Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 2

Are you visiting in search of today's A to Z Challenge post? This isn't it. Click here for that post.

When we left the Baudelaires (and Olaf) yesterday they were waiting for a big storm to hit their little boat. This was after the children had realised that they'd missed their opportunity for throwing Olaf overboard. In this chapter we should get to see the aftermath of the storm.

What Happens?

The children discover they've washed up on a coastal shelf. Unfortunately so has Count Olaf. They are surrounded by detritus which has also washed up here after the storm. After establishing there must be land nearby they start to head west along with Olaf. When they spot an island ahead, Olaf claims it as his own until a little girl, named Friday shows up and puts him in his place.

Thoughts as I read:

Rather unusually, this chapter begins not with a picture, but with a photo. It's obviously one of Lemony Snicket. How do we know that? Because he's holding a stack of paper in front of his face of course. It's just like all the pictures we've seen of him through the series, at the back of each book there's information about the author and there's always a mysterious photo to go along with the text. I wonder if we'll learn more about Mr Snicket in this chapter.

Snicket opens the chapter by telling us how people who have survived storms, such as that which the Baudelaires faced, rarely want to talk about what happened. Snicket knows this because he himself experienced a storm in a small wooden boat in order to appreciate what the children went through and he is so shaken by the experience that he can't bring himself to talk about it.

And then he does.

So we get two pages of description of the wind, the sound of the sea, the way the little boat rocked and tipped, how it started to disintegrate around them, and how the children clung to one another so they wouldn't be separated. Olaf was swept away from them (as was the figurehead containing the deadly fungus) and they were left on a tiny bit of the boat (a la the Doctor Doolittle in the Rex Harrison musical).

The next morning the storm has died out and the children find themselves alone (together) in a big flat sea. The water is pretty shallow there and there's a lot of junk washed up in it; everything from bits of boats, seaweed, toys and clothes. Violet wonders aloud at where they could be but luckily Klaus is there and he's read a book about this kind of thing. They're probably on a 'coastal shelf' which also means they're near land. Quite convenient.

They've not got much else to go but get out and walk. I'd be a little bit worried about the tide coming in and getting trapped (or worse) but Violet's biggest worry is that they'll get lost. Sunny can't help but smile at this and point out 'Already lost'. With this established, they don't have much to lose, so they head west because at least that way the sun won't be in their eyes for a while. Good thinking Violet.

It also occurs to them that the storm took care of the whole throwing Olaf overboard thing as they stumble across the prostrate body of Count Olaf. I love Sunny's response to this: 'Kikbucit?' hehe. Unfortunately not Sunny.

As soon as he's conscious he immediately starts trying to order the children around, demanding that they bring him coffee. They have to point out that obviously there is no coffee and they're heading off in search of land. Olaf basically tells them to do everything they just told him they were going to do anyway because he wants to have some semblance of control in this situation. His grip on reality seems to have slipped slightly:

"Well, you're still my henchpeople," the villain said, "and my orders are that we walk west, in the hopes of finding an island. I've heard about islands in the distant parts of the sea. The primitive inhabitants have never seen civilized people, so they will probably revere me as a god."

Heaven help anyone who thinks Olaf is a god!

The children are torn between leaving Olaf and taking him along with them, but as we've already learned, they're essentially noble people, so he tags along with them. Of course he complains every step of the way and makes crazy demands of them, but aside from the harpoon gun he's carrying he's relatively harmless.

It's Sunny, riding on Violet's shoulders who calls out 'Land ho!' alerting them to the island shape ahead of them. Olaf promptly names it 'Olaf-Land' despite the white sheets flapping in the wind on the land, suggesting that the people who live there have probably already given it a perfectly good name. The children try to point this out but Olaf is having none of it and starts making plans for his new life as ruler of Olaf-Land.

As they get closer a shape starts to approach them. Ooh, better hope that they're friendly!

The speculate about who this mysterious figure could possibly be and as the children throw out names of volunteers and friends Olaf decides it might be best to just shoot the person. Because that's how you make sure you get respect in a new place. Violet points out this would waste the last harpoon and Olaf sort of concedes the point. Reluctantly.

The figure turns out to be a little girl, aged about six or seven, and all dressed in white. Everyone immediately feels quite nervous and shy so Snicket brings up some advise once passed on to him by Mrs Baudelaire. It's quite true:

"People love to talk about themselves, Mr. Snicket," she said to me, between bites of apple. "If you find yourself wondering what to say to any of the guests, ask them which secret code they prefer, or find out whom they've been spying on lately."

I suppose if you're trying this tactic at a work party or other gathering you might want to change the topics to something more appropriate. Unless you actually work as a spy, though that information might be classified.

Violet kicks off by asking the girl's name. It's Friday. Hee. And she's out storm scavenging. Violet starts the introductions but by the time she gets to Olaf he's started demanding that Friday worship him as her new king. Friday is not impressed:

"No, thank you," Friday said politely. "Our colony is not a monarchy. You must be exhausted from the storm, Baudelaires. It looked so enormous from shore that we didn't think there'd be any castaways this time. Why don't you come with me, and you can have something to eat?"

Yay! Finally someone who can see Olaf as the weirdo he is! I like Friday already.

Friday also says that eventually everything seems to wash up on the island. Everything? I guess that means that if they hang around for long enough a sugar bowl might just show up.

She also thinks there's something wrong with Olaf, since he continues to insist this is Olaf-Land and her people must be primitive. They are anything but. Friday explains they live in tents (buildings would just blow away though I can't imagine a tent would be any more sturdy). Little Friday and Olaf have a proper argument about the island before he threatens her with the harpoon gun. This is your moment Baudelaires.

But Friday doesn't need them. Friday simply tells him that the islanders will soon be out and will witness whatever Olaf does to her. If he's violent, he won't be allowed to stay. That tells him and he actually lowers the harpoon gun. Apparently all you need to keep Olaf in check is to be stern and threaten him right back. The Baudelaires could have done with that way back thirteen books ago!

What's more, Friday invites the Baudelaires to come along with her but tells Olaf to go away. And then they leave him there, standing all alone.

And I think there's something wrong with me because I actually kind of feel a bit sorry for him now.

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