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by Lewis Carroll

Stanza 3 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 9-10

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought–

  • Now we see why there was a warning in the first place. Apparently, the son is going hunting for these creatures. Maybe they are disturbing the otherwise peaceful wood.
  • And what's a vorpal sword? Luckily we have the word sword to tell us that it's a weapon; vorpal is just a modifier here. But what a modifier! It's reminiscent of vortex, warp, and portal. This thing sounds almost like a light-saber. It's no ordinary sword, that's for sure.
  • So our hunter, the hero of the story, goes out into the wild for a long time, to seek (the past tense is sought) the horrible creatures his parent has described to him.
  • One last fiddly word: manxome. Sounds a little bit like a combination between noisome (i.e., "foul") and mangy. That would be about right, it would seem, for evil creatures that one wants to vanquish with a sword.
  • So in short: our hero takes his weapon, heads off, and spends a good long time trying to find these evil creatures.

Lines 11-12

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

  • Thankfully, these lines are starting to get a little bit easier to comprehend.
  • We might not know what a Tumtum tree is, but the rest of these lines are very clear.
  • Our hero has been seeking his foes for a while, and is now taking a break.
  • So he rests by the tree, and loses himself thinking for a little while.
  • He might be thinking about how best to find these scary beasts. Or how he might best conquer them. Or maybe just about how tired he is.

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