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The Hunting of the Snark

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The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll’s classic masterpiece of nonsense verse, takes the reader on a wonderfully witty and inventive hunt for the ever-elusive Snark. The tantalizing mysteries of the poem are here perfectly matched in these brilliant new illustrations by artist Mahendra Singh, who has created a visual treasure hunt, full of riddles, puns, and allusions.

When asked what his poem meant, Carroll would always reply that he did not know. But, on one occasion, he did write to friends that perhaps “…the whole book is an allegory on the search for happiness.”

“To seek it with thimbles, to seek it with care;
To pursue it with forks and hope,
To threaten its life with a railway-share;
To charm it with smiles and soap!”

96 pages, Hardcover

First published April 16, 1876

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About the author

Lewis Carroll

1,869 books7,479 followers
The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican clergyman and photographer.

His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass as well as the poems "The Hunting of the Snark" and "Jabberwocky", all considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense.

Oxford scholar, Church of England Deacon, University Lecturer in Mathematics and Logic, academic author of learned theses, gifted pioneer of portrait photography, colourful writer of imaginative genius and yet a shy and pedantic man, Lewis Carroll stands pre-eminent in the pantheon of inventive literary geniuses.

He also has works published under his real name.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 507 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
603 reviews87.3k followers
July 30, 2017
Absolute nonsense, which is to be expected with Carroll. I love how his writing brings me back to being a kid again. Obviously loved it!
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,106 reviews3,878 followers
February 17, 2022
The narrative poem is great fun, albeit not as startlingly so as the more famous Jabberwocky. However, I was given this because it’s the 1941 version illustrated by Mervyn Peake, my favourite author, whose illustrations I also love (see my Gormenghast-related shelf, HERE). My rating is for the combination of words and pictures.

You could analyse the meaning of this poem ad infinitum, including whether it has one - or needs one. I expect people have, and that they enjoyed doing so. However, I just relished the exuberant, and sometimes surprisingly clever, silliness of it all, without wanting to dissect it too much.

There’s a clear but nonsensical plot: a fantastical quest with a blank map.
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

It is packed with non-sequiturs and odd combinations. Snarks get up late, are slow to get jokes, are fond of bathing machines, and while most “do no manner of harm”, some are Boojums, and that’s not good. Hunting them requires an odd selection of tools.

Image: Soap, smile, thimbles, and fork.
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Bellman has a very motley crew: ten, including him, all named after their job, except the lace-making Beaver: Butcher, Baker, Barrister, Banker, and four barely mentioned: Boots, Broker, a maker of Bonnets, and, most bizarrely, a Billiard-marker (yes, maRker, not maker).

Image: Bellman, Beaver, and some of the crew.

I understand the individual words and most of the sentences.
There are more than half a dozen words coined for Jabberwocky that convey meaning in a more visceral and elusive way.
And there are a few ordinary words used in less ordinary ways:
And the Bellman cried “Silence! Not even a shriek!”
And excitedly tingled his bell.

The rhythm and rhyme scheme bounces along with familiarity, even though it’s not consistent.
A non-English speaker could enjoy listening to it.
All the verses are four lines, but some have an internal rhyme in the third, and if split there, the form is more like a Limerick.
So engrossed was the Butcher, he heeded them not,
As he wrote with a pen in each hand,
And explained all the while in a popular style
Which the Beaver could well understand.

Image: The porcine-faced Butcher teaching the Beaver.

Read it

You can read the whole poem, albeit without illustrations, here.

Image: The Banker and a Bandersnatch.

Bonus sketches

Just shared on Instagram:

Image: "The Hunting of the Snark sketches by Mervyn Peake" (Source)
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
September 23, 2014
"You must read this book!" the Reviewer cried,
As he searched for a suitable rhyme
But as long as he stole more than half of the words
He was sure he would get there in time.

The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
July 6, 2022
In Carroll's prescient fable, the Bellman's crew, evidently the Conservative Party, set out on an ambitious voyage guided by a completely blank map. They are convinced that, if only they can find the right way to troll the opposition, their fortunes will be assured. But all too late they discover that the longed-for Snark is in fact a BoJo.

[Is this right? - Ed.]
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,897 followers
January 26, 2018
Well, I gave TV a chance today. However, I found Titanic, Terminator 3, reality shows and other stuff, so, those aren't real options for me. I have no sitcoms to watch right now. Although, I'm kind of tired of watching the same sitcoms/tv series all the time. There's nothing new now. Once Upon a Time is on, so that's a good background sound. What to do on a Saturday afternoon? Yes. Let's find something out of the ordinary to read. And what did I find? A brilliant, typical Carroll nonsense poem. I loved it. Such a unique and fascinating work, full of wit, mystery and absurdity. A bunch of weird men go to find an even weirder creature called Snark. Among those men, we have a Bellman, a Boots, a Barrister, a Broker, a Beaver, a Butcher who only can kill beavers and even a guy who forgot his name!
He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"

Well, I think it's funny, don't judge me. It's also amusing the way the Snark it's described. It seems we may have met a couple of Snarks in our lives.
The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun.

I know I did!

Anyway, after reading this poem (it has beautiful illustrations, too), I started to search for meanings, a classic “What the hell did I just read?” kind of questions. So this journey doesn't end with the last verse.

There are a couple of references from another poem written by Carroll, Jabberwocky, published in his novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, which I read years ago. I re-read it and it made me want to read the whole novel again! And no, there's no shame in that. 'Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again', another Lewis said. I never stopped reading those, anyway.

Jan 11, 14
* Also on my blog.
December 28, 2017
The hunting of the snark, is something that ideally, should definitely be devoured in one sitting. This poem is a poem made of wit, but at the same time, it's pure nonsense. But the nonsense, I think, is what makes it so damn good.
I am a huge Alice in wonderland fan, but I had never gotten round to reading this. The poem is split into eight parts, and is titled, "An agony in eight fits" Now, the title is attractive in itself, regardless of the contents. Only Lewis Carroll would use such a title!
The verses and the rhymes certainly captivate the deliciousness of the imagination (if one will let it) I am that woman that as a child, used to have "The Jabberwocky" read as a bedtime story, who adores disappearing grinning cats, and, truly, really wants to jump down a rabbit hole. Yes, seriously. I do!
Profile Image for Trish.
1,876 reviews3,382 followers
January 2, 2017
Lewis Carroll doesn't really need an introduction. Having brought us the fantastic world of Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, he is not only one of the most well-known authors of classic children's literature, but must have been one of the most inventive and imaginative people on the planet.

Apart from his novels, he also wrote this poem. I must admit to not having known about it. It was during my visit to Munich where I met Chris Riddell that I found out about The Hunting of the Snark since this pretty little edition was illustrated by the Children's Laureate (his publisher, Macmillan, has been Carroll's publisher so I think that is how this project came about) and some of the illustrations were shown in Munich.

The poem is about a merry and very quirky band of people hunting for the elusive Snark.
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They persued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

They aren't really equipped for the job, there's lots of silliness and downright nonsense (signature Carroll) but all in good fun and beautiful rhymes. After seven "fits" we come to a somewhat abrupt and weird ending.

But that's the greatest thing about Carroll: there is no limit to one's imagination and he wants you to use it ALL.

As Dr. Seuss once said: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.”
This poem definitely does just that with all the different characters, places and ideas that were mixed together here.
Profile Image for Mark.
393 reviews302 followers
January 9, 2012
Another book I picked up at the Tate last week in Liverpool. More of the Tove Jansson nostalgic illustrations and a beautiful edition which sat happily in my hands last night as I read it aloud in bed. Thank God i live alone. The wonderful tumble of Carroll's rythmic pulsing verse is such fun to burble out and some of the verses made me smile out loud

'He thought of his childhood, left far far behind-
That blissful and innocent state-
The sound so exactly recalled to his mind
A pencil that squeaks on a slate!'


'the method employed I would gladly explain,
while i have it so clear in my head,
If i had but the time and you had but the brain -
But much yet remains to be said'

Pure nonsense poetry would not satisfy me for a very long time but then it is never supposed to but this is a fun stopping off point between books of more mind taxing sense or more genuine sadness.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,090 followers
January 16, 2021
"For the Snark WAS a Boojum, you see."

Technically the above quote is a spoiler, but I'm not going to tag it. It makes the exact same amount of sense in context that it makes out of context, which is to say none. And that is precisely what Carroll intended.

This "agony in eight fits" follows a group of adventurers - including a bellman, a banker, a butcher, and a beaver with a gift for sewing - braving the high seas and uncharted lands to find a beast (or bird, the text doesn't exactly clarify) called a Snark. Why do they need the Snark? What will they do if they catch it? The poem has no idea, nor does it care. It's probably intended to spoof lengthy adventure poems like "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

(I wonder if the sewing Beaver in this inspired the sewing Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. )

If you enjoyed the bizarre poems from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass , you will definitely enjoy this. Weird, funny, and full of Carroll's signature made-up words and zaniness. Recommended.
Profile Image for Neva.
Author 52 books528 followers
February 5, 2015
"Те го будеха с кифлички, будеха с лед,
те го будеха с мед и горчица,
те го будеха с троскот и мъдър съвет -
и с числа в непонятна редица..."

Едно най-хубавите неща, които някога съм чела. Когато много умен и начетен човек разказва дивотии с ноншалантен вид и имаме късмета да го преведе много умен и начетен човек, положението става неудържимо радостно. Да не говорим ако цели двама много умни и вещи илюстратори са се погрижили да е интересно и за окото.

Като най-доброто от "Монти Пайтън", но в чисто литературна версия.

("И тук Адвокатът цитира делата,
в които едно плетиво,
изведено в довод, твори правен повод
на апелативно ниво.")

"На лов за снарк" безцелно и невъзмутимо намира иглата в купата сено, развърта се наоколо и с нея закача в тълпата единствения човек с безумен гъдел, от който тръгва такава вълна смях, че скоро целият свят се превива - ей така, за нищо, и все пак...

Противопоказано за снаркове:
"И трето, той никак не е духовит,
макар да полага старание.
Каламбура посреща с безпомощен вид
и изпраща шегите с мълчание."

P.S. Обяснителните бележки на Кристин Димитрова ми доставиха изключително удоволствие. Достойно продължение на майсторската работа, свършена в превода.

P.P.S. Понеже ВСИЧКО ми с�� стори съвършено, ще кажа само, че Пристъп шести е единственият, който сякаш съдържа 3 изключения, потвърждаващи правилото. Не съм сигурна, че на български "дезертирам" може да се употреби като преходен (без предлог) и с място (прасето, "дезертирало" кочината си). В съдебните понятия - "домен" и "жури" ми се виждат калка от английски.
Profile Image for Tom LA.
591 reviews224 followers
October 3, 2022
A great, bright, sparkly work of Victorian nonsense!
Profile Image for Mahendra Singh.
Author 46 books7 followers
April 1, 2013
Great poem but the illustrator is a debauched, discombubulated fool whose asemic scribblings and ink-blottings cannot stand up to even the most puerile graphical ravings of a den of opium-besotted thuggees, or even the currently uber-hip artiste visually polluting the cover of the New Yorker. Which ever one's worst, that's the one that this artist is worserer than.

Frankly, I think there's something funny about the whole business and I wouldn't be surprised if there's prison time and/or stiff financial penalties comin' down the pike for a certain someone.
Profile Image for Michael.
539 reviews119 followers
December 9, 2020
Mervyn Peake's illustrations for The Hunting of the Snark emphasise the absurd and grotesque elements of Carroll's verse, whilst those of Jansson its otherworldly and hauntingly ethereal aspects. Although Peake is just a shade ahead for me, I do love Jansson's take on this classic piece of nonsense.
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
683 reviews
October 16, 2022
La caccia allo Snark è un poemetto di poche pagine, accompagnato da illustrazioni simpatiche e grottesche, dove una ciurma va alla ricerca dello sconosciuto Snark, un essere uscito da chissà quale mente...
Sinceramente ho fatto davvero fatica ad entrare nella storia, letto e riletto diverse volte, specialmente l'inizio. Forse perchè quando una storia si svolge in poche frasi, è difficile entrarne subito in sintonia, oppure perchè l'autore dissemina detto e non-detto a profusione o semplicemente perchè il non-sense qui è molto marcato? Tutto insieme sarà la risposta?
Mi è rimasto un po' l'amaro in bocca, perchè ero sempre lì a dirmi, "ora parte, ora si sblocca qualcosa, ora iniziamo ad entrare nella storia", come mi era successo con Alice, tuffandomi nella buca del Coniglio ed invece questa volta ne son rimasto in mezzo, come nel limbo, ascoltando la storia come da lontano.
Comunque son contento di averlo letto, perchè m'incuriosiva da tempo e la scrittura di Carroll è sempre molto immaginifica e umoristica allo stesso tempo, con un sottofondo magico e disincantato che penso sia unico. Di certo leggerò altro dell'autore!
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,023 followers
January 6, 2020
This was fun to listen to. Whimsical & used for many references today, it's worth the 30 minutes. I didn't listen to this edition, but this one is free. Mine was too since it was from the library. Narrated by Pierre Moreau. I see there is one narrated by Boris Karloff. I'm going to look around & see what others I can find. Definitely recommended!

The Wikipedia entry is worth reading, too.
Profile Image for Shainlock .
720 reviews
September 27, 2017
The rhyme and verse are very pleasing. I like L.C. with his wide-grinning cats that disappear, jabberwocky, bandersnatch, and all, and so now it is on to this mysterious creature.
I had to reread the last part a few times, but it seems this creature has a special ability not mentioned. Some are perfectly safe in its company and some, are not.
Profile Image for Libby.
Author 5 books42 followers
January 25, 2012
Five stars for both content, Lewis Carroll's sublimely weird nonsense epic about an ill-fated hunting mission by a group of bizarre characters, and edition, which contains Martin Gardner's playfully brilliant introduction, extensive annotations, and appendices. Carroll says of his eight fits of Snarkdom that there is no real symbolism- the Snark is just a Snark. Or more precisely, a Boojum. Numerous scholars have pooh-poohed this, arguing that no Victorian writer can understand how he is influenced by his time, insisting that the Snark-hunt is an analog for any number of human journeys that ultimately end in ruin (e.g., seeking material wealth or advanced social position, life in general). And Gardner gives their arguments due consideration, including a discursively hilarious parody of Snarxist academia in an appendix. But my favorite theory has to be Gardner's, that the Snark, to contemporary readers, most closely represents existential nonbeing, not so much because I agree with it, but because it perfectly captures the zeitgeist of 1962, when the world was one thumb on a button away from nuclear annihilation, or softly and suddenly vanishing away, not to be met with again. The annotations also offer good intellectual chills throughout. Gardner's edition is a must for any Carroll Lover.

Profile Image for DivaDiane.
933 reviews84 followers
August 29, 2020
Well, that was entertaining. I’m sure there is a lot of subtext that I’m missing, but just the perfect rhyming verses were fun to read. Not as many nonsense words as Jabberwocky, but a similarly silly poem.
Profile Image for Carola.
287 reviews
January 9, 2018
Desconocía la existencia de este libro/poema. La edición que leí incluía en la parte final un anexo de cartas muy informativo. Me gustó saber cómo se gestó las aventuras de Alicia en la cabeza del autor (me sorprendio saber que Carroll era meticuloso como yo). Algo que me chocó bastante, y me dio mucho pudor y un poco de 'guálaca', fue la forma en que Lewis se refería a sus 'amiguitas', niñas de menos de 10 años, pues lo hacía con tanta pasión e idealización que tendría mucho sentido si es que -como se muestra en un documental de la BBC- era un pedófilo (no confundir con pederasta. Pedofilia: atracción erótica o sexual que una persona adulta siente hacia niños o adolescentes / Pederastia: abuso sexual cometido con niños.).

Cuando la verdadera Alicia de carne y hueso cuenta de que su madre le rompió todas las cartas que Carroll le había mandado cuando aún ella era una niña, enseguida pensé 'mmmmmm' y me dieron ñáñaras. Aunque no se sabe qué pasó, hubo un quiebre entre la familia de Alicia y el diácono (no era reverendo, aunque así se le trataba) y yo sospecho que algo grave sucedió. El equipo de investigación de la BBC, que revisó acuciosamente material de archivo de Carroll que había quedado en el olvido, "descubrió una fotografía que muestra a la hermana mayor de Alicia, Lorina, completamente desnuda y en una postura indecorosa. La imagen fue descubierta en un museo francés y en ella aparece una inscripción en la que se atribuye su autoría a Lewis Carroll". Yo sospecho que por ahí anda la cosa, eso pudo haber generado la ira de la madre y el quiebre definitivo con los padres de Alicia.

Dejando ese ''detallito'' aparte, solo puedo decir que las historias sinsentido, ridículas y/o estúpidas -pero bien contadas- me encantan.
Profile Image for Petya Kokudeva.
133 reviews151 followers
December 26, 2013
Сигурно има много начини да се влюбиш в нонсенса (и по-точно в nonsense verse-a), но моят беше през Едуард Лиър, Огдън Наш и Луис Карол - именно с The Hunting of the Snark. Толкова причудлива сплав от искрен смях и ненатраплив, самоироничен смисъл рядко се среща. Но да не се отплесвам. "На лов за Снарк" на български е истинско пиршество! Майсторски преведена откъм ритъм и стъпка, безукорна в римите (а на места изобилства от тях, има и вътрешноредови даже).

Кристин Димитрова, преводач; Владимир Трендафилов, редактор. Шапки долу!На българското издание давам пет звездички, а не 4, както на оригинала, заради надеждата повече прекрасни чужди творения да си намерят така добре мястото на родния ни език.
Profile Image for Keith.
807 reviews31 followers
July 19, 2015
This is the epitome of nonsense verse and the measure by which I compare all others. The verse is beautifully and nimbly handled without sacrificing the humor or the nonsense.

My version has Martin Gardner's annotations which are helpful, but not necessary. Nonsense isn't supposed to make sense!

I highly recommend this book for adults, children, and pets. It is one of my favorite books that I've re-read several dozen times.

(Added note: Boris Karloff has an excellent reading of this that is available on Amazon as a download. I highly recommend it. He does a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the poem. And it's only 99 cents!)
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,166 reviews190 followers
April 28, 2018
This excellent "nonsense poem" by Lewis Carroll deserves all of its cult status and then some! This particular edition includes brilliant surrealistic illustrations by Mahendra Singh.
It is a perfect (necessary?) companion to his other classics "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass".
Profile Image for MK.
279 reviews61 followers
October 2, 2018
I read this because of multiple chapter epigraphs from the poem in The Gray House, by Mariam Petrosyan. Glad I did, I wouldn't have otherwise, I don't think. It's cute, funny, silly, the source of nonsense words we still use today, and quick!
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,361 reviews455 followers
July 14, 2014
Not this particular edition (which is cooler than the first one I read). I c9ollected various Carroll editions, so actually, I don't know which one I fell in love with first.
Profile Image for Dani Dányi.
414 reviews52 followers
October 17, 2019
Zseniális! Szakadtam! Ezt minden évben el fogom olvasni. Olyan, mint valami teljesen váratlan és nagyvonalú jutalom, hogy vetted a fáradságot megtanulni olvasni angolul.
Profile Image for Amy (Other Amy).
452 reviews87 followers
April 27, 2016
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land;
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

The map, of course, is blank. Much of this poem is absence, but where The Jabberwocky fills absence with vague nonsense that somehow expands to suggest a world of dread, the story of the snark simply isn't, until it is, and that was not enough to carry the thing for me. However, this is a fun read, and as I'm turning it over I find the ending terrifying, just somehow anticlimactic. A Snark is not a Jabberwock, much as we might wish otherwise.

The illustrations by Lipchenko in this particular edition are gorgeous and well worth seeking out. (I regret that I am not enough of a techno wiz to put a sample in to see.)
Profile Image for Denz.
38 reviews18 followers
November 13, 2015
обяснителните бележки! <3
марш всички да гугълвате портманто думи, луискароловизми и Kofferwörter!
Profile Image for Greg.
73 reviews14 followers
July 15, 2014
The best, and certainly the only, nonsense epic poem I've ever read. Found this at Lit. Fest in Chicago, only $8. A steal. I infer that an annotated version of anything is based on scholarly research, so it's funny to me that such a sensical approach was taken to analyze something so nonsensical. But hey, what's more nonsensical than that? It is insightful though, with the illumination of his portmanteau terms, late 19th century vernacular, and such. Did I mention I love this poem? It is hilarious, wonderfully written, and also creepy. The original Victorian illustrations lend to the creepiness pretty well, they're terrific. I wonder what Carroll was tripping on when he wrote this.
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