Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day Three-Hundred Twenty-Five: "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!"

Every time I hear Jabberwocky recited or read, the opening line, "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe," is read ominously, as though there is some hidden terror lurking behind these nonsensical words. Really, though, "brillig" basically means "about 4 p.m.", and the scene described is one of funny-looking animals spinning around in circles and digging holes near a sundial.

Ooh. Spooky.

Also interesting: the first stanza (repeated at the end of the poem) really has nothing to do with the story. (Which makes sense, since it/they were written at a different time, but there you have it). You've got weird animals doing weird things at tea time, and then there's this story about hunting the Jabberwock. It would be like me writing a blog post that says, "It was raining outside, and a zebra had escaped from the zoo. Penguins prefer cold weather. Meanwhile, I stayed at a creepy hotel and killed a minotaur last weekend..."

Further: why does the poem describe a young male, possibly a boy, as the slayer of the Jabberwock, while the official Sir John Tenniel illustration shows a character who looks distinctly female fighting the monster? (This has puzzled me since my boyhood)

I love this poem, by the way. See for yourself!