Where does the term Jabberwocky come from?


The Jabberwocky or Jabberwock is a dragon from the poem of the same name by Lewis Carroll. The poem comes from the book "Alice Behind the Mirrors", a follow-up to his famous "Alice in Wonderland", and consists largely of invented words, but can be read with a little effort.

Background [edit | Edit source]

The Jabberwocky is probably based on the Sockburn Worm, Carroll explained the origin of the name as follows in 1887:

"The Anglo-Saxon word‘ wocer ’or‘ wocor ’signifies‘ offspring ’or‘ fruit ’. Taking‘ jabber ’in its ordinary acceptation of‘ excited and voluble discussion ’"
―Lewis Carroll[| Source]
"The Anglo-Saxon word 'wocer' or 'wocor' means 'descendant' or 'fruit'. In addition, there is 'jabber' in its usual meaning as 'excited and eloquent discussion'"
―Lewis Carroll[| Source]

German "translations" exist by Robert Scott (“The Wailing Week"), Lieselotte & Martin Remané ("Brabbelback") And Christian Enzensberger (“The Zipferlak“).

Carroll himself wrote definitions for each of the invented words. Some of them, such as chortle, have meanwhile found their way into the English language.

The poem [edit | Edit source]

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 dig out.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought 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!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish 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 dig out.

Adaptations [edit | Edit source]

In many adaptations of the Alice material, the Jabberwocky appears as a kite-like antagonist:

  • The Jabberwocky was supposed to appear in the 1951 Disney adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, but was removed very late in production.
  • In the anime series adaptation Alice in Wonderland (1983-1984), Jabberwocky appears as a minor antagonistic character.
  • In the 1985 film adaptation, the Jabberwocky appears as a personification of Alice's fears.
  • In Tim Burton's film adaptation from 2010, the dragon fights for the Red Queen and has to be killed by Alice with the Vorpal sword.
  • In the manga "Pandora Hearts", which uses many elements from the Alice books, the Jabberwock is a chain from the Baskerville family.
  • In the video game American McGee's Alice, the Jabberwocky is a boss opponent. The Mad Hatter turned him into a cyborg by equipping him with mechanical body parts. It symbolizes Alice's guilty feelings for surviving the fire in which her parents died.
  • British keyboardists Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman released a concept album called Jabberwocky in 1999, which tells the story of the poem. It also contains clippings from Carroll's original text.
  • The Dutch band Omnia set the poem to music on their album Wolf Love.

There are also other works in which the Jabberwocky or other monsters based on the poem appear.

  • The Jabberwocky is the antagonist in the 1977 film Jabberwocky. The story has no direct reference to the source material and depicts the Jabberwocky as a typical dragon who threatens a city and must be defeated by the protagonist in order to save the princess. He is represented by a person in a suit. To depict the bird-like legs, the man had to wear the suit backwards[1].
  • In William O'Connor's Dracopedia project, the Jabberwocky or Leafwing Feydragon (leaf-winged fairy dragon) is a European species of dragon with the scientific name Dracimexus pennafoliumuswho lives in the woods and served as the template for Caroll's literary Jabberwocky.
  • In the RPG series Shin Megami Tensei Jabberwocky is a demon who is reminiscent of a cockatrice.
  • The Jabbersnatch, also Shadow basilisk (Shadow Basilisk) is a monster from Mortasheen. The name is a combination of Jabberwocky and Bandersnatch. They are reptiles that do not reflect light, which makes them completely black[2].
  • The Vorpal sword is a weapon in the pen & paper role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons that can magically decapitate any creature if you roll a natural 20.
  • At the end of the opening credits of the animated series Dragon Hunters, a large, fire-breathing dragon appears, which is similar to the Jabberwocky, but does not appear in the series.
  • Caroll himself later published the ballad The Hunting of the Snark, in which some of the creatures from the poem appear again. However, the Jabberwocky itself is missing.
  • In Scribblenauts the Jabberwocky can use the words Jabberwocky or Jabberwock be summoned.

Sources [edit | Edit source]