Losing the Jabberwock

Yesterday, I took my older kids to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D, and while I continue to be impressed by the vision of Tim Burton, I wondered about the concept of using the poem “Jabberwocky” as the main narrative device for this retelling of Alice.

This is a spoiler alert, by the way. I won’t tell too much, but still, if you have not seen the movie, you may want to skip me right now.

Each year, I read Jabberwocky out loud to my sixth graders and we have a very interesting discussion about what is going on and what the bandersnatch might be and just who is the hero and why are they after the jabberwock, and how gross or cool is it to come home with the head of your foe (this usually comes down to gender).

Normally, my reading of the poem by Lewis Carroll is the first time they have encountered it, although it surely will not be the last. No more. Now, they will have Alice in their heads and come to the discussion with Tim Burton’s ideas of the poems dancing around, and I am sort of frustrated about that. It’s one last bit of imagination drained away by mass media.

I know that the poem was originally part of the Alice books, so I guess it makes some sense.

It just seems strange to have the Alice movie (by the way, I was smitten by the actress playing Alice — Mia Wasikowska) center around her discovering the vorpal sword, befriending the bandersnatch, and then slaying the jabberwock to save the white queen on what is known as Frabjous Day. I’m all for girls being the heroes, and understand Burton’s desire to make the story fresh and new, but this seemed odd to me.

Maybe I am just too critical and want to keep the possibilities of discovery of the poem to myself and my students.

Peace (in the poems),

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