Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Jabberwock's Waistcoat

Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, “The Jabberwocky,” is perhaps the zenith of nonsense poetry, whose titular villain is deliciously suited to stalk the wilds behind the Looking-Glass. The origin of the poem began in a periodical the young Charles Dodgson (years before Alice and the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll) composed exclusively for the delight of his family entitled “Mischmasch.” The poem at this time consisted of only the first stanza, and was named respectively, “Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry.” The original verse was hand-lettered by Dodgson in slightly varied spelling from its present form in “Through the Looking-Glass,” as well as accompanied by definitions slightly differing from Humpty Dumpty’s. The original poem ran thus:

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

This wonderful bit of fun was later lengthened of course to what is presented in Alice’s second adventure, where it confessed an even more alarming world filled with bizarre flora and several new beasties including its fantastical namesake, the Jabberwock. Sir John Tenniel’s original illustration is quite a treat to look at, and it is amusing to note Carroll’s initial apprehension to it with regard to its potential of possibly frightening his younger readers. Fortunately, Tenniel’s Jabberwock remained and has forever been a particular feast for the eyes hiding within the pages of “Through the Looking-Glass.” One aspect of Tenniel’s illustration that has always warmed my heart is his inclusion of a waistcoat about the ferocious bugbear so pandemically feared. With my interpretation of the poem I attempted a similar path in beastly apparel, and of course, tried to retain all the attributes defined in the story, as well as the Tumtum tree. I do hope my contribution offers some degree of amusement.

The poem "The Jabberwocky" in its entirety found in "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There." Nonsense at its very finest -

'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.

- Lewis Carroll

Monday, August 17, 2009

There Is Nothing Funny About A Humpty Dumpty At Midnight

The tragic story of Humpty Dumpty and his unfortunate accident is another nursery rhyme whose immortality has prospered considerably, I am sure, by it's association with Alice. Interestingly, in the actual rhyme Humpty Dumpty is never declared to be in fact, an egg - this being the answer to the riddle the verse was originally presented as. There is by no means a paucity of origins for the title, including the identities of several historic notables, a very disagreeable sounding drink and of course the famous cannon at Edinburgh Castle which was reputed to have exploded into bits upon firing. The latter to my knowledge being fact, the former possibilites may be subjected to a raised eyebrow. In any event, Humpty Dumpty is a treasure, and in the world of Alice perhaps one of the spookiest residents behind the Looking-Glass. His exceedingly wide mouth and ill temper, not to mention his being a considerably over-sized talking egg, eloquently claims the fellow to nightmare. The only specific presence upon his person (or egg) is a cravat, which Alice is mystified by in deciding whether it is this or a belt, so again the door to interpretation creaks open. Ultimately he confessed a liking to a species of Cab Callowayian topper and tails which somehow seemed appropriately jazzy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tweedledum and eedeldeewT

Among the gloriously unnerving inhabitants of Looking-Glass world, which is quite apparent to be - or most singularly related to - Wonderland itself, is Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Described as "two fat little men" by Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There,” the notion exists (though not written, strengthened I am certain by John Tenniel's original brilliant interpretations) that they are in fact twins - which has been the custom ever since - and even enantiomorphs. Residing, of course, on the other side of a mirror this idea seems appropriate, and ceaselessly intriguing. A truly delicious attribute to Alice’s adventures is that, although described in great detail, they still invite endless interpretations. In my mind, Tweedledum and Tweedledee have always exhumed the complex topics of duality and identity, and the two attired completely in black and white seems almost natural. With these first two illustrations, and any more I may produce, I am striving to include every detail Lewis Carroll penned as well as re-imagining them through my own perception. I do hope he would approve.

Presented beneath as it appeared in "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There" is the original nursery rhyme. The poem is attributed to several different authours, though history is still not of a mind to confess.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle!
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel!
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mad as a Hatter With a Pair of Scissors

Upon being informed of an impending event providing incentive to compose a series of illustrations for the enchanting "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass" by the brilliantly snarky Lewis Carroll, I was at once in a state of heightened exultation. In my visual interpretations it is quite apparent I am fond of top hats and mad grins – like a chef who adds pepper to every dish, even dishes who protest, I seem to somehow manifest one or both of these into quite a volume of my work, even a piece dedicated to frowns and people without heads. So it is not surprising how I gravitate towards the deliciously smiley enthusiast of top hats, the Mad Hatter, as well as selecting him the subject of my first illustration. These two books contain a host of the most charmingly bizarre characters ever to have lived in the memory of a work of literature, and the Hatter is quite positively one of the most enchanting citizens of Wonderland. Of course joining him we have the Hatter’s two good friends the March Hare and the Dormouse, not at all of a mind to permit the fellow a soliloquy. In the event that these attempts may amuse, I shall try to post each piece as it is completed on this blog, as well as include them of course on my website. I do hope they may make you smile – even if top hats are not accessible where the smiling takes place.