Jabberwocky

I have a vivid memory of being eight years old, tucked into bed by my grandmother in her guest room. The room seemed very grand to me, with its huge bed and decorative wallpaper, and its balcony overlooked the river where boats lay on silver sand, with names like The Lady Kay, which made me think of Arthurian tales and far-off places. The view was in the eyes of adults marred by a junkyard on the far shore, but to my eyes the mountains of twisted metal and looming dinosaurian cranes were equally fantastical. I’d wake to the distant sound of crashing metal and draw the curtain and look across the water and watch the great claw endlessly lifting and dropping piles of scrap.

But it was bedtime, and my grandmother was tucking me in, and I asked her if I could read to her a little before I went to sleep. I wanted to read to her from the Battle Bestiary, and I wanted to find in it something she could relate to. I knew that in the study nearby were old hardcover books of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, with beautiful John Tenniel illustrations, so I read the entry on the Jabberwock.

Ever since, I’ve loved the Jabberwock as an intrusion from the world of  Alice, fairy tales and nonsense poems (my grandmother was also fond of Edward Lear) into the harsher numerical fantasies of Warhammer.

And now I’m finally painting one, to a colour scheme based on Sean

Äaberg’s wonderful illustration from this poster:

But what is a Jabberwock? There are at least two Jabberwocks:

First, the “name without a thing”, unseen by Alice, and there’s a delightful horror to this idea: You hear rumours of this monster, the Jabberwock, and everyone is scared of it, feels stalked by it once they hear of it – but the monster is the name, the rumour, and once you’ve heard it, it’s alive somehow, inside your head…

And then there’s Tenniel’s wonderful beast; you can’t illustrate the unimaginable, but this nonsense parody of a monster is the next best thing.

Often the Jabberwock is depicted as simply a dragon, as in the eponymous 2011 film. Even Rodney Matthews’ characterful depiction could easily be taken for one:

But the jabberwock is at its best and most sinister when there’s an element of obscene humanity to it; the waistcoat; taunting Alice in American McGee’s games about the fate of her family, playing on her guilt, weirdly petty and vicious.

Funnymouth’s Jabberwock is wonderful in particular due to its eerily human eyes:

In the Oldhammer community, Of Marauders and Citadels has some thoughts on the creature, and The Realm of Jinnai features one as part of a gloriously oldhammer goblin/chaos warband for Advanced Song of Blades & Heroes.