Tuesday, August 23, 2011


[This is one of my favorite poems, and I wanted to try expanding the story behind it. The poem is by Lewis Carroll and can be found in Alice Through the Looking-Glass.]

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

It was a hot day, a humid, brillig day. The kind of day where sweat swiffled down your back when you stepped outdoors.

Louis did not enjoy this sort of day. He had extra work on these days—he had all his normal tasks, plus he had to watch the borogove gardens. Creatures like the mome raths and the squintles and once in a while even a renk would try to creep into the shade of the leaves to take shelter from the sun. Of course, once there, they would smell how mimsy the large fruits were and would devour the crop if Louis didn’t frighten them away first.

Today, Louis’s father sat outdoors with him to watch the gardens. He was an ancient man, gnarled and bent, but he still had a gentle heart and a frillicious wit. His eyes were not sharp enough to always see the creatures, but he was good company for Louis. The old man sat in the cool wabe, and toves would gimble past him, keeping him company as he kept Louis company.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

As Louis trimmed the branches of a feffer tree, a crilitant shriek was heard in the distance.

“Jabberwock’s caught a robfin,” the old man remarked.

“There’s no Jabberwock, Father,” Louis replied, clipping another branch. “And that was the sound of a darnel.”

“It was a robfin,” the old man insisted. “The Jabberwock does not hunt darnels.”

Louis gave a dismissing nod as he continued his work.

“Have I told you the story of the Jabberwock?” the man asked his son.

“Many times, Father,” Louis replied, vexed by his father’s insistence that this creature was real.

“I saw it once,” the man mused, “Big and sclimely. It had these claws, you see, that extended three feet from its arms. Its teeth were sharp and it smiled like old Chester does when he catches a bird.”

Old Chester, the cat, was not around at the moment. He often disappeared, and neither Louis nor his father knew just where he went.

“The Jabberwock is a dangerous creature, my son,” the old man warned. “If it’s got a robfin so near, it may be coming to the garden next. You must promise me we will go inside to safety if it is here.”

“We will,” Louis promised. “We will go to the house if so much as a Jubjub bird is here.”

“Oh, the Jubjub bird!” the father cried. “He will not be here. He was only a worry when you were a child, for children are his favorite dish.”

Louis shook his head, subtly, so his father would not see. Now the old man was repeating ghost stories designed only to frighten a small child. None of what he said was true.

“Or a Bandersnatch!” the father warned. “One of those may come here. They do love the taste of a good borogove.”

“Father, Bandersnatches are small and harmless,” Louis said.

“They are frumious and dangerous!” the man cried. “Louis, take me inside. I hear the Jabberwock coming closer.”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Longtime the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

Louis helped the old man walk into the house. Then he said, “I must stay out here to watch the gardens. Brillig day like this, they need constant care.”

“No, Louis!” the man replied. “The Jabberwock will be here! Stay with me, my boy!”

A thought suddenly dawned on Louis. “Then I will slay the creature for you, Father. The Jabberwock will be dead and I may return to tending the gardens.”

The old man’s mouth turned up into a grappish grin. “My boy! My brave boy! Take my sword and slay the beast!”

The old man’s sword was displayed in the front of the house, a souvenir from his time in the Great Battle. It was a truly vorpal sword, and had slain many in its time. But Louis did not think about its past, just grabbed it on his way out the door.

He headed past the garden and into the woods. He was sure there was no Jabberwock, but he would kill a mome rath to get blood on the sword and appease his father.

Louis saw a shady area beneath a Tumtum tree, and so leaned against the trunk of the tree. It was cool there, a good rest from the brillig heat. If he sat down, he might have just fallen asleep.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame
Came wiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

Louis had drifted into that fantastical place between waking and dreaming. He imagined he was a knight and an inventor, and he was talking to a little girl. But just as the little girl went away, Louis heard a mighty burble and awoke.

Something was coming closer, tearing down the tulgy trees in its path. It seemed like a giant sclimely lizard, something that Louis could not face on his own—but if this was the Jabberwock, he had no choice.

It wiffled closer, and when Louis saw its eyes, he knew this creature was indeed the Jabberwock. Its eyes were embers, dancing with a flame that refused to die.

Louis held up his sword in front of him. He would slay this creature, for his father. Despite only a moment ago he thought it not to exist, it was now here and he could no longer doubt it.

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.

The creature burbled at Louis and lunged towards him. He swung the sword and felt its harsh clang against the scales, heard the horrible screeching of the metal.

The Jabberwock whipped its tail at Louis, the large spikes rushing through the trees right at him. He held up the sword to block the sharp spikes, and managed to slice through the tip of one.

The Jabberwock roared. It swung its tail at Louis again, and only managed to lose the tip of another spike.

Louis gripped the hilt of the sword tightly, his confidence growing. He could hurt this creature, so maybe he could kill it.

The Jabberwock lunged and tried to catch Louis in its jaws. The sword caught the edge of its mouth, cutting through the scales and leaking silvery blood. Louis stabbed again and again at that same spot, until the Jabberwock reared back in pain.

Louis swung the sword against the Jabberwock’s long neck. It sliced through the scales with ease, cutting deep into the creature’s flesh.

The Jabberwock tried to retreat, but Louis swung again and again, each time feeling more confidence as the blade went snick-snick-snick against the scales and the flesh.

The Jabberwock died with surprising quiet. Louis’s arms were covered in its silvery blood by the time it gave up and slumped onto the ground. He only continued to behead the creature, until the sword reached the bone. He pressed hard, and with a great snicker-snack, the neck broke. The Jabberwock had been slain.

When he was done, Louis dragged the head away from the body. It was difficult, as the head was as large as himself. He considered what to do with the rest of the creature—could Jabberwock meat be eaten? Did it perhaps give one some power?—and he decided to ask his father. For now, he would only return with the head.

He galumphed home slowly, dragging the head with him. He left it outside his house, and, tired and bloody, went inside to greet his father.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

“My boy!” the old man cried on seeing his son again. “Is the Jabberwock slain?”

“Yes, Father,” Louis said. “Its head rests outside.”

The old man slowly tobbled outside. “Callay! It’s more terrifying than I imagined!”

“Its body lies in the woods,” Louis told his father as he followed the old man outside. “It’s far too heavy for me to bring back alone, and I did not know if there was a use for it.”

The old man chortled. “Of course, of course, my beamish boy. If this is the head, the body must be migantic! And I don’t know if we can use it. No Jabberwock has ever been slain.”

“Father,” Louis asked slowly, “Have all of your stories of the Jabberwock been true?”

The man smiled. “You doubted me, didn’t you? Yes, of course they’ve all been mostly true. But now no one need fear the Jabberwock any longer. Oh, frabjous day!”

Louis laughed to himself, and helped his father walk inside. “Yes, Father, the Jabberwock is slain. Everyone is safe now.”

“My boy is a hero,” the old man said with a proud smile.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.

No comments:

Post a Comment