"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
The speaker of this stanza is the same as in stanza two: the hero’s father. (Somehow this editor has always pictured him as a king—maybe because kings seem to chortle a lot—and the hero as a prince, but that could just be him.)
According to Martin Gardner in The Annotated Alice:
Tenniel’s striking illustration for this stanza was originally intended as the book’s frontispiece, but it was so horrendous that Carroll feared it might be best to open the book on a milder scene. In 1871 he conducted a private poll of about thirty mothers by sending them the following printed letter:
I am sending you, with this, a print of
The proposed frontispiece for Through the
Looking-glass. It has been suggested to
me that it is too terrible a monster, and
likely to alarm nervous and imaginative
children; and that at any rate we had
better begin the book with a pleasanter
So I am submitting the question to a
number of friends, for which purpose I
have had copies of the frontispiece
We have three courses open to us:
(1) To retain it as the frontispiece.
(2) To transfer it to its proper place in
the book (where the ballad occurs which
it is intended to illustrate) and
substitute a new frontispiece.
(3) To omit it altogether.
The last named course would be a great
sacrifice of the time and trouble which
the picture cost, and it would be a pity
to adopt it unless it is really
I should be grateful to have your
opinion, (tested by exhibiting the
picture to any children you think fit) as
to which of these courses is best.
Evidently most of the mothers favored the second course, for the picture of the White Knight on horseback became the frontispiece.
Correspondent Mrs. Henry Morss, Jr., found a striking similarity between Tenniel’s Jabberwock and the dragon being slain by Saint George in a painting by Paolo Uccello, in London’s National Gallery. For other pictures of monsters that could have influenced Tenniel, see Chapter 8 of Michael Hancher’s The Tenniel Illustrations to the “Alice” Books.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll and leave a comment on the lyrics box