Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Monster Who Messed With The Jabberwocky.

32. Rewrite a Poem: Take any poem or short story you find anywhere. Rewrite it in your own words.

I read that prompt and instantly thought, "Oh God I don't want to do this one.  It's time for another rebellion against the list."  Then, grudgingly, I went to fetch a poetry anthology.  As I opened it another thought came to me.  "Jabberwocky!"  I decided a rewrite of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky was in order.  But how are you meant to rewrite such a classic?  It is one of the most frabjous semi-sensical poems ever written.  It makes me chortle in my joy.

What kind of a monster would ever dream of messing with Jabberwocky?

Me.  I would.  (As would Terry Gilliam, but let us forgive him.)

I would.  And I did.  Here is Lewis Carroll's original, followed by a piece of prose written at speed.

Image taken from here.
’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.

A Widow's Lament

My heart is broken and will never be mended.  Last Thursday I lost my husband to an act of senseless violence.  My soul mate, my life companion is gone.  With him dies the last hope of my people for we were the last.  Why do they hate us so much that they've driven us to extinction.  All we wanted was a little bit of ground where we could relax on deckchairs and grow parsnips.  Where's the harm in that?  Just because we look a bit different they react in fear and told tales about us, reduced our status more and more until they thought of us as animals fit only for execution.

Now I am the last Jabberwock.  My love is gone.  I expect they'll hunt and kill me too before long and I'd fight them but what's the point?  My people are lost.  There's no hope.  Not any more.  Hatred has won.  Human hatred wins so often.  They would turn peaceful parsnips into tools of war if they could.

We thought we had hidden from the humans well.  We had gone to the furthest oasis in the furthest desert.  Surrounded ourselves with cacti and wild animals.  We learned the art of camouflage and built shelters for ourselves in the sand.  Still the humans came.  Once they decide to hate they won't stop until the last object of their hatred is destroyed.  The few protesters with their "Justice for Jabberwocks" placards never stood a chance at turning the tide of public opinion.  When their protests were deemed illegal by insular governments they dispersed, all bar a few brave individuals who found themselves arrested and imprisoned.

The humans found our oasis last year and we found ourselves the victims of a blood sport.  Fighting back was no good.  They were too well armed and all we had were simple clubs made from oasis trees and covered with cactus spikes.  That's no defence against an armour clad brigade armed with vorpal swords.

My love and I were the last of our race.  We held onto each other and wept, knowing that we would be killed too.  When they came we could hear them, shouting and calling.  We held tighter and kissed and my dear husband promised that when the time came he would boldly fight the humans and try to defend me.  We knew that we couldn't win.

When he crawled out of our underground home I could see them.  Two soldiers armed with daggers and throwing knives.  Each one also carried a vorpal sword and I shuddered, remembering the blood of a hundred of my people whose lives had been ended by the blades of such cruel weapons.  The two were resting by the Tumtum tree.  They seemed lost in thoughtlessness, egging each other on.

"Last one to stab a Jabberwocky has to kiss a bandersnatch.  On the lips."

"Well it won't be me.  You couldn't even catch the curly tale of a rath."

"I could too.  I'll have you know I was rath wrestling champion in my second year of war training.  I'm even being considered for the next snark hunt."

"You're not.  You little liar.  You're not old enough for that.  Look, there's movement.  Come on, let's kill this demon."

Then they saw my husband and stopped in confusion.  One of them asked the other, "That's not a Jabberwock is it?  Can't be."

"It must be.  What other creature would be lurking in that hole but a jabberwock.  We'd better get on with it."

I guess they had been thoroughly indoctrinated with the stories.  In order to get people to hate there are always stories.  Lies.  Frightening tales to turn innocent people into demons, the boogie men hiding under the bed.  People were told we looked very different to most humans.  That we weren't even human at all.  All lies of course.  They sang songs about our ugly heads and terrible jaws and how we didn't deserve to live because we enjoyed biting the heads off children.  The songs and the broadsheet vitriol painted us as having fearsome claws that we would use to rip the hearts from the living and dead alike.  Men in ale houses shared tales of how jabberwocks would eat those hearts and then go on killing rampages covered in blood.  I have a theory that sometimes men would tell the tales so that they could become murderers themselves and, having scapegoated we poor parsnip growers, they wouldn't have any fear of being condemned for their crimes.

So when the two soldiers saw my husband they must have been confused.  No biting jaws.  No claws.  Not a hint of any dangerous difference.  They saw my husband as he was.  A normal looking human being who happened to have a slight green tinge on his skin and a protruding bone structure on his face.  That's it.  The only outward difference between them and a jabberwock.  We are different species but really we're much the same.  And for the tiny differences they have slaughtered us all.

The soldiers saw him.  Just a man.  A jabberwock but still, just a man.  And they killed him anyway.

I couldn't bear to watch.  Hid myself underground.  We both knew he didn't stand a chance.  I covered my ears but could still hear the battle, that my husband fought as best he could and that he even managed to make one of the soldiers bleed with his club.  When I heard the snicker-snack of the vorpal blade I knew it was all over.  I put my head between my knees and shook long after the soldiers left with their prize, the head of the last of the jabberwock men.  They'll be hailed as heroes.  Heroes.  Humans seem to see genocide as heroic.  Why else would they keep committing such barbarism against others?

Later I buried my husband.  He deserved it.  All I can do now is wait.  There's nowhere else to run.  Sooner or later more soldiers will come and I will join my husband in a better life.  Heaven is not a place of hate.  So I know the humans will not be there.  I am tempted to take my own life, steal that pleasure from humanity.  Laid out before me are the pills that would bring me to peace.  I have sad with them, held them, each day since his death.  For now I am not brave enough to die.  Not so brave as he.

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