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 left 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".
Film and television
- It was Alice's weapon for slaying the Jabberwocky in the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland.[further explanation needed]
- The vorpal sword, bearing an appearance similar to a khopesh, appears in the TV series 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 episode "Wizard" from the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, the character Finn the Human casts a spell called "vorpal hand" that turns his arm into a sword.
- In the book Daemon, a weapon in the fictional game The Gate a copy of which is owned by the character John Ross.
- Boy Blue from the Fables comic book series is often seen wielding the Vorpal Blade and Witching Cloak (an amalgam of various magic cloaks from fairy tales and folklore).
- 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 specialty in street basketball from USA, is called Jabberwock.
- In the influential 1974 "Dungeons & Dragons" role playing game, a weapon with the Vorpal enhancement is preternaturally sharp and will decapitate any opponent upon the roll of a critical hit.
- In the 1995 video game Tales of Phantasia, the Vorpal Sword is one of the two blades used to form the Eternal Sword
- Shen, a champion in the video game League of Legends, has an ability called "Vorpal Blade".
- The Vorpal Blade is the primary weapon for Alice in American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns, though it takes the appearance of a decorated kitchen knife rather than a sword.
- "Vorpal Blade" is a physical-based skill in the "Persona (series)", appearing in Persona 3 and Persona 4.
- In Halo 5: Guardians a unique energy sword has the name of "Vorpal Talon."
- In the boardgame "Welcome to the Dungeon" three of the four playable characters bear weapons with "Vorpal" in the name ("Vorpal Axe", "Vorpal Sword" and "Vorpal dagger" respectively).