Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Wonderland Excavations V

Dentis ex Jabberwock (inspired by Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There) – Hand-distressed ornate oval frame; genuine bison tooth; genuine desiccated cicada; curled tree bark; cardboard curlicue; hand-stained prints of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem (both forwards and backwards) and Sir John Tenniel’s “Jabberwock” illustration

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

The Tulgey Wood thickens, grows dense and dark, any pathway is now hardly discernible, just a well-worn rut filled with rotted leaves and lichen-cowled stones. The air is dank, heavy, and has a musty, earthy smell. The ground swells, rises into a small hillock, nettles snatch and sting. The climb is not long and at the summit a new vista opens out—a flattened countryside once visibly divided into large, neat squares, as if the landscape from horizon to horizon was one continuous, vast chessboard. The effect is unnerving, mystifying, disorientating, an impossible reality—has M. C. Escher taken up horticulture?

There comes a strange cry. Bird or animal? It is impossible to say. The Tulgey Wood is home to many a peculiar indigenous species: there are mome raths (a sort of green pig) and borogoves (a kind of parrot. They have no wings, their beaks turn up, they make their nests under sun-dials and live on veal) and toves (they’re something like badgers, they’re something like lizards, and they’re something like corkscrews, who live solely on cheese) and we are warned to beware the Jubjub bird (described as “A desperate bird that lives in perpetual passion”) and shun the frumious Bandersnatch (a swift moving creature with snapping jaws, capable of extending its neck). But by far the worst inhabitant of the Tulgey is the Jabberwock.

Or perhaps I should say “was” the Jabberwock.

Only one was ever known to exist; it was a winged monster, toweringly tall, befanged, beclawed, both hairy and scaly, and attired quite nattily in a bespoke buttoned waistcoat. It terrified the area, until its day of reckoning, when a young knight ventured forth to slay the creature. And as history records:

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.

Excavations here uncover but a lone object—a single tooth.

So small a something to prove the existence of a so large and so frightful beast.

But the shadows grow long.

There’s a rustling amongst the scrub.

The time has come to once again move on.