Jabberwocky facts for kids
"Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named "the Jabberwock". It was included in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book tells of Alice's adventures within the back-to-front world of Looking-Glass Land.
In an early scene in which she first encounters the chess piece characters White King and White Queen, Alice finds a book written in a seemingly unintelligible language. Realising that she is travelling through an inverted world, she recognises that the verses on the pages are written in mirror-writing. She holds a mirror to one of the poems and reads the reflected verse of "Jabberwocky". She finds the nonsense verse as puzzling as the odd land she has passed into, later revealed as a dreamscape.
Origin and publication
The concept of nonsense verse was not original to Carroll. Nonsense existed in Shakespeare's work and was well known in the Brothers Grimm's fairytales, some of which are called lying tales or lügenmärchen. John Tenniel reluctantly agreed to illustrate the book in 1871, and his illustrations are still the defining images of the poem.
The illustration of the Jabberwock may reflect the Victorian obsession with natural history and the fast-evolving sciences of palaeontology and geology. The works of Darwin and the models of dinosaurs at the Crystal Palace Exhibition helped feed the interest. Perhaps it is not so surprising that Tenniel gave the Jabberwock "the leathery wings of a pterodactyl and the long scaly neck and tail of a sauropod".
The poem is particularly interesting because, although it contains many nonsensical words, the structure is perfectly consistent with classic English poetry. Many of the words in the poem are playful words of Carroll's own invention, without special meaning. When Alice has finished reading the poem she gives her impressions:
'It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished it, 'but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) 'Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate'
In Through the Looking-Glass, the character of Humpty Dumpty explains to her the nonsense words from the first stanza of the poem. However, Carroll's personal commentary on several of the words differ from Humpty's. An analysis of the poem and Carroll's commentary is given in the book The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner.
Images for kids
Jabberwocky Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.