Context and definition
Carroll published Through the Looking-Glass in 1871. Near the beginning, Alice discovers and reads "Jabberwocky". The word "vorpal" appears twice in the poem, which describes a young boy's quest to slay a monster called the Jabberwock:
- He took his vorpal sword in hand:
- One, two! One, two! And through and through
- The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
- He left it dead, and with its head
- He went galumphing back.
As with much of the rest of the poem's vocabulary, the reader is left to guess at the meaning of "vorpal" from the context. It is commonly assumed to mean "deadly" or "sharp", but could also be referring to the material of which the sword is composed. Some readers have imagined other properties the word could describe. Alexander L. Taylor points out in his Carroll biography The White Knight that "vorpal" can be formed by taking letters alternately from "verbal" and "gospel".
Carroll himself once wrote, "I am afraid I can't explain 'vorpal blade' for you—nor yet 'tulgey wood.'"
In the game Dungeons & Dragons, a Vorpal Sword is defined as a sword with the magical effect that has a 10% chance to cut off opponents' heads upon striking. The Vorpal blade is the primary weapon in American McGee's Alice and Alice Madness Returns. The Vorpal Sword is one of the many weapons found in the first Final Fantasy video game, released for the NES console in 1987. In the computer game League of Legends, Vorpal Blade is an ability of the champion Shen, and Vorpal Spikes is an ability of the champion Cho'Gath. The Vorpal Sword appears in the graphic novel series Fables in which the sword has the mythical property of cutting through any known object.
In Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East, the Pit Lord's ability Vorpal Sword means at least one creature of the opposing stack must die during an attack. In the original PlayStation game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the Vorpal Blade is a single handed sword dropped by the Archer enemy that "Slices cleanly through enemies". In the PlayStation 2 games PERSONA 3 and PERSONA 4, Vorpal Blade is one of the most powerful slash-attribute skills that a Persona can learn.
In the original Bard's Tale video game, a character of the Magician class could cast a level 1 spell called "Vorpal Plating", allowing the weapon (or hands) of a party member to do additional damage.
Several popular mods for the popular PC game Minecraft include a Vorpal enchantment which can be placed on swords and gives a chance for any enemy or player killed by said sword to drop a displayable head item.
It was Alice's weapon for slaying the Jabberwocky in the movie Alice in Wonderland.
The Vorpal Blade is used by Boy Blue and other fables in Vertigo's comic book series Fables.
The Vorpal Set is used in the game Lineage 2 as a high-end armour set.
- Gardner, Martin, ed. (1971) . The Annotated Alice. New York: The World Publishing Company. pp. 195–196.