Jabberwocky

The Whimsical Poem By Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland
Photography by Emma Sutcliffe/Getty Images

English writer Lewis Carroll (1832- 1898) is best-known for his genre-bending work "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland " (1865) and its sequel "Through the Looking Glass" (1872). The tale of a young girl who visits a strange land is a classic of children's literature and cemented Carroll's place in the Western literary canon.

Even though they're widely considered to be important works, the talking animals and possible depiction of what has been interpreted as drug use have placed "Wonderland" and "Looking Glass" on numerous lists of banned books.

Lewis Carroll Life and Work

Lewis Carroll was actually the pen name of  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a cleric, scholar, teacher, and mathematician. Before turning to writing children's fiction, Dodgson/Carroll wrote several mathematical texts while a student at Christ Church College, Oxford, including "An Elementary Treatise on Determinants," "Curiosa Mathematica" and "Euclid and His Modern Rivals."

He met the Liddell family while a teacher at Christ Church College and was enchanted by their young daughter Alice. Although he later said his fictional heroine was not based on any real person, Carroll reportedly made up the "Wonderland" stories, or at least their outlines, as a way of entertaining Alice Liddell and her friends.

Carroll wrote several other works, some about Alice, in his later years, but never again achieved the commercial success of "Wonderland" and "Looking Glass."

Analyzing Carroll's Poem 'Jabberwocky'

"Jabberwocky" is a poem contained within "Through the Looking Glass."  Alice discovers the poem in a book on a table during a visit to the Red Queen.

From what we can understand, the poem is a mythical monster who is slain by the hero of the poem. Who is the hero? Who is the narrator? It's almost impossible for the reader to tell since we're already in the weird world of Wonderland. Even Alice doesn't understand what she's reading.

Written in a ballad style, most of the words within the Jabberwocky are nonsensical, yet it hews to a traditional poetic structure.

Here is the complete text of Lewis Carroll's "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 a while 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!
Oh 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.

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Khurana, Simran. "Jabberwocky." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/famous-jabberwocky-quotes-2831330. Khurana, Simran. (2017, August 29). Jabberwocky. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-jabberwocky-quotes-2831330 Khurana, Simran. "Jabberwocky." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-jabberwocky-quotes-2831330 (accessed November 22, 2017).