Imagine, if you will, that the denizens of the Tulgy Wood, in Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, have been turned into the vile and variegated members of a bottom set English class being, as it were, taught the poem of their adventures. The narrator of the poem becomes, therefore, the teacher, God help him, her or it!
Narrator: ‘Twas brillig and the Slithy Toves
Did gyre and gimble…
Slithy Tove: No, we didn’t!
Narrator: I beg your pardon?
Slithy Tove: We didn’t do none of that gyring and gimbling stuff, did we, lads? That’s libel, that is!
Narrator: Yes, well, passing swiftly on…
…in the wabe
All mimsy were the Borogoves…
Slithy Tove: Ha, ha, ha! He’s callin’ you gay, Gove! Mimsy, mimsy, mimsy!
Borogove: Eff off, Tove, or I’ll punch your lights out, you gyring gonk!
Narrator: Now, now, boys, let’s all just calm down, shall we? Don’t want an inter-species war on our hands, after all, do we?
Borogove: Bring it on, mate!
Narrator: If I could just carry on with the lesson? Thank you...BANDERSNATCH! PUT THE JUBJUB BIRD DOWN IMMEDIATELY!
Borogove: Yeah, pick on someone your own weight, Fatso!
Bandersnatch: Aw, Sir, can’t I just a quick nibble? He’ll never miss a leg.
Narrator: Certainly not, Snatch; you know full well it never ends with just the one limb. Why, only last week, you ate the entire Front Row of the Rugby Scrum, and a perfectly innocent vicar.
Can I carry on now? Or would anyone else like to put in their six penny worth of irrelevant and time-consuming balderdash? No? Excellent!
Now, assuming for the moment that the Mome Raths are not going to make an almighty fuss about their relative state of outgrabeness, or, indeed, not outgrabeness (Ye gods, this lesson becomes ever more remininscent of the Schrodinger’s Cat Conundrum), can we now move on to verse two?
Beware the Jabberwock, my Son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch;
Beware the Jub Jub Bird, and shun
The Frumious Bandersnatch…
Wock! Are you sulking there, boy?!
Jabberwock: ‘Snot fair! I shouldn’t have to share a verse with them two THINGS. I’m the one that does all the action stuff. What does that bird ever do, eh? Tell me that? What did the Jub Jub bird ever do for us?
Narrator: Don’t whinge, lad; you’ve got more lines than anyone else. You must learn to share!
Jabberwock: Jub can’t hardly read anyway; he has to have a ruler underneath the line – and even then he gets his letters the wrong way round…
Jub Jub : Don’t!
He took his vorpal sword in hand…
Prince (diffidently): Er, it wasn’t actually a Vorpal Sword, Sir; it was a surface to air missile. Sorry!
Narrator: Doesn’t scan! Completely ruins the flow, Cloth Ears. Listen:
He took his surface to air missile in hand??!!
So, to summarise… Yes, Wock, you’ll get your moment soon! Do stop muttering!…The Prince takes his weapon in hand (don’t be so disgusting, Snatch; you know exactly what kind of weapon I mean!) and waits ages for the manxome foe. Wock, you either accept manxome or you can go straight to the Headmaster’s Office for six of the best. Your choice!
Jabberwock (excitedly): Ooh, is this the bit where I comes a’whistling through the wood and we has THE FIGHT? And I win, and I eat him?!
Prince (nervously): Um, not exactly WIN; not as such; sort of more like, er, lose…
Bandersnatch: And it weren’t whistling neither. Sir told us that last lesson, but you wasn’t listening. You’d look a right plonker going through the wood whistling!
Jabberwock: Whad’ya mean I don’t win? Course I win? I’m here, aren’t I?
Prince: Actually, and terribly sorry and all that, old chap, but the poem is quite clear on this point: I blow you into the middle of next week with my mighty missile!
Narrator: Snatch, if you say one word – just one word – you’ll be in detention for the rest of your time at this school!
Dear God, why do I bother? I’d be better off banging my head against a brick privy! Prince! For the last time, you do not have a missile, mighty or otherwise. You have a sword – and, with this sword, and after a bit of ‘One, two, one two and through and through…’ ing, you part Wock from his head with a nice clean swipe across the wezand. Do I make myself clear?!
I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, shall I?
Now, Wock, before I blow a gasket, or have a heart attack, you do not whistle or swagger, nor do you go for a wee behind the tree; you WHIFFLE, ok? Perfectly simple. A child could do it.
Prince: And then I kill you!
Jabberwock: Yeah? You and whose Army?
Narrator: One,Two, One, Two, and through and through,
The Vorpal Sword went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head,
He went galumphing…
DING DING DING DING!
Narrator: Sit down, Snatch! I know you’re hungry; you’re always hungry. Tapeworm? The bell is my signal, not yours…
You may now leave, boys, and we shall plumb the linguistic depths of the final two stanzas next lesson!