Battle of the Jabberwockys

There are plenty of readings of Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwocky’ out there, ranging from the frumious to the tulgey. But whose is best? As the self-declared authority on all things mimsy, I declare this countdown to be perfectly valid.

The Muppets

Strengths: Strong borogove game. Better than average toves, though not slithy enough for my liking.

Weaknesses: The boy narrating his own story – what’s that about. Also, the fact that the boy and the Jabberwocky say the word ‘whiffle’. Get that mess out of here, Henson.

Verdict: 1/9 – I was ready to love it, still reeling as I am from this year’s viewing of A Christmas Carol, but this was not good.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Strengths: Good gravel on the first ‘Beware’, and an extremely northern pronunciation of Jubjub.

Weaknesses: My man murdered the pronunciation of ‘tulgey’.

Verdict: 5/13 – Elementary, my dear Benedict.

Brandon Rogers

Strengths: Heavy smatterings of campiness. Brilliantly unnerving range of vocal modifications, and a dollop of Beethoven in the background.

Weaknesses: It put me on levels of the emotional spectrum I am rarely comfortable accessing. There is so much going on the meaning of the words feels lost. Quite drug-trip-like.

Verdict 7/15 – It was different and weird.

Neil Gaiman

Strengths: It is just Neil with a camera reading in a forest. And he has a good twang.

Weaknesses: Monotonous at times and I wanted to see more face movement, you know?

Verdict: 7/12 – Back to basics blizzard lecture.

Christopher Lee

Strengths: Great pronunciation of ‘raths’. Chilling ‘Beware the Jabberwock’ vibrato. Pure Vincent Pryce realness. Also, a girl hunting the Jabberwocky because whyever not? That bit when the head rolled down the stairs was good.

Weaknesses: Lame Bandersnatch and distracting CGI. The narration that happens at the end in Disney Voice.

Verdict: 7/10 – Severe and strong.

John Hurt

Strengths: He just dropped this spontaneously on a US talk show. Also, cleverly, the way he pronounced ‘As’ in the phrase ‘As in uffish thought’, is – itself – extremely uffish. Masterful.

Weaknesses: A somewhat lacklustre ‘One Two, One Two’

8/10 – Moving towards Jabberwocky in its purest form. His final stanza gives me the warmies.


Strengths: I have never heard it done like this. It makes me think of a pagan campfire, and the animation here is like when you have eaten nothing but sweets for five days.

Weaknesses: It lacks the menace of some of the classical narrations.

Verdict: 8.5/10


Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 23.25.02

Click wonderful Brian to see his video on the BBC site.

STRENGTHS: It’s Brian Blessed being a kind of eerie thespian dad giving the kind of bedtime story that the blond lad will be trying to therapise out of himself throughout adulthood. Listen to how Brian pronounces ‘Twas Brillig’. He pronounces ‘gimble’ as though it is ‘jimble’, and it works because he is Brian Blessed. The man scales about fifteen octaves. He is wearing Deidre Rashid glasses and a kind of ruff. His ‘Bewaaaaaaaare’ is accompanied by a slow zoom; beauteous. If anyone ever looked me in the eye that way and said the word ‘bandersnatch’ in the way he did… well i don’t know what I’d do. Probably anything he told me to do.  The best word in the whole thing is ‘And’, in the phrase ‘And as in uffish thought’. Chills. His ‘One Two One Two’ has stayed with me every time I have recited this poem, which is often. The slow pause seems to even make the little actor kid do a little wee. The kid looks happy at the end, which gives closure, but then, just when you think it is over, Brain backs out of the room making full eye contact. This is heroic and not OK in equal measure.

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 23.35.21

Weaknesses: None

Verdict: 11/11 – Brian, I want you to read this to me whilst I lay in the bracken.


Special Prize: The What The Hell Did I Just Watch Award


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