Jabberwocky – Creative writing exercise

Jubjub

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;

Jabberwocky

`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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Chapter 1 – The Captain and the Storyteller (opening paragraphs)

Hello all,

It has been a while hasn’t it? Unfortunately I have been rather busy with work, and studies, and more importantly a few of my other writing projects lately. But I have been very pleased to see that still see people coming over to look at some of the pieces I have written, I notice that most of the views are tending towards the football articles I have been writing, so I may do a few more of them. I have also been doing a lot of writing for a Creative Writing course I have been doing at Oxford University over the last few months, so I will also look at publishing a few snippets of that on here too.

IN THE MEANTIME, I have been working on a piece of fiction, the opening paragraphs of which I am going to share with you now. I have been working on this project of mine for a while now, and a lot of work has been going into research, world building and plotting out story lines, which is incredibly fun, but also horribly time consuming, and at times a bit tedious. With that said, these opening paragraphs wont really include any of that. So they don’t really give anything away in terms of the story or the plot, but I hope that they do convey a scent of the tone I am aiming for in this work, so without further ado:

The last grey winds of autumn were blowing in from the straits, the nearly full moon had an eerie pale glow in the night sky as dark grey clouds streaked across it, to the north the white crowned mountains stood impassive and resolute guarding against the frozen waste that lay beyond, and to the south the fertile lands of the empire stretched. Banners rippled from the ramparts of the fortress as the cold wind bit into them and sentries crouched forlornly in the parapets, below the sprawling fortifications loomed. The fortress was very old and ruinous, its mighty walls crumbling, its main gate shattered, and many of its towers nothing more than hollowed ruins. The fortress had an outer wall which though high and thick was peppered with breaches, from long forgotten wars and conflicts, which were all in various stages of repair and disrepair. The main keep was in better condition, and here the defences were still strong, lights glimmered and flickered as the nobility toasted their royal visitors within its halls. The sounds of songs and banter echoed outside and carried even past the outer wall and to the south where outside the walls a collection of shacks and houses formed a village where the common people lived, and to the east a large encampment of tents were the royal escort lay encamped for now against the outer wall and somewhat shielded from the bitter wind.

It was from this camp that a lone figure detached itself from the warm glow of the camp fires and began to lounge its way around the outer wall towards the village. He was wrapped in a thick brown woollen cloak, under which he wore a dull grey tunic over which he bore a frayed leather doublet, fastened with a leather belt which sported the scabbard and hilt of an ugly old dirk. His boots were worn and muddy, and his demeanour was plain, his gait was slouched and deceptively nondescript, his feet dragged as he walked as though he was perpetually exhausted, his dull brown eyes had hints of wrinkles around them and dark bags under them, his hair was dark, curly and dishevelled, and he sported a dark stubble laced with flecks of grey on his chin which helped hide, but not completely conceal, that his face was starting to age and the skin once taught around his face had begun to sag.

At first glance he seemed utterly unremarkable, but on closer inspection his gait and slouch betrayed his tall frame, the wrinkles and bags under his eyes concealed their furtive movements as they darted everywhere, observing everything, and his dragging feet and exhausted look complemented by the slightly oversized clothes he wore hid his not inconsiderable strength, his arms were abnormally long, and his shoulders broad. His name was Bran, and he was the Captain of the Grey Guards, the elite company of soldiers who served as personal bodyguards to the royal family.

He continued to slowly walk up the path around the outer walls of the fortress which connected the encampment he had left with the collection of hovels; the moonlight helped him find his steps on the treacherous path and missing cobblestones, there was a hut with a watchmen at the entrance of the village, and he could feel the eyes of the watchman peering through the windows at him although he could not see him, but with so many people coming and going today with the arrival of the Princess and her escort the watchman paid no heed to one more person slipping into the village. Inside the village the cobblestones evened out and there was surer footing, but there were still puddles of water to the sides of the streets, and there was an inescapable stench of burning cooking, wet horses, mixed in with the fumes of burning fires and the unmistakeable aroma of dung and urine that wafted up from every other side street he passed. Most of the people who lived here had turned in for the night, nervously keeping their wives, daughters and loved ones close, always suspicious of the marauding soldiers who had come to the village to get drunk for the night.

On the main street Bran passed the villages biggest in The King and Castle which the officers of the Princesses escort and the local garrison had taken the liberty of taking over as was their privilege, shunning the common soldiers. He turned into one of the side streets looking for his destination, now he crossed rag tag groups of soldiers in various fits of drunkenness as they sang and staggered across the village looking for more taverns to frequent, or simply lounging under overhangs and nooks embroiling with one another in boisterous conversation, blissfully uncaring that feet away from them families were trying to sleep. He pulled up his cloak tighter around his shoulders and tried not to breathe as he walked past two soldiers loudly urinating on someone’s doorstep.

Finally in a dark recess of the village he spotted his destination. A small drinking hole, which barely passed as a tavern, its sign hung from two rusty chains on a post, and it creaked forlornly in the night, The Howling Wolf the joint was called. Bran stopped and hesitated for a moment, he fingered the hilt of the dirk at his belt for a few moments, his brow furrowed in sudden uncertainty. Then the moment passed, and he continued on his irrevocable path.

What is Wrong With French Service?

waiter-rude

Dear followers,

I realise that it has been a fair few (3) months since my last entry, this has been due to unfortunate new commitments (work), and new circumstances (I’ve been really lazy). However, by happy coincidence, today is the last day of 2014, so this represents a perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf and bring you lots of new amusing (hopefully) and wonderfully intriguing (I’ll try) content.

So on this eve of the new year, lets talk about some new resolutions the French should really take. (For the record I am French, make of that what you will)

I recently returned from a ten day vacation in Paris with my girlfriend, and I must admit that having lived in the UK for the past 4 years, I had not been back to France for any extended stay in a long time, but on this trip I was wholeheartedly appalled by the service and attitude of many of the people I encountered in France.

I am not sure if this is an issue which has been aggravated recently, or if this is just something I had not noticed before, but I was quite ashamed at the attitude and service we received throughout our trip.

Beginning from the moment one boards the Eurostar from Kings Cross in London, you are immediately reminded about the difference between the French and the English, while crossing the border control you have to first pass the English Customs. The English officer will smile at you, say “Ticket Please!” and then pleasantly nod you through, the difference with the French agent is subtle, and not immediately noticeable, but he will not speak to you unless he absolutely has to, he only gestures you forward with a perfunctory gesture, then give you the briefest of glances, frowns at you, and then gives you a half nod to dismiss you. This interaction is tiny and only last a few seconds, but it is symptomatic of the French attitude to service and customer relations.

There are few other countries at which you can seat yourself at a restaurant, and really feel intimidated by the staff. Placing your order is an inconvenience for the waiter, amending an order, or asking for so much as an extra straw will draw some barely concealed exasperation, and god help you if you want any supplements or changes to your order. Even Macdonald’s is different, we stopped by to get a burger; “Extra cheese on the fillet o-fish” I asked nicely, “We don’t do extra cheese” the woman behind the counter shot back, I looked at her dumbfounded, “You don’t do extra cheese?”, she just stared at me like I was the biggest waste of time she had ever seen. “Why can’t you add extra cheese?” I persisted, “Because we don’t” came the immediate reply. I realise that this is the sort of problems people call “First World Problems”,
but here’s the thing, these minute interactions are emblematic of French attitude in general.

This is not to say by any means that the French are lazy, or that they are rude, some of the hardest working and most intelligent people I know are French, but the difference in attitude is that the French do not, and will not, go above the line of duty. They shy away from taking responsibility, if its not in their job description they won’t do it. The passport inspectors job is to check the passports, but he doesn’t give a damn about the people the passports belong to. The macdonald employee won’t add extra cheese because its not worth her effort, she would rather spend two minutes arguing the point, then putting in the extra effort to make sure her customer leaves happy.

We had other similar experiences, we went to watch the Hobbit in 3D, we got of to a bad start when the projectionist put in the wrong movie reel and the film started in 2D. 15 minutes in he must have realised his mistake as he restarted the film, however the 3D effects were badly calibrated and the movie finally started again for a 3rd time, but now the sound wasn’t working. So after about 40 minutes of mucking about, like your old crazy uncle with the DVD player over dinner, the projectionist finally got the movie going, to sarcastic cheers from the audience. Things were looking up, and we enjoyed most of the movie, right up to the main duel between the films main villain; Azog the Defiler also known as the Pale Orc, and one of the heroes; Thorin Oakenshield. Just as both sworn enemies lock into mortal combat, with both combatants exhausted from the trials of battle, both badly wounded, and with the final duel reaching it climax the cinema screen cut to black. No really. The projectionist had fucked up again. Queue shouts and tantrums from the audience, my girlfriend and I elected to leave there and then, as the projectionist was frantically trying to restart and fast forward the movie, unfortunately he sped up too much and inadvertently spoiled the movies ending.

As we went back to the ticket desk with a throng of livid movie goers who looked close to rioting, I spotted the projectionist discreetly slip out of the projection room, he starred bug eyed at the angry crowd filing before him for a few moments. Then after witnessing first hand the faces of the hundreds of people who’s night he had just ruined, he did that most Gallic of things, and just shrugged, then trudged towards an exit to presumably go for a cigarette break. Now this for me is worse than the fact that the movie screening was such a disaster, any cinema in the world can have a bad night, anyone can make a mistake, or even several mistakes at their job, but what I found disturbing was the total lack of responsibility and ownership for what was after all a cluster-fuck. Even the people who were working at the ticket desks didn’t apologise, in fact no one apologised at all for the disaster. After all it was the projectionists fault, so why should the ticket clerks have to apologise? In fact one of them actually started shouting back at people.

And here’s where French Service is losing a march on the likes of England, if something wrong happens, individuals are too quick to pass the buck, to avoid having to actually do extra work for which they do not feel personal responsibility.

The French could get away with a reputation for rudeness and harsh service because for a long time they still delivered services and products that no one else could. After all Paris is still one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world, but now other nations have stepped up their game, and the French could use some new years resolutions to make sure they are not left behind.

Its a strange thing, but after years of living in England and missing the joys of life in France, the good food, the culture, and the je ne sait quoi that makes Paris so enjoyable, I realised while we were walking past the smiling British customs officials that I had actually missed this place. Its a funny thing, on the face of it England has very little going for it as a tourist destination, but what it does have is an ability to market and sell itself, the difference one feels is that the English feel that they are lucky to have you come spend your time with them, whereas the French feel that you should be grateful that you are in France at all.

Football is growing crazy(er)

Luke Shaw

 £27 MILLION is the market price for an 18 year old English full back defender in today’s market. Crazy stuff huh? It really makes you think, what is this sport, so many of us love, coming to? Continue reading

Why the English continue to fail at football

PA_SOCCER-England-202937_7022717

So tomorrow super Saturday returns, the indomitable Premier League is back. The bandwagon starts again, the national teams humiliations of June and July are forgotten, the pain of Manaus, the ignominy of Sau Paulo and the pointless dejection of Belo Horizonte are now consigned to the football archives. Continue reading

Ramblings about Friends, Perspective, and Getting Older:

This is a short article I wrote many years ago when I first moved to the UK. It related to my experience of uprooting my life to another country, the article was published in a local newspaper in India and was aimed at the next generation of students in my old high school. I Hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Atheism – Slowly getting as annoying as mainstream religions?

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I think it is part of the human condition to absolutely, categorically, unequivocal, want to categorize things. It is a very odd thing, but we as a species generally try and think of ourselves as beings of higher intelligence. This usually translates itself into rational thought. Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. Rationality implies the conformity of ones beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action. Continue reading