The good folks at The Classics Club posed this meme reboot from September 2014: Select two classics from your list (by different authors) that you have finished reading. Now switch the authors, and contemplate how each might have written the other’s book.
When I first read this I thought – I got nothin.
And then, an epiphany: What if George Orwell had written The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien had written Nineteen-Eighty-Four.
Orwell’s final chapters of LOTR would go something like this: Frodo and Sam enter the bowels of Mount Doom, just as Tolkien described, Gollum appears and wrestles with Frodo for the ring, bites his finger off, BUT --- just as he is falling to his death, the Lord of the Nazgul appears, grabbing Gollum by the arm, he draws his sword, cuts the arm off below the wrist, and Gollum indeed falls to his doom. The ring is in the hands of the Nazgul, quickly to be taken to Sauron. The rest of the Nazgul arrive to capture Frodo and Sam. One of them dips his sword into the lava until it is white hot, and cauterizes Frodo’s wound to stop the bleeding. It is not an act of mercy. Frodo and Sam are wanted alive for torture. They are packed off to the fortress of Barad Dur, where they are subjected to unspeakable physical and psychological torment. They are offered relief, if they will only betray the other. They resist until Sauron devines each one’s greatest fear – Frodo’s something to do with spiders, Sam’s being forced to eat PO-TA-TOES without salt. In the face of such terror they break and each renounces the other forever. They are released to wander and make their separate ways to the Shire. Once there, they discover Sauron’s puppet Saruman has been given regency over the Shire, which he rules with an iron fist, and forced labor, growing pipeweed and brewing beer. Aragorn and the rest of the fellowship perished at the gates of Mordor. Gondor, Rohan, and all free peoples are brought under the subjugation of Mordor. The End.
Tolkien’s version of Nineteen-Eighty-Four: First the title is changed to The 16th Year of Big Brother’s Reign – Oceania Reckoning. The rest of the novel goes off as Orwell described until Winston Smith and Julia begin their clandestine relationship. Winston and Julia come in contact with the underground resistance, which they learn has been aided recently by a magical race of beings known as urban elves. The elves by cunning and craft, and occasional garrote, have developed elaborate means to traverse Oceania undetected. They use this freedom of movement to recruit more forces for the resistance and to prepare several weapons caches in strategic locations. All that is lacking is the prophetic appearance of Bigbrokaput, or in the common tongue – He who will kill Big Brother. Winston is declared to be the long awaited Bigbrokaput, by virtue of arm wrestling, or a trivia contest, or ability to solve Rubik’s cube – the certain account is lost to us. During a special rendition of the Two Minute Hate – special because it is scheduled to last four minutes, though it is inexplicably not renamed the Four Minute Hate – but during the HATE rendition, Winton is ushered by the urban elves through a labyrinth of secret passages, only to emerge at the central studios of the inner party, where he kills Big Brother on camera for all of Oceania to witness. Winston is proclaimed Emperor, but he only rules long enough to outlaw newspeak and leisure suits. He institutes a general election and retires from public service. Winston is quickly forgotten as the great hero of New Oceania, but he is perfectly content. He and Julia retire to the country, have two sons, George and Lennie, and raise rabbits.
Next year perhaps: what if Cormac McCarthy wrote The Little Prince and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote No Country for Old Men.