Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky

“Jabberwocky” is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Caroll (1832 – 1898). This poem was included in the book “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” The poem is one of the nonsense poems ever written.

About "Jabberwocky"

About “Jabberwocky”

What is a nonsense poem?

There’s more to a good nonsense poem than you might think. These poems lean on versification, rhythm and rhyme. However, it’s somewhat whimsical and humorous. Often these poems are ridiculed for being ‘stupid.’

The poem written by Caroll is everything but stupid. As said, the poem appears in the sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” 1865). This sequel is entitled “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” (1871).

The poem that Alice reads with the help of a mirror puzzles her. It’s just as puzzling and odd as the land she passed into. Later we find out that this is a dreamlike, surrealistic place.

Although the poem appeared in the book starring Alice, the first stanza was written long before this book was published. This stanza was printed in “Mischmasch”, a periodical that Caroll wrote and illustrated for his family between 1855 and 1862. It held the title “Stanza of Ango-Saxon-Poetry.”

The usage of the letter combination Yewas the letter combination for the. He wanted to resemble the Middle- and Early Modern English scribal abbreviation  . This was a variant of the letter  Þ or thorn combined with a so-called superscript of the letter ‘e.’

The rest of the poem was written when he stayed in Withburn.

The Lambton Worm

It’s most likely that Caroll got his inspiration to write about the Jabberwocky from the legend of The Lambton Worm. This is a legend from the County Durham in the northeast of England. The legend tells about John Lambton of the Lambton Estate in Durham, who battled a giant worm. This worm had been terrorising the villages. This legend resembles one of the Sockburn Worm. Caroll mixed the two legends for this poem.

The Sockburn Worm is a similar worm-legend from Sockburn (Durham). This dragon-like worm was slain by John Conyers.

What makes this poem different from other poems is the fact that Caroll used non-existing words. It tells us the story about the warning of a father. He warns his son for three animals that make the surroundings unsafe. Especially the Jabberwocky is an animal his son should be very careful of.

His son decides to challenge the Jabberwocky, which he does.

Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

— Lewis Caroll

Free Promotion

Subscribe to the newsletters

Subscribing to the newsletters of The Ministry of Poetic Affairs is always free. You can ubsubscribe at any moment.