- One of my favorites of my films is The Hunting of the Snark. I adapted this from Lewis Carroll’s poem. It was an enigma to the audience when it was first published – Carroll refused to explain its meaning, and it’s an enigma now.
I remember screening it with an audience of fifth graders – about 200 of them along with a number of their parents. The program, in Chicago, was part of a retrospective of some of the children’s films I’d done at the time. I made the decision to show the Snark, even though I wasn’t sure the audience would sit still for it.
The response was amazing. The adults, during the Q&A period, had a lot of questions. The kids had no problems. When, finally, one parent asked me what it was supposed to mean, I decided to turn it around. I asked if one of the kids could answer the question. A lot of kids raised their hands, and the first one gave me the appropriate answer.
A bunch of guys go hunting for a monster________This is how the map was illustrated by
that’ll make them disappear, and one of_________the original illustrator, Henry Holiday.
them catches it. For all intent and purposes
that IS what it’s about.
I love showing this film as part of my programs. It’s easy for me to discuss, and I’m proud of it. I don’t think most animators like it, but that doesn’t bother me.
During the story there’s one key part that all illustrators love to illustrate.
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best–
A perfect and absolute blank!”
A blank page! What could be easier to illustrate? A couple of illustrators have cheated such as this map found on line:
Figure One: Bellman’s Blank Ocean Chart
Barry Smith at the University of Buffalo dept of Philosophy uses this map – a blank slate – to treat it as a map of heaven. Carroll was an Evangelical minister, but I’m confident this is not what he had in mind when he conjured up the lines in the poem.
Mehendra Singh has a website which is slowly illustrating the entire poem. His illustration for this passage appears to the right. This is part of his comment accompanying the illustration.
- Yet another shameless Magritte pastiche, and not the last one to grace these pages, I’ll wager. Shameless — the 10th Muse of Protosurrealism!
Even more shameless — this insistence that the crew of the HMS Snark use the French language for navigational purposes when it is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been lost at sea that English is the natural language of confusion. This is easily verified. Stand on a streetcorner in any francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while pronouncing every phoneme at the utmost decibel level.
Singh has a curious and interesting site in its own right.
Let me encourage you to check it out for all the original illustration on it.
This is how Quentin Blake chose to illustrate it in his version. Since he obviously was nervous about just showing the blank map, he illustrated the Bellman holding it.
This is Ralph Steadman’s version. He went for the gold and just showed the map.
Yet, it’s still, obviously, a Steadman.
This is how I chose to depict it in my film. Showing hands and table behind it,
gave me the opportunity of trucking in to white to transition to the next scene –
an image of the sea, itself.
Doug H. in Australia responded to the material, above, with an e-mail full of other wonderful illustrations of the same part of the poem. I’d like to post some of these illustrations with many thanks to Doug. With respect to all of the illustrators, about half of whom
are unfamiliar names to me. They merit a good look.
___ Just scroll down. Click any image to enlarge a bit.)
______1. Frank Hinder (1989)_______________________2. Harold Jones (1975)
__ 3.__ 4.
______3. Michael Capozzola (2005)_________________4. Kelly Oechsli (1966)
5. John Lord (2006)
______6. Max Ernst ((1950) _______________________7. Jonathan Dixon (1992)
8. Helen Oxenbury (1970)