Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fit the Fourth, Page 28, Panel 3 … I was a modest, good-humoured snark, it is Oxford that has made me insufferable

The Beaver went simply galumphing about,
At seeing the Butcher so shy:
And even the Baker, though stupid and stout,
Made an effort to wink with one eye.

The story so far … a darkness has fallen upon the land and there are B-Boyz abroad … they search for the one snark, the Baker’s-Bane of eldritch lore … the one snark to rule them all, the one snark to find them, the one snark to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

Both Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien were Oxford men and both had full-blown language manias. We’ve already seen how the Forks and Hope refrain of the Snark (if not the entire poem) was begat by the Old Norse galdors, those pagan charms from the same realm of verse which Tolkien plundered so fruitfully. We can also classify Carroll’s Snark (Snarquus boojum) in the same genus as Tolkien’s Ring (Annulus horribilis), the genus of all imaginary, highly sought-after and utterly annihilating thingamabobs or such-like fritter-my-wigs.

In addition, both men’s œuvres sternly eschewed romance except in the most cursory way. Hence, it is with a bit of a naughty giggle that I’ll let you have a quick peek at this picture of the Beaver showing off a bit of ankle! Hubba hubba, these Carrollians know how to live it up! The Beaver is obviously inebriated with her vampish power over the stupid and stout Baker, who has also succumbed to the heady bacchanals of this metamorphic circus! His wink (poorly rendered here, I admit, the result of using second-grade fresh india ink instead of the real, silken-smooth article) suggests to us his Houyhnhnmic approval of the Carrollian portmanteau which tops off this sinnful stanza : gallumph!

All of which begs the question — what on earth has this to do with J.R.R. Tolkien? What on earth possessed me to follow this discombobulated line of addled thinking comparable to the meanderings of a slightly concussed bee?

To which I must reply, in the words of yet another celebrated Oxford man: ignorance, madam, pure ignorance!


  1. "Writers like Tolkien take you to the edge of the Abyss and point out the excellent tea-garden at the bottom, showing you the steps carved into the cliff and reminding you to be a bit careful because the hand-rails are a trifle shaky as you go down; they haven't got the approval yet to put a new one in."

    -- Epic Pooh (via)

  2. Thanks, Dave, for the excellent Moorcock link and also for bringing up a point which this Snark venture has been somewhat sheepishly avoiding for a long time: why the English penchant for a certain sort of (lack of better word) petit bourgeois, drawing room sort of Nonsense and Fantasy? Is this all just escapism? Is this really just misplaced nostalgia for a mythic past of childhood and/or an Anglo-Saxon heimat of sorts? Is not Nonsense really just a formal sort of tragedy minus the emotional content?

    Serendipity has struck with a vengeance.

    Primum, I plan to bring up some genuine 100% red-blooded American magical realism next week to address partially Moorcock's thesis that American artists can't stomach the real article, it is their audience which can't.

    Secundum, I am planning soon a "rant-cum-review" of the latest LCSNA monograph, which directly confronts the English vs. French attitude towards Nonsense, and the underlying socio-national phobias and mental tics.

    Strong stuff! This is a magnificent time to be a Snarkologist!

  3. I forgot to mention that if I'm ever trapped on a desert isle with the customary ten volumes to read, Moorcock's Cornelius Quartet would be one of them.

    Of course, the island's name will be Locus Solus, which neatly translates into French as L'île mysterieuse, an island upon which one I was washed up after surviving The Tempest.