Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 2

We kicked off the first chapter of The Grim Grotto yesterday and saw the Baudelaires climb aboard a mysterious submarine where someone on board knew who they were. Today we’ll hopefully learn who it is inside.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires learn they they are on board the Queequeg, captained by Captain Widdershins and crewed by his stepdaughter, Fiona, and a familiar face, Phil. The children learn about his personal philosophy, are assigned jobs to do around the sub, and discovery that they are now on the mission to find something important.

Thoughts as I read:

So our image which opens the chapter is of a bunch of pipes, presumably inside the submarine. It’s rather worrying to see the number of drips coming from these pipes. I’m not sure I’d want to be inside a leaky submarine!

On with the story and the Baudelaires are following the mysterious voice which inviting them into the mysterious submarine:

“Aye! Mind the ladder! Close the hatch behind you! Don’t rush! No – take your time! Don’t fall! Mind your step! Aye! Don’t trip! Don’t make noise! Don’t scare me! Don’t look down! No – look where you’re going! Don’t bring any flammable liquids with you! Watch your feet! Aye! No – watch your back! No – watch your mouth! No – watch yourselves! Aye!”

Sounds like someone who could’ve been friends with Aunt Josephine!

The voice continues to give instructions/warnings. I’m not going to repeat them all here since they go on for another page or so. Suffice to say that the voice is not scary or menacing, we’re told that it sounds a little bit ‘scattered’ so I’m guessing we’re going to meet someone jovial and somewhat absent-minded.

Sunny makes it into the room first of all and meets a man wearing some sort of shiny suit with a big moustache. He announces the Baudelaires as they come in, basically saying what he sees. I kind of like him already, he seems like fun. Violet tries to introduce herself but he already knows all about her and he doesn’t even believe the reports from The Daily Punctilio. He’s definitely a good guy… I think.

Then the stranger takes off down the corridor and the Baudelaires follow him because they don’t really have anywhere else to go, considering this person doesn’t seem to think they’re murderers and until this moment they’ve been travelling down a river on a sledge. The man is still burbling away to himself, telling them about the submarine and the crew and the special suits that they’re wearing.

And then he decides to introduce himself, he’s Captain Widdershins. Oh, and we learn that the submarine is the Queequeg. See, I knew there was going to be a Moby Dick reference in here somewhere! He’s even given the place a funky little nickname ‘the Submarine Q and Its Crew of Two’. And I had a funny feeling he’d know Josephine, he’s familiar with her and Lake Lachrymose. He thinks about her every day ‘Except some days when it slips my mind!’

Widdershins seems to speak entirely in exclamations, everything he says is followed by an exclamation point. I have no idea why he does this, but I like it. He’s a great character and I love him a little bit already.

Sunny finally speaks up and says ‘Nottooti?’ which Violet is quick to translate as ‘she’s curious to know how you know so much about us.’ This is because Widdershins has been receiving a ‘Volunteer Factual Dispatch’ about them fairly regularly. We also learn his personal philosophy ‘He who hesitates is lost’ and his stepdaughter has added ‘Or she’ because it’s important to be politically correct when you’re composing your personal philosophy.

So without hesitation we continue along on the trek through the submarine while Snicket waxes lyrical on the subject of personal philosophies:

Having a personal philosophy is like having a pet marmoset, because it may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.

They children have found hesitating quite useful on numerous occasions so I think they’re hesitating about adopting this philosophy as their own, preferring the more suitable “Sometimes he or she should hesitate and sometimes he or she should not hesitate” which isn’t really a philosophy at all.

Widdershins is telling them all about the problems they’ve been having, which includes being attacked by leeches, realtors, girlfriends and angry salmon. He’s quite pleased to have Violet on board since she might be able to help with some repairs. But for now it’s time to meet Fiona, his stepdaughter. She’s slightly older than Violet and has been working on repairs herself since their telegram machine has stopped working. Violet is ordered to get to it immediately, though he doesn’t mean it in a mean way, that’s just how he speaks.

We have been told a couple of times that the suits the family are wearing have a picture of a bearded man on the front, we now get to learn that it’s a picture of Herman Melville. There’s Moby Dick again. Of course Klaus loves him, because he’s weird and apparently likes reading books which are frequently interrupted by excerpts from Wikipedia. Then again, Klaus is into research and I suppose he’s into that. It’s convenient that Klaus is now aboard because they need someone who can research stuff.

So Klaus is going to be put to work decoding the tidal charts, now it’s just Sunny’s turn to get instructions. Obviously there’s not much cutting needed to be done, so she’ll be allowed to take over the kitchen. She says ‘Sous’ meaning ‘I haven’t been cooking for very long’ but if this is how good she is as a young girl, think how much better she’ll be as she grows.

And guess who’s been working as the cook on the submarine (the person making the damp casseroles – aren’t casseroles somewhat damp anyway, considering they’re kind of in gravy?) it’s Phil from Lucky Smells! He replaced Fiona’s mum (killed in a manatee accident), and before that was Jacques and his brother (whose name Widdershins can’t remember), and a woman who was a spy.

Considering the submarine is supposed to have a ‘Crew of Two’ they’re slightly overstaffed at the moment, lucky Phil is an optimist considering he might be booted out of his job at some point.

We don’t have time to dwell on this, we’re heading for the V.F.D. gathering at the Hotel Denouement but first the Queequeg has a mission to perform.

And what’s that mission?

Why, they’ve got a sugar bowl to find!

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