by Lewis Carroll


Many decades ago, my first experience with public storytelling was in high school. My forensics – aka speech – coach persuaded a very reluctant hippy to attempt interpretation of poetry. In a small act of rebellion, I went against convention by interpreting one of history’s most bizarre poems, Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky from his 1871 book, Through the Looking Glass.

Jabberwocky suited both my personality and voice, providing me with an excellent opportunity to play with Carroll’s wonderfully warped words and create an emotional tale using a unique and unusual language.

Therefore, as the ideas for this podcast marinated in my mind, the piece that came "burbling" to the surface was this one.

So, please enjoy my first, albeit brief LitReading, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll:


Much of the language in Jabberwocky consists of what are called nonce words, in essence, created language for a singular use that take on meaning based on context:

For example, it’s evident that “manxsome” means something like fearsome and snicker-snack is apparently the sound of cutting.

Other words are defined throughout the rest of Through the Looking Glass:

Humpty-Dumpty explains that “brillig” is 4 pm, the time when you start broiling dinner, and “mimsy” means miserable and flimsy

Ah, those poor “borogoves” (a thin, shabby-looking bird with feathers sticking out all round, something like a live mop).

by Lewis Carroll

’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.