Literature / Jabberwocky

A nonsense ballad by Lewis Carroll to parody overwrought and poorly-written yet seriously-intended poems. It appeared in Through the Looking-Glass, the second of Carroll's Alice books.

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 very, very loose 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:

Elements of this poem appear in:

  • In Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, there's a fictional brand of breakfast cereal called Snicker-Snacks.

Films - Animated
  • Disney's Alice in Wonderland has the Cheshire Cat singing the first verse and also features the Tulgey Wood and a cameo by the mome raths.

Films - Live-Action

  • 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 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.
  • 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.

Live-Action Television
  • When The Muppet Show did an Alice in Wonderland themed episode, it included a very faithful rendition of the poem, although the actors had no idea what it was about.

Tabletop Games
  • 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 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.
  • 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 Monster in My Pocket, Jabberwock is Monster #50 in Series 2, described as a dragon with tentacle-like arms, born in 1871 England.

Video Games
  • 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).
  • American McGee's Alice features the Jabberwock, now a clockwork cyborg, as a major antagonist.
  • 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.
  • Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp has a Wonderland level in which Dirk has to fight the Jabberwock.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Wobbajack is the Daedric artifact given out by Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness. Fittingly, it has random, nonsensical effects, from turning the target into a chicken to summoning demons from Hell.
  • In Secret of Mana, Jabberwocky is a two-headed dragon fought in the Water Palace.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In the Young Justice episode "Earthlings", Adam Strange recites stanzas of it to distract alien enforces on the planet. It works.