Vorpal sword

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Vorpal" redirects here. For the plasma physics software, see VORPAL. For Epyx Vorpal fastloading, see Epyx FastLoad.
John Tenniel's original illustration of "Jabberwocky" from Through the Looking-Glass features the hero's vorpal sword.

"Vorpal sword" and "vorpal blade" are phrases used by Lewis Carroll in his nonsense poem "Jabberwocky", which have been taken up in several other media.

Context and definition[edit]

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.

And later,

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". 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".[1]

Popular culture[edit]

Film and television[edit]


  • In the book Daemon, a weapon in the fictional game The Gate a copy of which is owned by the character John Ross.
  • In the book 'Sign of Chaos' by Roger Zelazny, a sorcerer named Merlin uses the Vorpal Sword to slay a Fire Angel, which was previously wounded by a Jabberwock. Having been pulled into a drug induced magic trip by his friend Luke, Merlin finds himself in a bar, where the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and multiple other characters from Carroll's work are having a party. Upon the arrival of the Jabberwock, the Cheshire Cat says to use the Vorpal Sword to slay it, putting it on the bar. It is then that the Fire Angel appears.
  • 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.[3]


  • 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.[4]
  • 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". Likewise, the champion Cho'Gath has an ability called "Vorpal Spikes".
  • 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).
  • In the highly acclaimed computer game Dungeon Master, a "Vorpal Blade" is the only weapon that can inflict damage on "non-material beings", such as elementals and ghosts.


  • Vorpal.js is a framework for building immersive command-line applications in Node.js.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gardner, Martin, ed. (1971) [1960]. The Annotated Alice. New York: The World Publishing Company. p. 153. 
  2. ^ "Adventure Time finn's powers". Youtube.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Mangago.me
  4. ^ "Magic Weapons :: d20srd.org". d20srd.org. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "dthree/vorpal". GitHub. Retrieved 2016-01-20.