18 Feb 2011

C'etait un Boojum!

The Hunting of the Snark written by Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) is an Agony in Eight Fits.  It's also a challenge to read out loud ... !

This wonderful little book is actually a poem of eight verses - or 'fits' as Mr Carroll calls them - describing the wonderfully weird quest of the Bellman and his crew in their hunt for a Snark. 

With tongue tying lines such as 'To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!", But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"' this book is great for exercising the accuracy of your pronunciation.

It includes rather sinister and very intricate illustrations, which are copied from the first edition released in 1876.

The problem with their quest is that Snarks are often mixed up with Boojums, which are dangerous creatures, as told by The Baker:

'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum!  For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!'

This book is fantastically written - Lewis Carroll was very talented in my opinion.  The fast pace of each verse never ceases and the beautiful choice of words kept me glued to every page.  Aside from the bizarre storyline, the main reason I like this book is that it reminds me of the huge scope and potential our language holds, and how poetry can demonstrate the importance of word choice and combination. 

It does make me a little sad sometimes to know there are so many words out there no longer being spoken or written down.  Perhaps I can instigate a language revivial by following the Bellman's lead and asking my intimate friends to call me 'candle-ends', and my enemies 'toasted cheese'!