Oh Frabjous Day! I Read Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky.”

It has come up in a few different contexts on this blog that I am a fan of “Alice in Wonderland.” I also really enjoy “The Jabberwocky.” It’s a nonsensical poem, and yet the nonsense words are suggestive by their sounds of different meanings. “Frabjous” might be similar to fabulous or joyous. I’m sure Carroll had some other inspirational words in mind, but even without knowing them exactly, you get the feeling that “frabjous” is something good. The poem might be nonsense, but it’s witty nonsense.

A few of the nonsense words in the poem are explained by Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass.”

  • Brillig: four o’clock in the afternoon (the time when you begin broiling things for dinner).
  • Slithy: a portmanteau of “lithe” and “slimy”
  • Tove: a creature the resembles a hybrid of a badger, a lizard and a corkscrew. It lives under sundials and subsists on cheese.
  • Gyre: to go round and round like a gyroscope.
  • Gimble: to make holes like a gimblet.
  • Wabe: the grass-plot round a sun-dial.
  • Mimsy: a portmanteau of “miserable” and “flimsy.”
  • Borogove: a type of bird that resembles a mop.
  • Mome: to be lost from home.
  • Rath: a type of green pig.
  • Outgrabe: a noise that’s between a bellow and a whistle, with a kind of sneeze in the middle

The poem tells of the slaying of a dangerous creature (the jabberwocky,) and it has the feeling of a fairy tale or knight story with the slaying of a dragon.

Below, I read the poem for my YouTube channel.

4 thoughts on “Oh Frabjous Day! I Read Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky.”

    1. It is fun. I can see how it would be a good exercise for that. I think I have an old post on a Celtic/medieval singer who does a “Jabberwocky” song. I should add that link to my post.

  1. For me, the pleasure of the poem is in the sounds of the words. To seek a translation is to spoil the experience. It’s an invented dialect, or a mock Middle English. Just enjoy the ride.

    1. Hi Rich. Goodness, I am late in replying to this comment or even approving it. I didn’t remember I had done that. Some life circumstances have caused me to neglect this blog for a while. Forgive me for that. I am trying now to get back into the swing of things. I can understand your perspective. Some but not all of the odd words, I think, are defined by Carroll in the context of “Through the Looking Glass.” I think when I read it though, outside of the context of the novel, I don’t really have Carroll’s vision in mind for all these word meanings. I am more interested, like you say, in the sounds of the words, the similarity to more familiar words and the general feeling or mood it provokes. Again, so sorry that I’ve neglected this comment.

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