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Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`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
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
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.
1. Summarise the action of this story, providing as much detail as possible.
a. Who did what? How was it done? When did it happen? What can you say about
the setting? Who is speaking the dialogue? How do you know?

2. Explain the process you went through to be able to do task 1. What clues did you use?
What knowledge about language did you draw on? How did your meta-linguistic
knowledge help?

3. Create a list of the nonsense words according to their word class

a. Which word classes has Carroll used in creating his nonsense words, and which
ones has he avoided? Why do you think this is?

Homework Task
4. Ask another person (not a student of English Language or a LOTE) to do task 1. Once
they have summarized the poem. Discuss with them how they went about the task (i.e.
similar to what you did for step 2).

a. Do you notice any similarities or differences with their process compared to

yours? Take particular note of the language your interviewee uses when talking
you through their process.

Fieldwork task
You are going to spend a little time with a student in Grade 5, working with this poem. Come up
with a series of comprehension questions about Jabberwocky to ask the student. The poem will
be read aloud to the student and you will supply the student with a copy of the poem and your
list of 5 questions to answer.

Sample What type of bird does the person need to ‘beware’?

After the student has answered the questions (during which you need to observe their behavior
closely) interview them about how they found the answers.

Bring your research notes back to class for further discussion.