Monday, 2 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 6

Another week and another run of chapters from The Grim Grotto, we’ll be heading past the halfway mark this week. In the last chapter we saw the Queequeg arrive at the cave where Widdershins dropped the bombshell that the only way they would be able to get the sugar bowl is to send a child in to get it.

This won’t end well.

What Happens?

Widdershins waves off the three Baudelaires and his stepdaughter as they head out into open water in search of the sugar bowl. The current takes over and they drift into an underwater cave which gives them the opportunity to take off their diving helmets. The ground is littered with detritus and so they all set to work looking for the sugar bowl. Too late they discover that they have wandered into a patch of Medusoid Mycelium.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter image is of some descending through the water. We can just see the top of their diving helmet with a string of bubbles heading up towards where the water is lighter. I’m going to guess that whoever is in that diving suit is probably not going alone. I do like the way the water is shown with sort of wavy pencil lines, getting heavier and heavier the further down the page they get.

Sure enough, all of the Baudelaires are in their diving suits, or rather Violet and Klaus are in their diving suits, Sunny is having to curl up in a spare helmet and be carried by her siblings. None of them are particularly comfortable. We also learn how the suits work, considering they aren’t attached to oxygen tanks; the helmets have an oxygen system in them which will give them enough to breathe for a short time.

Poor Sunny can barely be heard in her helmet. She says ‘Hewenkella’ which I’m going to guess is a clever play on ‘Helen Keller’ and which is translated as being her questions how they will see. But there are no waterproof flashlights, luckily the tide will push them towards the same place as the sugar bowl so they won’t need to swim there (on the way back it’s going to be another question though).

There’s a bit of debate about whether all three Baudelaires need to go or if they won’t be better just picking one of them to go. But the Baudelaires prefer not to be separated as their special skills may be necessary. Sunny adds ‘Ulp’ meaning ‘I don’t like the idea of drifting by myself in a diving helmet.’ Thankfully they’re not going entirely alone, Fiona is going to come with them.
Widdershins is promising all of them that they will receive citations for bravery which isn’t much of a consolation for any of them considering the dangers they are facing:

Anyone can write up a citation for bravery, and I have even been known to write up one for myself from time to time, in order to keep my spirits up in the middle of a treacherous journey.

I think I’ll have to try this next time the ferry is really rocky, that will definitely help me on those treacherous journeys!

As the children head out they try, once again, to find out why the sugar bowl is so important. Once again Widdershins refuses to tell them, apart from the fact that it’s just about what’s in it, not the actual bowl itself. There are things too terrible for children to know about, but it’s not too terrible to send them out into uncharted waters with a short term oxygen supply into an area full of deadly mushrooms. Love your rationality, Widdershins!

Snicket goes on to give us a recap of the water cycle, which we all probably studied half a dozen times at school so already know about but it’s intended to send us to sleep so we don’t have to read what happens next. I have to admit, this is a good technic for a book; tell people it’s boring and that they really shouldn’t read it, then actually talk about the boring stuff to prove how boring it is.

Suffice to say, exiting the submarine is very frightening for the children as they all disappear into the gloom. Apparently there are things in the grotto that the children can’t see, like a mosaic and equipment to prevent the cave from flooding which has evidently stopped working considering the fact that the children are floating through the cave right now.

Eventually the children reach the surface of the water and come out onto a beach in the cave. This confuses the children and Violet, despite being a mechanical genius actually asks if they are in a submarine. They then spot a trio of floorlamps which have the letters V.F.D. on them. Alongside those are a bunch of random bits and pieces like books, a roller skate, bottles and lots of other things that must have drifted here from elsewhere. Hopefully this means that somewhere nearby there will be a sugar bowl.

They wonder aloud where they might actually be and Sunny voices a very relevant question ‘Oxo?’ meaning ‘Does that mean we can breathe without our helmets?’ Once they’ve decided that yes, they can. They also establish that all this stuff has washed up here then they must be in the right spot to start looking for a certain sugar bowl. Sunny says ‘Mission’ which means ‘Once we find the sugar bowl, our work here is done’ so Klaus has to point out that they will still have to get back to the Queequeg, in the dark and against the tide. Finding the sugar bowl will be the easy bit of the mission!

So they set to work hunting for the elusive sugar bowl but without much luck, instead they find all manner of random detritus like a doorknob, a knife, a poetry book and in Sunny’s case ‘Three can soup… jar peanut butter, box crackers, pesto, wasabi, lo mein. But nadasuchre.’ Oh and Fiona finds something that none of them wanted to see, Mycelium.

Meanwhile the story is interrupted by a full page picture (yay, that means we’re halfway through the book!) which shows little Sunny holding a jar of peanut butter which is almost as big as she is. There’s a jar and bottle beside her but more worryingly, there’s also a little patch of mushrooms. Definitely not a good sign. Also, how cute is Sunny now she’s standing on her own two feet. Aww.

We learn that the children have wandered into the midst of a mushroom patch and the longer they look, the more they see. And the children are pretty much surrounded.

Which means that not only do they have to find the sugar bowl, they need to not die of mushrooms as well!

Things are getting dramatic.

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