An animated reading of “The Jabberwocky”, Lewis Carroll's nonsense poemDecember 3, 2020
"I can explain all the poems that were ever invented - and many of those that have not yet been invented." - Humpty Dumpty
The Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll's poem that is part of Alice from the other side of the mirror - the second installment of the most famous adventure in the history of literature - is “full of incoherent words that somehow manage to make sense”, says Jack Cutmore-Scott, the narrator of the animated reading at Ted-Ed Animation (shown above) . The word nonsense is more associated with the imaginary world of Carroll than any other, but what is a story nonsense and at the same time intelligible?
Carroll, trained in mathematics, understood the fundamental principle of nonsense, which “according to TS Eliot reminds us, is not the absence of meaning, but the parody”, as J. Patrick Lewis writes in The New York Times. “Some of the amalgams that Carroll invented - chortle, burble, frabjous and others - are now fully integrated into the lexicon. And the structure of the verse is a mirror of classic English literature, as Alice discovered ”. Carroll wrote the first four lines of The Jabberwocky ten years before Alice from the other side of the mirror, as a “parody of Anglo-Saxon poetry” to entertain your family.
It may or may not help to bear in mind that Carroll does not imitate only English poetic forms and conventions, but also a specific form of English that is almost unrecognizable to young readers, and certainly to Alice. However, the syntax and structure of The Jabberwocky are so familiar that we can easily imagine a narrative with a terrible monster, in which, as Alice says, "Someone killed something".
The ever humble Humpty Dumpty is happy to explain, just as Carroll did in his original composition, to which he added a glossary very similar to the definitions of the egg, and translated the first stanza into “literal English”:
“It was evening, and the smooth active badgers were scratching and boring holes in the hill side; all unhappy were the parrots, and the grave turtles squeaked out “.
There were probably sun dials on the top of the hill, and the “borogoves” were afraid that their nests would be undermined. The hill was probably full of the nests of “raths”, which ran out squeaking with fear on hearing the “toves” scratching outside. This is an obscure, but yet deeply affecting, relic of ancient Poetry.
Does it help? At least it explains the kind of state of mind that Carroll intended and managed to achieve. Jabberwocky is funny, fun and everything, but it's also disconcerting, given the dark mysteries and scary descriptions of this main character.
In John Tenniel's famous illustration, the monster looks like a dragon covered in scales, with leather skin and the face of a fish and sewer rat. In Sjaak Rood's animation, it looks more like a normal dragon, with a touch of the style of Ralph Steadman, while Bandersnatch looks like something invented by Paul Klee. In this case, the choice of artistic influences shows that Rood meets tradition nonsense in modern art, which also transforms ordinary shapes into scary creatures that fill our heads with ideas.
This article was translated from the original in English by Joana Rosa
You may be interested in: Lewis Carroll's Original Handwritten Manuscript for Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland (1864)
- Exodus, Bob Marley's transcendent album, 1977 - May 6, 2021
- Featured Artist: Paul White - May 5, 2021
- The Beautiful, Innovative and Sometimes Gloomy World of Soviet Animated Propaganda (1925-1984) - April 30, 2021