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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Lewis Caroll > Fairy tale "The hunting of the Snark"

The hunting of the Snark


If — and the thing is wildly possible — the charge of writing

nonsense were ever brought against the author of this brief but

instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line (in


"Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes."

In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal

indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of such a

deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose of this

poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously inculcated in

it, or to its noble teachings in Natural History — I will take the more

prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.

The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances,

used to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be

revarnished, and it more than once happened, when the time came for

replacing it, that no one on board could remember which end of the ship it

belonged to. They knew it was not of the slightest use to appeal to the

Bellman about it — he would only refer to his Naval Code, and read out in

pathetic tones Admiralty Instructions which none of them had ever been

able to understand — so it generally ended in its being fastened on,

anyhow, across the rudder. The helmsman used to stand by with tears in his

eyes; he knew it was all wrong, but alas! Rule 42 of the Code, "No one

shall speak to the Man at the Helm", had been completed by the Bellman

himself with the words "and the Man at the Helm shall speak to no one." So

remonstrance was impossible, and no steering could be done till the next

varnishing day. During these bewildering intervals the ship usually sailed


As this poem is to some extent connected with the lay of the

Jabberwock, let me take this opportunity of answering a question that has

often been asked me, how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i" in "slithy"

is long, as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so as to rhyme with

"groves." Again, the first "o" in "borogoves" is pronounced like the "o"

in "borrow.

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