In Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland, I think that teen-age Alice character fights the frightful Jabberwock. At least that's what I understand from trailers and talking with Ramin Setoodeh, a reporter at Newsweek who saw the previews. In our email conversation, Setoodeh wondered who is fighting the Jabberwock in the original John Tenniel illustration in Lewis Carroll's the second Alice book, Through the Looking-Glass.
The question is interesting because if you look at Tenniel's woodcut our contemporary eyes see a girl with a mini-dress and striped stockings. But Victorian girls probably didn't wear that kind of clothing, out of modesty and fashion sense. Yet, the hair looks very much like a girl's, although some boys had long hair at this time. The facial features sort of look like a girl, too.
In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice reads the poem. There are two lines that refer to a male:
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!" (second stanza)
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?/Come to my arms, my beamish boy! (fifth stanza)
These lines clearly suggest that this is a boy fighting. Maybe it's a boy elf. The shoes look very elfish, for Victorians anyway. The entire outfit -- striped stockings, shoes, top and waist pouch -- seems like what an elf or pixie would wear. Then the huge sword would make more sense as an average sword might be big for an elf or pixie.
But it pretty clear that Alice isn't fighting in Carroll's original text. It's not as clear who Tenniel thought was fighting the Jabberwock.
Addendum on Feb 28: In Larry Rohter's article in The New York Times (Feb. 28, 2010), he also discusses this transformation of the Jabberwock image to one of Alice fighting the dragon in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film.
addendum 2 After seeing the film, the ending is a somewhat silly fight between Alice and a Jabberwock, Curiously, Burton's film tries to recreate the original Tenniel drawing in many ways and then it veers off into typical fantasy fight sequence. some may even be frustrated that Alice never tries to practice using the torpal sword. Alice chops off the Jabberwocks's head, a la the Red Queen.