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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came out in 1865. Then came the second book. Jabberwocky is found at the end of the first chapter
of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. After Alice has entered the looking-glass (mirror)…she opens the book in which Jabberwocky is written. The poem is written backwards, and she is unable to read it until she realizes that it’s a looking- glass book, and that she must hold it up to the mirror to decipher it…. Oh, yes, this is the kind of adventure in the written word that I love!
Lewis Carroll was the pen-name for Charles Dodgson, who lived from 1832 to 1898. He was one of eleven children. He became a mathematics professor at Oxford University in England. Adults found him difficult to deal with, and he got along best with children. He was fond of magic and sleight of hand, and as a child he dabbled in puppetry. http://www.thepublictheatre.org/education/study_guides/2010-11/Jabberwocky.pdf
THREE IS NOT TOO YOUNG FOR THIS: a few days ago I was suggesting a nap to my granddaughter, Oona. She’s a sparkly three and a half years old. Will you read Jabberwocky, Tutu? (That’s me, Tutu is Hawaiian for grandparent. It goes with Tamam. Tutu Tamam.) I answered that I brought the beautiful new book I’d read her just once before. She leaned forward and went into a
conspiratorial tone: Jabberwocky, Jabberwocky! Jabberwocky! –– as much to herself as to me. Moments later she was on my lap and we entered the weird-word-world of Lewis Carroll. We were in the garden of beautifully drawn creatures, which I had mentioned to her as looking strange, odd, or fierce, but having something funny about them at the same time, and that tiny funniness kept them from being scary. A twinkle in their eyes, a silly color, some vulnerability made them more like us. Oona’s parents are both artistic and move toward the unconventional, so she can go there. You can see from her outfit, socks on her hands…
This fall Oona discovered strong moments; she has always had delight, now she could turn fierce or pissed off, trying out her power at home in the months after her third birthday. It follows that she was encouraged to be a bit milder. Be gentle. That stuff. This book challenged that. Was she strong enough to go on this adventure? A boy and a sword to slay the creature, then be adored by the dad for completing the task!
Look, Oona, the Borogroves! She answered: I think one is a Mimsey. We tracked the two pale green creatures, hidden skillfully on nearly every page. They were the “team” that went with the hero on his adventure. And the white horse, Borogroves and Mimsey – and us.
She had told me the first time I read the book that the hero was a girl. Now she began to correct me. I mean pronouns. He took his vorpal sword in hand. HER vorpal sword. Come to my arms my beamish boy.
GIRL, Tutu, it’s GIRL. We made it through the story and Oona said, AGAIN! I said if she got into bed, I’d whisper the poem to her –– without the book. All tucked in under the pink quilt, she closed her eyes. Her thumb found her mouth. But as I began to whisper, she corrected most of the seven pronouns he and his to SHE and HER! Beamish boy to Beamish GIRL.
I was stunned. I never heard of a three-year-old feminist! This is her journey. She can be all-powerful and be rewarded. She has weird friends. She is at home with them. Not only teddy-bear and dolly stuff! Go Oona.
Jabberwocky as preferred by Oona (she and her and girl)by Lewis Carroll `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 Girl son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!” She He took her his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe she he sought — So rested she he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought. And, as in uffish thought she 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! She He left it dead, and with its head She He went galumphing back. “And, has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish girl 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.
<> My favorite version is Jabberwocky by Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s 2010 film, “Alice in Wonderland.” He ends this unique reading of the poem speaking to Alice, saying –– “It’s all about YOU, you know.” Which brings us back to Oona, and the girl champions of our era. Alice falls down a hole after spotting an unusual rabbit. Arriving in a strange and surreal place called “Underland,” she finds herself in a world filled with talking animals, villainous queens and knights, and frumious bandersnatches. Alice realizes that she is there for a reason–to conquer the horrific Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne. Check this out! You may have to copy this pesky URL <http://viralverse.net/wordpress/?p=3405v=uTvNIxeipqs>
And this! A girl a bit older than Oona recites Jabberwocky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTvNIxeipqs <>
For my friends the writers, here is Poetic Analysis:
Each stanza is cross-rhymed (ABAB). The first three lines of each stanza have 8 syllables (4 roughly iambic feet), and the fourth line has 6 (3 feet).
Line 1: Let’s take the word slithy as our first example. This word is two things: an example of onomatopoeia, and an example of portmanteau. What’s that second one? Well, a portmanteau is a word that’s made by squashing two words together. In this case, lithe and slimy. Onomatopoeia, as you might have encountered earlier in the discussion about this poem, refers to a word that sounds like what it means (think hiss or buzz). So we have a word that not only sounds slimy, but also is graceful, because of the inclusion of lithe (which means “supple and/or graceful”). Both the sound and the word combining give this new word force and depth of meaning.
Line 2-3: Gimble and mimsy echo each other (technically, it’s assonance, i.e., repeated vowel sounds) creating sonic cohesion, while the light i sounds give us a feeling of carefree-ness and peace.
Line 5: The word Jabberwock is harsh, and signals an impending violence. To jab also means to hit something, which further enhances the sense that this thing is something you don’t want to mess with.
Line 8: Similarly, the word Bandernsatch has hints of both bandit and snatch in it, the latter being something that the former would do (a bandit snatches your stuff and runs away with it).
Line 18: Snicker-snack! is also sonically resonant, as it mimics the sound of a sword hitting something. And about the sword: the word vorpal is a onomatopoetic, if you think about it. Say “vorp!” Doesn’t this sound like the swinging of a big, powerful weapon?
Line 23: The expressions of joy here are all sound-play. Frabjous is a bit like fabulous, and if you were to holler “Callooh! Callay!” people would probably think you were cheering.<http://www.shmoop.com/jabberwocky/sound-wordplay-symbol.html>
Lewis Carroll offered a definiton for ‘uffish thought’ in a letter he wrote in 1877: “I did make an explanations once for ‘uffish thought’! It seemed to suggest a state of mind when the voice is gruffish, the manner roughish, and the temper huffish.”
I have a sign on the computer. THIS IS THE YEAR OF UFFISH THOUGHT! For me it is a magical state of thought, a doorway into the empowerment of granddaughters, and the sword of clarity taking out my jabber-confusion. May it be so!
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