"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. Nowadays, the term "vorpal", especially when applied to swords, knives, axes or other suitable bladed weapons and implements, means that it is incredibly, almost impossibly, sharp.
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". 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".
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Film and television
- It was the weapon that an ancient prophecy stated would slay 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.
- The eighth episode of the sixth season of Tales of the Unexpected is entitled 'The Vorpal Blade', in which an elderly aristocrat (played by Peter Cushing) recalls a duel fought in Germany in the 1920s, revealing a shocking secret.
- 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 the Kuroko no Basuke - 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 book Glasshouse - By Charles Stross (2006), the vorpal sword is mentioned as an all powerful weapon created with nanotechnology. The blade of the sword, instead of being a fine honed ridge of matter, is actually said to be a concave ridge composed of microscopic wormholes. These wormholes are said to be held static by millions of antimatter generators. The effect is an "edge-less" sword that removes a molecule sized slice from anything the edge comes into contact with.
- In the book Ready Player One - By Ernest Cline (2011), A Combined Samurai Sword/Vorpal Blade is Handed to Shoto as a means to avenge his "Brother" Daito.
- In the webcomic Namesake, namesakes sometimes have vorpal blades which are fueled by the magic and strong feelings of users.
- 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
- In the video game Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, there's a siege unit called "glaive thrower" which has an upgrade called "Vorpal Blades".
- Shen, a champion in the video game League of Legends, had an ability called "Vorpal Blade" before his 2016 rework. Likewise, the champion Cho'Gath has an ability called "Vorpal Spikes".
- In the 2006 video game Heroes of Might & Magic V Creatures called Pit Lords are mentioned to carry Vorpal Swords, which are more effective against stronger opponents.
- 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 Hexen 2 the second weapon of the Paladin class is a "Vorpal sword".
- 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.
- In the RPG game, Adventure Quest, from Artix Entertainment, the Vorpal blade, or in the game known as the, " Vorpal Edge", is an earth based weapon that can be used by both adventurers and Guardians, while only Guardians can sharpen the fabled Vorpal blade inside their respective tower in order to make the blades damage and accuracy rate( "bonus to hit" or BTH ratio) permanently increase.
- Gardner, Martin, ed. (1971) . The Annotated Alice. New York: The World Publishing Company. p. 153.
- "Adventure Time finn's powers". Youtube.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
- "Magic Weapons :: d20srd.org". d20srd.org. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- "dthree/vorpal". GitHub. Retrieved 2016-01-20.