Long time the manxome foe she sought.

Three months ago, when the second Hobbit movie came out Hobbitish news was trending, Michelle Nijhuis wrote about swapping pronouns on Bilbo Baggins. Her five-year-old daughter insisted. It worked perfectly.

Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender—and neither does anyone else.

Girl Bilbo art by Lanimalu, pasted here from original post

Both of my kids are younger, and neither will sit still for The Hobbit. But lately I’ve been able to lull my one-year-old daughter to sleep–or at least into a sleep-like trance–by reciting Jabberwocky. She’s small but fierce, and already seems like a monster slayer, so I swapped the pronouns for her. Easy enough.

One line of the poem ends in “son,” however, and another in “boy.” I changed both to “girl” (“daughter” has too many syllables), and adjusted the rhymes accordingly–which had the unexpected consequence of turning the Jubjub bird and the frumious Bandersnatch into the same creature (Jubjub is its species and Bandersnatch its name). This also made the father twirl around at the end. Not many words in English rhyme with “girl.”

The rest of the text is unchanged. I have transcribed it here for your amusement.

by Lewis Carroll
revised by William Alexander

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my girl,
   The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware that Jubjub bird and churl,
   The frumious Bandersnatch!”

She took her vorpal sword in hand;
   Long time the manxome foe she sought.
Then rested she by the Tumtum tree,
   And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought she 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!
She left it dead, and with its head
   She went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
   Come to my arms, my beamish girl!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
   He chortled as he twirled.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.


Gender-swapped Hobbit photoshoot by photographer Alexandr Turchanin
photo by Alexandr Turchanin