Beware the Jabberwock

Writing about facing dragons made me suddenly think about Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. The two Alices have to be my favourite books of all time — though this is the first time I’ve actually admitted it …


Jabberwock Anyway, here it is:

Jabberwocky
– Lewis Carroll, 1871

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

‘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 outgrabe.

Carroll got the sense of it right — the dragon is far less frightening as a Jabberwock. Alter your perception and quell your fear.

Alice’s response to the poem is the real answer, I think: ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!’ (my emphasis)

A wise man was once asked the question of ‘What is Zen?’
‘Don’t know,’ he said.

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