The case for The Muppet Lord of the Rings
The Muppet Lord of the Rings does not exist – although it is evident to any respectable individual that it should.
There is no word in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Muppet to describe a deep, nostalgic longing for something that does not exist. Thankfully, there is one in Portuguese. “Saudade” – like all beautiful, complicated, heavily conceptual words – has no direct translation into English but, roughly, means a pleasant and painful yearning for something that isn’t present in your life. I feel saudade so strongly that I can make my heart crack on command. I feel saudade so intensely that I become hyper-aware of my own skin. I feel this saudade for The Muppet Lord of the Rings.
The Muppet Lord of the Rings (MLOTR) does not exist, although it is evident to any respectable individual that it should. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) exists, as does Muppet Treasure Island (1996), and no matter what those eggheads at Rotten Tomatoes say, these are the two best films in the world (2005’s The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz regrettably deserves its 30 per cent). Classic literature + Muppets + one unexpectedly heartfelt song = a recipe for cinematic success, and yet, and yet, and yet… The Muppet Lord of the Rings does not exist.
J.R.R Tolkien was a man of many morals, and between all that stuff about not tearing down trees, the dude was pretty clear about the all-consuming, corrupting power of greed. I do get it, and it’s a great point, really nicely made, but: the thought of living in a world where MLOTR never exists makes me want to retreat into a cave, turn grey, and lose all my hair but for a few long, wet strands flatteringly framing my face.
Here follows an account of why MLOTR would be perfection; a gift to the foes of boredom. Firstly, let’s take The Muppets in isolation. Examined closely, it becomes very difficult to believe that these characters weren’t based on Tolkien’s (or, if you’re not fussed on the linear nature of time, that Tolkien’s weren’t based on them). What is Rizzo but a second breakfast-loving hobbit with furry feet? Kermit the Frog and Frodo Baggins are halflings that are one and the same. Fozzie is a steadfast companion who ain’t been droppin’ no eaves. Beaker and Legolas are both long and thin.
Let’s get the rest of the casting out of the way now. While Rowlf the Dog clearly can and should play Gandalf’s grey and white, my argument for a Pepe the King Prawn Gandalf begins and ends thus: “There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will, okay?”
Gonzo and Rizzo should clearly be cast as Merry and Pippin, though I’ll accept debate regarding who’s who. On the one hand, Gonzo is totally a Palantír-nabbing fool of a Took. On the other, I’d like to see Rizzo sing sadly to Denethor (stop typing about how this isn’t in the book, that juicy tomato had cinema’s greatest supporting role).
Naturally, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew will play Gimli to Beaker’s Legolas, Sam the Eagle must be Boromir (“It is a gift to the foes of America!”), Animal shall be Gollum, Sweetums shall be Treebeard, and Aragorn shall be played by Viggo Mortensen who, if needs must, shall be kidnapped against his will. (People who argue that Gandalf should be the One Human are so unbelievably wrong that I’m not going to debase myself by explaining all the ways in which they’re wrong.)
Miss Piggy is slightly trickier to cast. There are arguments for Arwen (a “HI-YAH!” to the Nazgûl is compelling enough alone) and for Galadriel (“All shall love me and despair!”). Ultimately, she’s got to be Éowyn, though, for “I do not fear either pain or death” badassery and screen time reasons (MLOTR will need a slight rewrite so new muppet Walter kills the no-man-can-kill-me Witch-king of Angmar, completing the “Man or Muppet” arc).
It is now that we must pause so I can say something controversial but true, and that is: the MLOTR should be one single movie, rolling three books into one. I understand the concept of sanctity, but I don’t care for it. Muppet Treasure Island condensed a ton of action into its first five minutes and we were no poorer for it.
Of course, Tom Bombadil shall feature in MLOTR (played by the Swedish Chef), and the adaptation should aim for the same faithfulness displayed in The Muppet Christmas Carol (whomst else gasped upon the discovery that it was Dickens, not the Muppet masters, who wrote the line, “There’s more gravy than of grave about you”?). But yeah, frankly, a load of Frodo and Sam walking scenes can be done via montage.
Now it’s time for us to speak of songs. My demands: an aching, it’s‑not-easy-carrying-the-ring Frodo/Kermit solo; the entire backstory of Sauron and the ring being communicated via a Scrooge opening number; a Miss Piggy/Éowyn ballad of longing for Aragorn/Viggo followed by an unfortunate but unavoidable rewrite in which she gets with Frodo instead.
Miscellaneous compelling arguments: Kermit the Frog in a curly brown wig with two more tiny little wigs on his feet. The line: “For the time will soon come when Muppets will shape the fortunes of all.” Hugo Weaving returning as Elrond surrounded by a council of Muppets. Angel Marie orcs. Old Joe Shelob. Blind Pew Nazgûl. Brand new muppet eagles. A human Gríma Wormtongue grovelling to Uncle Deadly’s Saruman. The Electric Mayhem’s lament for Gandalf. “The language is that of the Swedish Chef, which I will not utter here.” (Statler and Waldorf as the two towers? Rethink this one.)
But MLOTR isn’t just about parody – far from it. It’s about the power of friendship against all odds; it’s about the good that’s in the world and why it’s worth fighting for. Charles Dickens could never have imagined that his work would inspire a moment as pure, magical, and hilarious as Rizzo kissing Gonzo on the nose in The Muppet Christmas Carol – who knows what uniting the houses of Henson and Tolkien could inspire?
Both The Lord of the Rings and The Muppets can make me weep in a way that proves not all tears are an evil. Combined, their power would be undeniable. One film to rule them all, one film to find them, one film to bring them all – I beg you, Tolkien estate, bind them.