Friday, 10 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 10

This is a really, REALLY long chapter. I had a funny feeling that it was going to take a little while to get through. Luckily it’s not all pages and pages of text, there’s some pictures of sorts in there too. It’s still a pretty long chapter though, hold on tight.

What Happens?

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter heading of this chapter is sort of shunted over to one side because of the picture on this page. It’s a long narrow one which runs right down the side of the page. It’s pretty effective at showing the long, empty elevator shaft. At the top of the picture, standing at the opening at the top, is Esme Squalor and then it’s all dark brick all the way down to the single hand which is waving up from the bottom. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Esme is going to show her true colours here.

The action picks up with Klaus explaining his suspicions to Esme who seemed rather reluctant to actually start listening to it in the first place. It seems like a good sign that they aren’t told to shut up or that they’re making things up, as has often happened before. They’re able to tell her everything; V.F.D., the Quagmires, the cage, who Gunther really is, the full works.

What’s more, she actually seems to have taken in every word that they’ve told her. She even repeats this pertinent points back to the Baudelaires to check she understands correctly. Each child confirms that what she is saying is right, Sunny contributes a “Kaxret” meaning “You got it, Esme.”

To my great surprise Esme then says that they will head to Veblen Hall and get everything sorted immediately. This is not what I have come to expect from the Baudelaires questionable guardians. I was half expecting to turn the page and get a ‘just kidding’ message from Snicket who could then proceed to outline exactly what happened when the strange turn of events was revealed to Esme.

So Esme leads the Baudelaires out of the penthouse towards the elevator and things seem a little bit unnerving. Esme tells them they’ll be neither walking down the staircase, nor sliding down the bannister. She then keeps a tight hold on the children so they can’t get away. As if this isn't disconcerting, she then tells them they'll be taking the elevator and presses the button for the Up elevator.

Is this ringing alarm bells for anyone yet?

Seconds later the Baudelaires are being pushed down the deep, dark elevator shaft. To help illustrate what this feels like this is followed by two pages containing nothing but black rectangles. A picture's worth a thousand words and all that!

Sometimes words are not enough. There are some circumstances so utterly wretched that I cannot describe them in sentences or paragraphs or even a whole series of books, and the terror and woe that the Baudelaire orphans felt after Esme pushed them into the elevator shaft is one of those most dreadful circumstances that can be represented only with two pages of utter blackness.

Basically the descent into the depths of 667 Dark Avenue is pretty damn scary, but luckily instead of splatting into the bottom of the shaft or the cage which had held the Quagmires, they hit a net. This is quite the stroke of luck. Sunny sums it up quite well when she says "Spenset" meaning "We're alive."

Any thoughts they might have had about the worst being over are dashed by Esme Squalor who is still standing above them. She knows exactly where they are and she and Gunther/Olaf will be back for them later. It turns out that Olaf is her former acting teacher. I always thought there was something decidedly Olafish about her.

Surprisingly this comes as a bit of a shock to the Baudelaires who cannot believe she's been leading them all on since the beginning of the book. You'd think they'd be better at spotting which guardians are in cahoots with Olaf by now, wouldn't you? Sunny's response to all this news is "Zisalem!" which Violet translates as "You're our guardian! You're supposed to be keeping us safe, not throwing us down elevator shafts and stealing our fortune!" which is quite a lot to squeeze into three syllables!

Apparently Beatrice stole something from Esme and that's why she's being horrible to the Baudelaires. That's a totally justifiable reason for being horrible to the children that have been placed in your care.

"Dielee?" Sunny asks which is apparently not a way of asking if they are going to die here, but actually means "What are we going to do?" This sounds like a job for Violet! Except she needs a bit of help from Klaus to tell her if there were any times in history with traps like this one but all he can think of is myths and legends. Sunny sagely observes "Glaucus" meaning "But we can't do that" regarding turning the net into a whirlpool.

Violet is worried because she doesn't have any tools to turn into an invention. And she can't even use their net to help because without it they'll fall. Sunny starts trying to help though. First she says "Gyzan?" which is about the pegs holding up the net. Then it's "Tholc?" meaning "Like teeth?" because the walls have had something sharp stuck into them.

Any ideas what Sunny is suggesting here?

Of course the infant wants to climb the walls using her teeth like crampons. That doesn't require any suspension of disbelief at all, does it?

"Yoigt" she says, meaning "But if I fall, I'll just fall back into the net." and later "Vasta" when Klaus worries that she might lose a tooth (meaning "I'll just have to risk it - it's our only hope") And unfortunately for them, Sunny is right. So off she goes, climbing up the wall by sinking her teeth into the soft wall.

We get a little more Sunny-speak here. The word "Soried" means "So far so good" and "Yaff" means "I think I've reached the halfway point." The word "Top!" goes untranslated, it kind of speaks for itself. Up at the top, as thought she hasn't taken on enough responsibility already, Sunny is instructed to go find the cord they used earlier to climb down. Sunny replies with "Ganba" which goes untranslated but which I suspect means "What would you do without me?!"

We also get a full page picture here. It doesn't really make it any clearer how Sunny manages the whole climbing with her teeth thing. It shows her just climbing over the brink, teeth sunk into the edge of the lift shaft as she pulls herself up towards the checked floor. You'd think Esme would've closed the doors to the lift shaft; it would certainly shut out the light to make it a lot scarier for the Baudelaires down at the bottom of the shaft.

Alone in the shaft Klaus and Violet consider just how brave little Sunny is. She's definitely advanced for her age. In no time at all she's back with a cry of "Tada!"

And Klaus has had an idea. If they climb up the only place for them to go is the penthouse, Sunny asks "Ditemu" meaning "What other way is there?"; if they climb down they can go along the mysterious passageway. After all, the Quagmires didn't come up the shaft, therefore they must have gone along the corridor. Sunny's response to this is "Geronimo!" which does not mean the obvious, but instead "I don't need to bite my way back down." This trip down is a lot more fun than the last trip down because Sunny knows that she's not going to go splat when she hits the bottom.

"What can I do?" Klaus asked.
"You can pray this works," Violet said, but the Baudelaire sisters were so quick with their tasks that there was no time for even the shortest of religious ceremonies.

Hehe, I love this.

Anyway, soon they're off down the shaft on the rope again, remembering all the terrible things that have happened to them since that day on the beach when they learned about the fire. Sunny sums it all up quite succinctly with "Olaf". She's really starting to make a lot more sense now than she has in the past. I feel like a lot less of her speech actually needs to be translated now.

Remember the really bent 'welding torches' from way back in the beginning of the last chapter? Well Violet suggests they pick these up to use as weapons should they meet anybody unsavory in the corridor. I'm thinking that's a wise suggestion. I'd be willing to bet that Olaf would leave some of his people hanging around to guard the entrance.

And with that, we leave the children walking (and crawling) down the corridor, fire tongs in hand, and hopefully ready to face whatever is waiting for them at the other end.

Just what is that? Well, we'll find out next week!

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