Lord of the Rings Publisher Defends Right to Parody Literary Works – Houghton Mifflin cites “Bored of the Rings” in defense of “Gone with the Wind” parody

by Apr 6, 2001Books

Lord of the Rings publisher Houghton Mifflin cited its tolerance of the parody Bored of the Rings in defense of its own parody The Wind Done Gone, over which Gone With The Wind writer Margaret Mitchell’s trust is filing a lawsuit.

BOSTON–April 5, 2001–Wendy Strothman, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Houghton Mifflin Company’s Trade & Reference Division released the following statement in response to press reports:

We are pleased that Judge Charles Pannell has set a hearing date of April 18, 2001 in the lawsuit filed by the Mitchell Trusts to prevent publication of Alice Randall’s parody, The Wind Done Gone.

As publishers, we strongly support the right of authors to control their creative work and their characters. We would not permit retellings, sequels, nor any other infringement of the copyrights of the valuable literary works we publish. Since 1832 Houghton Mifflin Company has published some of America’s most prominent and lasting writers: we understand the value of copyright.

We also believe in the First Amendment and the right to free expression. We believe in the right to comment and criticize. We believe in an artist’s right to parody other work. For decades we have let stand Bored of the Rings, a Harvard Lampoon parody of one of our most valuable literary properties, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings.

We stand by our decision to publish Alice Randall’s novel The Wind Done Gone. Many prominent writers and scholars, including Ismael Reed, Claude Brown, Rita Mae Brown, Tony Early, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., have read and endorsed the book. We have always thought that Randall’s novel would appeal primarily to an audience of African Americans and other readers who are troubled by the picture of the Antebellum South and Reconstruction portrayed in Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind–a picture that has come to have mythic status in our culture.

No one who reads Alice Randall’s 206-page parody could possibly confuse it with Mitchell’s epic or any sequel, or believe it to be a “retelling” of her complex and detailed narrative. Randall’s novel is written in the form of an intimate diary of a character that does not appear in Mitchell’s book. Randall’s references to elements of Gone with the Wind are intended precisely for criticism or ridicule. By its very nature, a parody must evoke the work that is its target. The Wind Done Gone is a transformative original work that compels readers to rethink how they have viewed an American classic.


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