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Hordes of the Things

Hordes of the Things is a BBC radio comedy series parodying The Lord of the Rings and the fantasy genre in general in a style similar to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was written by "A. P R. Marshall and J. H. W. Lloyd" (Andrew Marshall[?] and John Lloyd) and produced by Geoffrey Perkins.

The series consists of four half-hour episodes or "Chronicles", originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from November 25 to December 16, 1980. This was the only uncut broadcast; all subsequent repeats have omitted part of the opening narration from The First Chronicle.

The cast includes Patrick Magee[?] as the Chronicler, Simon Callow as the Crown Prince Veganin (named after an analgesic), Frank Middlemass[?] as the wizard Radox the Green (named after a brand of green bath salts), Paul Eddington[?] as the misnamed King Yulfric the Wise III (a virtual reprise of his role as Jim Hacker from Yes, Minister), Maggie Steed[?] as Queen Elfreda, Christian Rodska[?] as the hero Agar son of Athar, and Johnathan Lynn[?] as the dwarf Golin Longshanks.

The plot such as it is concerns the threat to the small kingdom of Albion by The Evil One and her ravening hordes, which have completely surrounded the country and are preparing to move in.

Prince Veganin has raised a mighty army to defend Albion, only to see them all call in sick; his father King Yulfric thinks he is exaggerating the danger, and suggests that allowances should be made for foreign customs (like human sacrifice). In any case, Yulfric is too busy changing clothes with a commoner to have any time for affairs of state - the commoner in question being the woodcutter's daughter.

The great wizard Radox recruits the young hero Agar to find the mighty horn Summontrumpet which can call forth the six heroes of legend. To Agar's chagrin, Radox sends him a companion in the shape of the gluttonous dwarf Golin Longshanks, who is under the delusion that Radox's height exercises have turned him into a giant.

Radox himself attends the Great Conference of All Wizards, but most of the wizards are too busy with the food and entertainment to bother with the heavy stuff about destroying evil.

Meanwhile Veganin has set off on his own quest to slay the leaders of the evil hordes, beginning with the High Bishop of Zylbor, whose priests baptise people by holding their heads under water until they stop struggling. What Veganin doesn't realise, until it is seemingly too late, is that the Bishop's gaze will turn anything it falls upon to ashes.

Agar and Golin finally wrest Summontrumpet from the clutches of the Dread Sphynx, which has the body of a snake, the head of a snake, and the feet of a snake, and arrive upon the plains of Albion as the Seven Armies of Hell begin their invasion. The only thing that could possibly go wrong would be if the wrong person should sound the horn by mistake....

The series was launched with a good deal of hype. A full-page feature in Radio Times[?] included a map of Albion and a spoof interview with Marshall and Lloyd. Despite this, the series was repeated only once, never released on cassette or CD, and largely forgotten until BBC 7 dusted off the (still abridged) tapes for a rerun in May 2003.

Only six months after Hordes of the Things was first aired, the first episode of the BBC's epic radio producton of The Lord of the Rings was broadcast. Some of the voices in Hordes sound suspiciously similar to the equivlent characters in LOTR. Perhaps the producers of Hordes had heard about the casting for the forthcoming Tolkien adaptation and chose their own cast accordingly.



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