Travellings: Deutschland #20 – The Jabberwocky and Das Nonnenturnier

Apologies for the lack of posts as of late, but things got rather hectic and then came along Christmas and New Year, which were naturally spent in land of tea and crumpets. I then got back to the Bavarian Beer Monster on Monday night and then spent the next day sorting my things out before returning to work for 2 days – today in Bavaria is a Bank Holiday, so I get to finally update this blog before returning to knitting and writing more of the Book of Roo (previously named the Wuzel and the Butterfly).

Shortly before Christmas, I discovered a German translation of the Jabberwocky. Actually, there are several translations, but the one by Christian Enzensberger is my favourite. For those of you who are unacquainted with one of the most frightening monsters of my childhood, the two versions are as follows:

The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

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.

And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

——–

Der Zipferlake von Christian Enzensberger

Verdaustig war’s und glaßen Wieben
rotterten gorkicht im Gemank.
Gar elump war der Pluckerwank,
und die gabben Schweisel frieben.

“Hab acht vorm Zipferlak, mein Kind!
Sein Maul ist beiß, sein Griff ist bohr.
Vorm Fliegelflagel sieh dich vor,
dem mampfen Schnatterrind.”

Er zückt sein scharfgebifftes Schwert,
den Feind zu futzen ohne Saum
und lehnt’ sich an den Dudelbaum
und stand da lang in sich gekehrt.

In sich gekeimt so stand er hier,
da kam verschnoff der Zipferlak
mit Flammenlefze angewackt
und gurgt’ in seiner Gier.

Mit Eins! und Zwei! und bis auf’s Bein!
Die biffe Klinge ritscheropf!
Trennt’ er vom Hals den toten Kopf,
und wichernd sprengt’ er heim.

“Vom Zipferlak hast du uns befreit?
Komm an mein Herz, aromer Sohn!
Oh, blumer Tag! Oh, schlusse From!”
So kröpfte er vor Freud’.

Verdaustig war’s und glaßen Wieben
rotterten gorkicht im Gemank.
Gar elump war der Pluckerwank,
und die gabben Schweisel frieben.

——–

I then found an entire website dedicated to the various translations of the Jabberwocky. So far, I have found the following Polish and French versions – there were several versions for the French, but Frank L. Warrin’sLe Jaseroque” I think is by far the best.

The website is unable to show all of the Polish accents, so I decided to put them in myself for those of you interested:

Dżabbersmok
Maciej Słomczyński

Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne
Świdrokrę tnie na zegwniku wężały,
Peliczaple stały smutcholijne
I zbłąkinie rykoświstąkały.

“Ach, Dżabbersmoka strzeż się, strzeż!
Szponów jak kły i tnących szczęk!
Drżyj, gdy nadpełga Banderzwież
Lub Dżubdżub ptakojęk”

W dłoń ujął migbłystalny miecz,
Za swym pogromnym wrogiem mknie…
Stłumiwszy gniew, wśród Tumtum drzew
W zadumie ukrył się.

Gdy w czarsmutśleniu cichym stał,
Płomiennooki Dżabbersmok
Zagrzmudnił pośród srożnych skał,
Sapgulcząc poprzez mrok!

Raźdwa! Raźdwa! I ciach! I ciach!
Miecz migbłystalny świstotnie!
Leb uciął mu, wziął i co tchu
Galumfująco mknie.

“Cudobry mój, uścisńij mnie,
Gdy Dżabbersmoka ściął twój cios!
O wielny dniu! Kalej! Kalu!”
śmieselił się rad w głos.

Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne
Świdrokrętnie na zegwniku wężały,
Peliczaple stały smutcholijne
I zbłąkinie rykoświstąkały.

If you’re a technical kind of person, I’m sure you’d find the parodies section highly amusing, particularly this version:

Browser Mocky, by “Abacus”

‘Twas busy, and the server tones,
Did beep and buzz all day,
All satisfied were the Netscape users,
And JAVA was okay.

Beware the Browser Mock, my client,
The contracts bind, the pages crash,
Beware Bill Gates, the software giant,
And all his monopoly trash.

They took their presentation boards in hand,
Long time they battled in court,
So struggled on the lawyer band,
Whining as their last resort.

Computer buyers stood aghast,
The Browser Mock, with exploiting ad,
Said that Netscape could not last,
And that made the clients mad!

Internet Exploiter! We hate you!
The browser market was taken back!
A cream pie flew; Bill Gates will sue,
But it made a triumphant whack!

And hast thou deleted the Browser Mock?
Come to my webpage Netscape friend,
And all the JAVA script will rock!
The joyful E-mail will even send!

‘Twas busy, and the server tones,
Did beep and buzz all day,
All satisfied were the Netscape users,
And JAVA was okay.

——–

Anyway, the reason for me mentioning the fact that I had found a German translation of perhaps my favourite poem is the conversation I then had with a friend of mine who told me not to confuse it with the Bavarian word “Zipfel”. “Zipfel” is the Bavarian slang equivalent to “knob” in English. So potentially to a Bavarian, one of the most fearful creatures of my childhood could theoretically be reduced to “knobhead”. He then went on to explain the etymology of the word “Zipfel” and its Mittelalt Deutsch roots. At which point I asked him how it was that he came to know the etymology of such a word – to me, it simply said that 1) he’s a bit weird, and 2) he simply has far too much time on his hands.

The explanation, however, was far more reassuring. He had to translate a medieval German text into Modern German whilst doing his degree. The text, I subsequently discovered, is one of the most bizarre, mind-boggling pieces of literature I think I have ever come across.

The text in question is “Das Nonnenturnier”, which translates roughly as “Nun tournament”. If you think the title’s weird, you wait until I tell you about the plot. I swear you cannot make this stuff up.

Maybe I ought to switch my area of interest from linguistics to literature?

So, the plot goes like this:

There once was a knight who was very popular with women because he was so well endowed. But because this was the only reason why he was popular, he became very depressed.

Now, at this point, I turned to my friend and pointed out that I know several gents who would be more than happy to be in that situation, and I am pretty sure that depressed is the last thing that they would become. But it now starts to get really strange.

In fact, he was so depressed about the whole thing and no longer wanted to be seen as a sexual object, OH THE IRONY. Us women are such users. he decided to lop the bloody thing off.

At which point I simply looked at my friend completely dumbfounded and uttered one word: WHY?

Now, although said appendage was no longer attached, women still wanted it and pursued the knight across the country.

Because, you know, as a woman, controlling my libido is quite frankly beyond me and it’s the only thing on my mind.

He then decided to hide it. In a nunnery. Up a nun’s skirt.

Now, I’m no expert, but I would assume that as a nun, hiding something of that nature up your skirt has several implications. Forget the hygiene issues of hiding amputated male genitalia underneath your skirt, think about the practical implications – mostly how you hide it up your skirt. Somehow I doubt you’d still qualify as a nun. Just putting that thought out there.

So now that the presumed “ex-nun” had decided to almost certainly break a few fundamental convent rules, the knight left his “Zipfel” under her skirt and went off to do heroic deeds and thereby become recognised for the heroic and exemplary individual that he obviously was.

Except the “Zipfel” didn’t like being under her skirt (funnily enough). So it told her and then ran off (Oh, did I forget to mention that this thing could talk and move independently?) – the resulting chaos being a battle-royale of sorts amongst the nuns when it came to light exactly what had been hidden.

At least, I think that’s a plotted synopsis. I stopped listening part-way through because I was laughing too much and my brain was in melt-down while it tried to comprehend the obviously drug-induced plot.

So, with that lovely mental image, I shall leave you all to enjoy your Friday evenings and hope you all have a relaxing weekend.

Preferably without nuns.

Oh, and for those of you who come across my site whilst searching for pictures of raccoons, here’s one for you crazies:

Sleepy raccoon
Sleepeh.
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