jabberwocky

more than

two years after I illustrated Father William, I saw Jabberwocky as much more of a challenge.

The poem is such a magical work of mystery that it’s almost sacrilegious to try and pin it down.  Even Carroll himself spoilt it with all the definitions he gave, both in Humpty Dumpty’s words and his own.

Here’s my take on it.

’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.

first sketches

My favourite images of this poem by other illustrators are by Arthur Rackham and Eran Cantrell.

I wanted something more dynamic and lighthearted.  I also wanted to explore how a child young enough to be cuddled by his father would be able to kill a dragon and to carry its head home.

Here are their versions and my first two sketch iterations of the killing of the beast 

I carried on

with pencil sketching until I felt I had a consistent style for the whole.
 
My first ideas for the hero were prince-like with a cape, then I decided to set the poem as a fantasy in the head of a younger child.
 
The fantasy status is hinted at in the second verse, revealed in the penultimate image and confirmed in the final one.

i sat with

my nine year old twins to discuss the first verse and what they thought it meant.
 
It’s not clear  from internal context that toves, raths and borogoves are even animals.  Our consensus was that they were descriptions of a mysterious landscape.

in the end

I stuck with Carroll’s definitions but included the dark scenario suggested to me by the sound of the verse, and then added music and dance – because why the hell not?
 
The Mome Raths became a New Orleans Jazz band in tribute to the late Mike Harries who used to enliven my student evenings at Chapter Jazz Club more than four decades ago.

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more than

two years after I illustrated Father William, I saw Jabberwocky as much more of a challenge.

The poem is such a magical work of mystery that it’s almost sacrilegious to try and pin it down.  Even Carroll himself spoilt it with all the definitions he gave, both in Humpty Dumpty’s words and his own.

Here’s my take on it.

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