Jabberwocky – Creative writing exercise


As part of a Creative Writing course I undertook with Oxford University I did a number of writing exercises, some of which I plan on sharing on this blog. For today we can look at Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, the objective of this exercise was to re-imagine the poem and use it as the basis for the opening lines of two different novels. The first one being a fantasy adventure in which a hero enters a strange land to slay the Jabberwock monster. The second being a science fiction story in which the hero lands his spaceship on a strange planet to do battle with the mysterious alien entity called the Jabberwock. The objective of the exercise was to write the first few lines to each story, and through the use of tone, diction and style to be able to clearly differentiate the two versions of the same story.

So here is the original work 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, has 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.

Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

So here now is the first part of the exercise, the Jabberwocky in a fantasy setting:

The Jabberwocky rested on his back under the Tumtum tree, his scaly belly basking in the sunshine, while Mome rats scurried around the groves.

The hunter stalked towards the Jubjub bird as it rested, at his hip the hunter had his precious sword wrought of Vorpal, the only metal sharp enough to pierce the hide of a Bandersnatch like the Jabberwocky.

Having spotted his prey the hunter inched forward on fleet feet, and silently drew his blade while the beast slept. 

That evening the hunter galloped home from the Tulgey woods, he he had been cut by his Manxome foe, but he brimmed with pride, his father’s eyes shone with brilliance when he spied the return of his hunter son, and the whole village honoured him, and praised the valour of he who had slain the last Jubjub bird.

Meanwhile, still under the Tumtum tree, the Jabberwocky rested on his back, Mome rats scurried about as from his scaly belly he bled.

And now the last part of the exercise, the science fiction Jabberwocky:

Berk Smashbazook fiddled with the translator settings on his multiverse helmet interface, but even it was having trouble deciphering the gibberish the humanoid native was spouting, “hold up” he said, brusquely interrupting the life-form he was questioning, “all I want to know is where I can find the monster.” 

The native barely seemed to register what he was saying, “under the Tumtum trees, the frumious banderdash! With grubble enes! And humbous freet! It whiffles through the Tulgey wood!” 

Berk Smashbazook sighed, it was going to be a long day. “Look, I’m not interested in all that, just point, can you do that? Just point me in a direction, I have enough fire-power in my Ambidextron phisio-proton handheld ion dispenser to pulverise a small planet, so I literally just need a direction to point my phasers to.”

But he could not seem to get through the terrorised insanity in front of him, “Nay! Without a hallowed Vorpal blade none may prevail against the brillig jubjub bird! Do you not see?? It is of Banderdash!!!”

Berk was growing impatiant, “Listen dude,” he addressed his interlocutor, “We at the Large Pest Exterminators service all planets in the intergalactic 5th US federation, but I’m not even sure you’re entirely human, so cut me a break huh? I’ve got five timeless dimensions to get through before I can clock of, lets just narrow it down, is it some sort of reptile with claws? A hibrid? A scrap heap clone? What did you call me in to exterminate?” 

The man just gaped at him, “Calloh callay! The Tumtum trees they changed us!” He pleaded with Berk. 

Oh nefarious gods, Berk thought, then because he really had places to be, he engaged his mind reader and extracted an image of the Jabberwocky from the wasted and primitive mind before him. “Central, this is Berk Smashbazook,” he called into his headset, “I have located our pest in this sector, looks like a class B73 lizard, probably escaped from one of the local freight haulers, can I toast him?” – “Smashbazook, please go ahead we haven’t got all day.” Came back the reply. 

Berk engaged his thermal detector, scanned the surrounding groves with his thermal sensonrs and immediately located the Jabberwocky, he fired his Ambidextron phisio-proton handheld ion dispenser once.

“Okay old man, your infestation has been taken care of, we will invoice you within half a cycle.” 

“Has thou slain the Jabberwock! Yes! Come to my arms! Oh Frabjous day!” came the reply, “oh there’s no need for that” said Berk Smashbazook as he jetted of on his handheld thermoflast intradimensional booster. “Calloh! Callay!” echoed the native after him.

All in all this is a fun kind of exercise to do if you want to practice your writing and get out of your comfort zone, and it really helps to get the creative juices flowing and I would thoroughly recommend others to try it too.


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