Jabberwocky Recited

UPDATE: Jabberwocky in German

UPDATE: My own recital – a bit panto

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll is one of my favourite poems. Widely regarded as the greatest nonsense poem ever written, it has stuck in my head from an early age and I love reciting and performing it.

Slithy Toves and Borogoves – Illustration by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll

This evening I’ve found a number of great recitals of the poem on YouTube. First up is voice de jour Benedict Cumberbatch

Wonderful though his voice is, he gets a couple of words wrong. Amazingly we seem to have a recording of the Author himself to correct him. I haven’t found any mention of it elsewhere (and the reader substitutes “fruminous” for “frumious”) so I’m not sure how much I trust its authenticity, but its rich tones strike just the right balance between mystery and menace:

EDIT: This seems to actually be a reading by someone called Justin Brett

Finally here’s a deliciously over-the-top recording by actor Michael Haynes who I’ve never heard of, but sounds like an enormous Luvvie.

A footnote on translations

The Epic romp through consciousness, art, music and logic that is Gödel, Escher, Bach – an Eternal Golden Braid contains a fascinating segment discussing the translation of the poem into other languages. The challenge is to translate the nonsense words, not directly, but in such a way as they have a similar feel in the target language.

A number of translations have been collected here. My favourite is the German Der Jammerwoch:

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.

You can actually read the text of Gödel, Escher, Bach at – the English French and German translations are presented together on page 372 and the discussion (which is heavy but short and well worth a read) starts on page 378.

If English isn’t your first language, I’d love it if you could post a recording of your language’s translation somewhere so that I can hear what it sounds like.

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