula called squaddie humour. For those of you not exposed to squaddie humour I may need to explain it somewhat, it is generated normally by laughing in the face of death, that is why  most do not understand  why a soldier can joke whilst stripping a close comrade of his equipment, and this occurs during my parody. I decided on a parody because I had only recently read Bored of the Rings, and as funny as I found it (and it is to my generation, I’m sure there is a song in that) , I realised that it was outdated to the following generations, in one of my high-brow moments I thought I could bring it up to date. I didn’t want some sort of Bored of the Rings II, my humour would have to be just as good, if not better, that was a hard ask, for those with a sense of humour, Bored is a bench mark.

Parody is an extremely hard task, you have to be close but not too close, the first law of parody is that it must entertain, that entertainment is a deeply personal opinion,  I deeply respect everyone’s  rights to have any obverse view to my work, after all I fought and was willing to die for that individual freedom, I can hardly now object to the rights of any of my adversaries, all I would say is my friendship is yours,  hate is not a good thing.

So here we are, I have an offering that which may displease many, it also may entertain, what should I do. I am completely torn in two, I can absolutely see both sides of this argument, all I can say is that I do love the works of Tolkien, my house if filled with his works and I have approached this work as delicately as I can. To think it may have been a hater, fills even me with dread, because in their hands what I have done would have been awful, how would you feel if Germaine Greer had any humorous talent instead of no talent at all, there are people out there who truly hate what we love.

FB: You have embarked in a mammoth quest. Give us some head-reeling stats!

Mark EggintonME: The Lord of the Grins took 5 years to write, in it’s first form. It then languished on my computer for another 4 years. Then a friend of mine who I had met at The Return of the Ring in 2005 messaged me inquiring about the book. The name of my friend is Dave Marley, and we both belonged to another website called The Barrow-Downs. I had taken the manuscript to the convention, where he read part of it. Some years later he urged me to release it on Amazon Kindle, he contributed as Editor.

The Lord of the Grins has now been on Kindle for 3 years, and I have been boring people to tears now for 12 long years (especially my work colleagues at ASDA Fleetwood)). The last segment of the book has never been released, mainly because it consisted of one long piece without paragraphs (hastily consigned to the computer) The total length of the book is 110,000 words, that last segment was about 30,000. I wrote it all by hand first, then typed it into my computer or laptop. Most of the writing took place in my converted cellar, and a lot of the typing during my lunch breaks at ASDA, where I was sustained by the coffee machine, the wonderful canteen colleagues, and encouraged on by some of the best friends I’ve ever made. A word about the cellar, it holds 90 copies of The Lord of the Rings, 55 copies of The Hobbit and 20 of The Silmarillion, it also has over 300 other books of some description concerning Tolkien. There are 11 swords, two axes, two shields, two staffs, 5 helmets and a smattering of figure/figurines, also one copy of Bored of the Rings and some rings.

At a conservative estimate I would say ‘The Lord of the Grins’ is about one third of the size of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, yet three times the size of ‘Bored of the Rings’.

FB: The book is going from Kindle to paperback. What news on that front?

ME: I’m talking to a publisher at the minute – you’ll find out more soon enough! But the release date is at this time unknown to me. I’ve now picked up my other work ‘The Halfbit, There or Thereabouts’ and the ‘Question of Errorbore’, and it’s proving just as enjoyable for me.

I’ll leave you with a clip. This was produced by Kris Taylor, a friend of mine from work. Kris was at University studying Film Production and offered to do the shoot as part of his learning curve. It features myself as The Witchy-king of Wagner reciting the Ring-verse.