Context and definition
Carroll published Through the Looking-Glass in 1871. Near the beginning, Alice discovers and reads the poem "Jabberwocky", which Humpty Dumpty later attempts to explain, to her increasing consternation. One of the poem's several nonsense adjectives. "vorpal" is twice used to describe the sword a young hero employs to slay the poem's titular monster:
- He took his vorpal sword in hand,
- longtime the manxsome foe he sought
- So rested he by the Tum-Tum Tree
- And stood awhile in thought.
- One, two! One, two! And through and through
- The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
- He struck it dead, and with its head
- He went galumphing back.
As with much of the poem's vocabulary, the reader is left to guess at the meaning of "vorpal" from the context. As befits the sword in a heroic ballad, "vorpal" is frequently assumed to mean deadly or sharp, and has taken this meaning in several other media (see section below). Carroll himself explained that many of the poem's words were portmanteau words playfully combining existing words from English, such that "frumious" meant "fuming and furious," "mimsy" meant "flimsy and miserable" and "slithy" meant "lithe and slimy" (toves are quite slithy). Carroll seems never to have supplied meaning for "vorpal", at one point writing, "I am afraid I can't explain 'vorpal blade' for you—nor yet 'tulgey wood,'" although Alexander L. Taylor notes (in his Carroll biography The White Knight) that "vorpal" can be formed by taking letters alternately from "verbal" and "gospel".
The vorpal sword, bearing an appearance similar to a khopesh, appears in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland as the weapon used to imprison the Jabberwocky; when impaled with it, she is rendered immobile and her powers are neutralized. It is held by Jafar rather than Alice in this series.
In the book Daemon, a weapon in the fictional game The Gate a copy of which is owned by the character John Ross.
In Kuroko no Basket - Extra Game manga, the new dream team consists of Kuroko, Kagami, Akashi, Midorima, Aomine, Murasakibara, and Kise named VORPAL SWORD. The new opponent they face, which has speciality in street basketball from USA, is called Jabberwock.
Shen, a champion in the videogame League of Legends, has an ability called "Vorpal Blade".
- Gardner, Martin, ed. (1971) . The Annotated Alice. New York: The World Publishing Company. p. 153.
- "Magic Weapons :: d20srd.org". d20srd.org. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- "Adventure Time finn's powers". Youtube.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014.