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"Jabberwocky" is a poem of nonsense verse written by Lewis Carroll, originally featured as a part of his novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872). The book tells of Alice's travels within the back-to-front world through a looking glass.

While talking with the white king and queen (chess pieces) she finds a book written in a strange language that she can't read. Understanding that she is travelling in an inverted world, she sees it is mirror-writing. Finding a mirror and holding it up to a poem on one of the pages, she reads out the reflection of "Jabberwocky". She finds it as puzzling as the odd land she has walked into, which we later discover is a dreamscape.[1]

It is considered to be one of the greatest nonsense poems written in the English language.[2][3] The playful, whimsical poem became a source of nonsense words and neologisms such as 'galumphing', 'chortle'—and 'Jabberwocky' itself.


Origin and publication

The poem was written during Lewis Carroll's stay with relatives at Whitburn, near Sunderland, although the first stanza was written in Croft on Tees, close to nearby Darlington, where Carroll lived as a boy.[4] The story may have been inspired by the local Sunderland area legend of the Lambton Worm, as explored in the books A Town Like Alice's by Michael Bute (1997 Heritage Publications, Sunderland) and "Alice in Sunderland" by Brian Talbot.

Roger Lancelyn Green suggested in the Times Literary Supplement (1 March 1957), and later in The Lewis Carroll Handbook (1962), that the rest of the poem may have been inspired by an old German ballad, "The Shepherd of the Giant Mountains". In this epic poem, "a young shepherd slays a monstrous Griffin". The poem was translated into English by Lewis Carroll's relative Menella Bute Smedley in 1846, many years before the appearance of the Alice books.[5] The inspiration for the Jabberwock may also have come from a specific tree in the gardens of Christ Church, Oxford, where Carroll was a mathematician. Its ancient twisted branches may have reminded him of tentacles or the hundred-headed Hydra of Greek mythology.[citation needed] English computer scientist and historian Sean B. Palmer also suggests a possible Shakespearean source for the monster.[citation needed]

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