A humorous nonsense ballad by Lewis Carroll
, by its original intent supposedly a parody
of overwrought and poorly-written yet seriously-intended poems. It appeared in Through the Looking-Glass
, the second of Carroll's Alice
Nevertheless considered an excellent poem despite its nonsensicality. In fact, some of the nonsense words invented by Carroll for the poem — like "vorpal" and "chortle" — have entered usage and become semi-official words.
Be aware that, while "Jabberwocky" is the name of the poem, the eponymous monster is the Jabberwock
It is also said to have been inspired by a tree. Make of that what you will.
In 1977, Terry Gilliam
made a movie adaptation, also titled Jabberwocky
In 1999, prog rock keyboardists Clive Nolan and Oliver (son of Rick) Wakeman recorded a Concept Album
based on the poem, with Wakeman Sr. reading bits of the poemnote
between the songs.
The poem contains examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Vorpal Sword.
- Achilles in His Tent: Briefly. The Hero stops to rest by a tree, and then stands there for a while in "uffish thought" (basically, sulking).
- All There in the Manual: Carroll created definitions for his nonsense words.
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: The Jabberwock's death elicits this reaction.
- Audible Sharpness: "The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"
- Big Bad: The Jabberwock.
- Book Ends: The first and last stanzas are identical.
- The Dreaded: The Jabberwock, considering the fact that the whole town cheers when it's slain.
- Feathered Fiend: The jubjub bird is mentioned to be a dangerous creature.
- Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: Unless you've read Carroll's definitions...
- No Name Given: Neither The Hero nor his father are mentioned by name.
- Off with His Head!: How the Jabberwock dies.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The Jabberwock resembles a dragon, although the story is vague as to what kind of animal it is.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: Carroll filled his poem with words that did not exist at the time (burbled, vorpal, tulgey...)
- Defictionalization: Some of these words, such as "chortled", are now in the Oxford English Dictionary.
- Public Domain Artifact: The Vorpal Blade is in many Video Games as a sword that tends to chop heads off.
- 24-Hour Trope Clock: Brillig is four o'clock in the afternoon, just when you start to broil things for dinner.
- Unsound Effect: The Vorpal Sword goes Snicker-Snack.
- Waistcoat of Style: John Tenniel's illustration depicts the Jabberwock wearing one.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: "And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy!"
The movie contains examples of:
Elements of this poem appear in:
- Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.
- Disney's Alice in Wonderland has the Cheshire Cat singing the first verse and also features a cameo by the mome raths.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The vorpal weapon property derives its name from the poem's vorpal sword. In D&D, such a weapon automatically decapitates its target on a critical hit/natural 20.
- A pair of tongue-in-cheek adventure modules that Gary Gygax wrote, based on the Wonderland books, included not only the Jabberwock, but also the bandersnatch (whose name is taken literally: it grabs opponents and ties them up) and jub-jub bird.
- In the short story "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (writing under the joint pseudonym of Lewis Padgett), the poem turns out to have been dictated by Lewis Caroll's young daughter after she received some Sufficiently Advanced toys from the far future, and is a secretly-coded instruction manual for how to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- Larry Niven's Known Space universe has an alien species called the frumious bandersnatch.
- The Jabbewock is a kind of monster — one of the most powerful in the game — found in the original Rogue.
- Nethack, a Spiritual Successor to Rogue, also contains a Jabberwock, as well as a Vorpal Sword (which indeed goes "snicker-snack" when attacking).
- The first game in The Bard's Tale Trilogy contains both a wolf-like bandersnatch and a dragon-like Jabberwock (who guards a Sword of Plot Advancement).
- The children in Swallows and Amazons seem to be fans of the poem, as they decide "galumphing" is the best way of quickly returning after visiting the charcoal-burners.
- In Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, there's a fictional brand of breakfast cereal called Snicker-Snacks.
- American McGee's Alice features the Jabberwock, now a clockwork cyborg, as a major antagonist.
- It's also a monster in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay bestiary, almost identical to the one in John Tenniel's original illustration for the poem.
- In Pathfinder, the Jabberwock is among the most powerful statted creatures- more powerful than (almost) any dragon. It's a monstrous fey creature whose only purpose is to spread destruction and chaos. Naturally, it has an instinctive aversion to vorpal weapons. The jub-jub bird and the bandersnatch also make appearances here.
- Milny's Vorpal Sword in Planescape Survival Guide goes Snicker-Snack when decapitating a Slaadi (giant frog monsters).
- In the Young Justice episode "Earthlings", Adam Strange recites stanzas of it to distract alien enforces on the planet. It works.
- Being heavily influenced by Alice in Wonderland, the Pandora Hearts manga features Jabberwocky as one of the most powerful chains in the series.
- The seventh book of The Chronicles of Amber has a scene set in Wonderland (or a world very much like it), and the Jabberwock makes a brief but violent appearance.
- In a non-storyline strip of Exterminatus Now, Rogue's laser sword beheads a dragon and makes the Unsound Effect "snicker-snak".
- At the beginning of each stage in eXceed 3rd - Jade Penetrate, a Doujin Soft shmup, the poem is faintly visible underneath the text displaying the stage name and number.
- The Japanese version of Breath of Fire IV, of all places, has this. The dragon forms called the Behemoth, Weyr, and Peist in the English version were originally called the Bandersnatch, Jubjub, and Jabberwock, respectively.
- In the Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi series, weapons can have the 'vorpal' element applied to them, which typically gives the weapon a chance to One-Hit Kill weaker enemies.