The Baudelaires have now survived a terrible storm and found themselves washed up on the shore of an island. Unfortunately Olaf was there as well, but so far the one inhabitant of the island has not been welcoming towards him. Let's hope this trend continues!
Friday tells the Baudelaires a little about the customs of the island and then takes them to meet Ishmael, a strange man who sits with his feet encased in clay. He encourages the children to give up their possessions to be taken to the arboretum and to dress in white robes like the other island inhabitants. Outside the children decide to keep some of their personal items, hiding them in their pockets, and wondering what hidden secrets there are on the island.
Thoughts as I read:
I do really like the picture for this chapter. It's a tall thin one which runs down the side of the page and features lots and lots of sheep. Well, about seventeen if I've counted the ears and noses correctly. Sheep are easily one of my favourite farmyard animals and I have great memories of helping out on a farm during lambing season. I'm looking forward to this chapter.
This is a lovely opening, which I can't copy out in full because it goes on over a whole page (and this post will be long enough without copying out a massive chunk of the book). Snicket talks about words which can have dual meanings, things like 'bear' and 'yarn'. As with everything Snicket says, there's usually some reason in there somewhere, in this case it's because Friday is offering them a 'cordial' which is a drink as well as her hospitality.
Friday offers them coconut cordial and explains that the island has no fresh water. They have saltwater but all there is to drink is fermented coconut milk. It appears that this beverage is an acquired taste. The children will have to get used to it though, that's all there is.
The children are keen to learn about other customs on the island, so Friday tells them about the storm scavenging and how anything they find are presented to a man called Ishmael (hee). Ishmael is sort of the island's leader. He injured his feet at some point in the past and so keeps them covered in clay, I'm sure this will be explained later. The sheep we saw earlier drag away anything that he deems unnecessary.
We also learn something about the geography of the island. There's an arboretum where a single apple tree grows and the inhabitants are banned from going there except on Decision Day. This obviously warrants more explanation, Friday doesn't disappoint:
"I guess it's something of a holiday," Friday said. "Once a year, the tides turn in this part of the ocean, and the coastal shelf is completely covered in water. It's the one time a year that it's deep enough to sail away from the island. All year long we build an enormous outrigger, which is a type of canoe, and the day the tides turn we have a feast and a talent show. Then anyone who wishes to leave our colony indicates their decision by taking a bite of bitter apple and spitting it onto the ground before boarding the outrigger and bidding us farewell."
It all sounds a bit weird, but whatever works for them, I guess. Sunny agrees with me but gets told off by her big sister for insulting Friday's customs.
If no one leaves then the boat that has been built is just burned but Friday justifies this because there's not much else to do. I live on an island and we've got slightly more to do with our leisure time than built pointless boats, but yeah, entertainment options can be limited.
Friday then asks the children if they were travelling with Olaf, which isn't really something they want to admit to. Klaus decides to hedge his bets and replies 'It depends how you look at it' and the conversation drops for now. I suspect that this will come back to bite them in the future, after all, the Baudelaires' association with Olaf always causes trouble for them sooner or later.
By this point they've reached a big white tent. Where does the fabric for these tents come from? I don't suppose we'll find that out any time soon. This is where we get to meet Ishmael, with his white clay covered feet. The main reason this character was named Ishmael (aside from all the links to the sea and everything in this book) was for this moment; he says 'Call me Ish'.
We get another round of introductions from the Baudelaires and their name seems to give Ishmael a moment of pause but a second later he smiles and tells them they're welcome to stay as long as they're nice. I suppose this depends on what he classes as nice. I can't help but think perhaps Ishmael is cut from the same sort of cloth as Count Olaf and it's pure coincidence that he arrived on the island before our favourite villain did, otherwise Olaf would've been sitting in Ishmael's seat with clay covered feet.
The children are then talk they'll be shown to a tent where they can change into white robes. White is very significant to the islanders as it matches the sheep and the clay. Ishmael also carefully chides Friday for her new sunglasses that she found on the beach, since wearing them is going against their tradition. Ishmael tells her he won't force her to take them off but he does it in that way that kind of does force you to do what he wants. It's obvious that Friday's picked something else up on the beach that she's put in her pocket but she doesn't mention it to Ishmael. It must be something she knows will be taken off of her if he knows about it.
Friday then tells Ishmael about the treacherous Count Olaf:
"Olaf?" Ishmael said, and his eyebrows raised again. "Is this man a friend of yours?
"Fat chance," Sunny said.
Violet translates it in a little more detail, what Sunny means is they've been trying to escape from Olaf, as we're well aware. Ishmael asks if what they've told him is the whole story, which is a question with many possible answers. Snicket demonstrates this by detailing all of the Olaf-encounters that the children have had over the last twelve books but in doing this they would have to reveal that sometimes they've done some things that could be classed as treacherous themselves.
Considering the fact that they've finally found somewhere with people who seem to like them and are inviting them to stay, the children are in no great hurry to lose that. So they use that old fallback, 'It depends on how you look at it.'
This seems to be enough for Ishmael, but then he drops the bombshell that all their things will be taken to the arboretum. Sunny asks 'Occulaklaus?' which isn't a spell from Harry Potter but instead means 'What about Klaus's glasses?' It's unlikely that there'll be anything to read there, but Ishmael says he can keep them if he must and then they're allowed to go. I kind of getting bad vibes about this place already.
Another of the weird island customs is to swap tents each day, so no one can get too comfortable or possessive about their stuff I guess. We also learn that Friday was born on the island, so she doesn't know any different.
The Baudelaires do though. So for that reason, Violet decides to keep her ribbon because no one will stop her from inventing, Klaus decides to keep his commonplace book because no one will stop him inventing, and Sunny produces a whisk from some unknown place and says she'll keep it because no one will stop her from cooking. When asked where it came from Sunny replies 'Gal Friday' which is obviously what Friday grabbed in her pocket when Ishmael made her give up the sunglasses.
Now the children have somewhere new to live, but they're already keeping secrets from their new community which makes them feel slightly bad. But they also know there's something fishy going on here on the island and we all know that sooner or later the trio will get to the bottom of it.