In the wee small hours of the morning, Christopher, son of acclaimed fiction writer and spider enthusiast, JRR Tolkien, approached his father’s grave and, in rather timid, sorrowful words, revealed that beloved character Shelob would be a cocktail waitress in the new franchise-inspired Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
The silence was expected. A response was not.
From under the grass poured out waves of spiders, piling onto each other and rolling around, seething up from the ground until a humanoid form manifested and warped into Christopher’s father, old John Ronald Reuel himself, not as an old man but a man of his youth. A spasm ran through John, disheveling his hair. He passed a hand across his brow, pulled at his moustache, and bellowed a deep sigh, tiny spiders flying out of his mouth.
“How could this happen?” John asked.
“I don’t know,” Christopher replied. “Things looked so promising in Shadows of Mordor. A bit hyperbolic, but it had success where other franchise games failed. To many, it was rather special.”
‘What are you going to do about it?” John said, his voice growing deep and hollow.
“There’s nothing I can do, really. I have spent the years after your death ensuring that your stories remain in their present forms and stay profitable. We even got three movies out of The Hobbit.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Besides, they’ve technically avoided copyright infringements.”
“Fine. Fine. But…A cocktail waitress?”
“Yes, yes, Shelob. It’s a creative choice in light of their interpretation of the lore.”
“Interpreting MY lore? Without accepting my copyrights?”
“Yes. They speak of Gollum and Shelob in collusion.”
John twitched in surprise, a hint of intrigue shining in his eye. “Yes?”
“You see, they say that Gollum was in fact a minion of Shelob, and that in Return of The King they two were the real reasons why Frodo succeeded in his mission, and not on the strong, lustrous shoulders of poor old Sam.”
John closed his eyes and sighed out another wave of spiders. “Okay, but she’s half spider and half spider-shaped lady. Her father was just a giant spider on the other side of the tracks from Mordor.”
“Yes, father. I know. I’ve edited all your lore. It’s been my life’s work.”
“They could have done something much more significant. I mean, right off the top of my head, why not have her manipulate her face in the dark to lure in unsuspecting prey. You know, like a siren but with only her looks. Then, in the dark, her limbs would coil around them, slowly, tactically, waiting for the moment of realization that all would be over soon.”
“Yes. Yes, father, that sounds quite decadent indeed. A much-needed improvement.
“But a cocktail waitress?”
“Times is hard, father.”
“Are you agreeing with this decision?” John’s face began to shift and move, skin-colored spiders crawling across one another.
“No, father no, but we all do strange things for money, don’t we?”
“Has the world been taken over by a conflagration of plebeians?”
“It’s funny you should say that…”
“This can’t stand! This atrocity must be stopped!” John’s shape continued to warp, tiny limbs feeling for footfalls on other limbs.
“There is a bit of good news in all this, father.”
“What?” John’s shape shifted and slinked in anticipation.
“She has a rather uncanny likeness of Kate Beckinsale.”
“Oh.” The mass of spiders retorted back into the shape of John. “Well then.”
“I suppose a fair compromise has been made here.”
“No buts, son. The interpretation of the lore is nothing more than that of a child reading Dante, but what could I say against the elven likes of Kate Beckinsale?”
“But father, she was born mere months before your untimely passing. How could you possibly know of her?”
“The internet is a wonderful thing.”
“Despite the dark and dreary atmosphere,” John said, gesturing to the cemetery, “The provider coverage here is amazing.”
“Christopher. Go home. You have done your part. Your destiny has been fulfilled. Now let Kate take the wheel.”
“But– Fine. Yes, father.”
With a twitch of his moustache, John’s form disassembled, spiders pouring to the ground and digging their way back under the turf at Christopher’s feet.
In an existential crisis that would take him to the end of his days, Christopher Tolkien took the path back to his car and never returned to his father’s grave again.
Especially now that he could email him.