Friday, 10 April 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 4

Are you here in search of my A to Z Challenge post for today? You can read it here.

As it's Friday we'll have a double dose of A Series of Unfortunate Events today; one installment now and the second one at four o'clock this afternoon.

Last chapter saw the Baudelaire orphans being welcomed into the island's arms, providing they gave up everything they came to the island with and donned the strange white robes that everyone there wears. The children did this, but couldn't help but feel reluctant and as though there were some strange and mysterious secrets hidden on the island. It's getting a little bit like Lost.

What Happens?

The children watch as the colonists bring all of their finds to Ishmael for his inspection and watch as most of it is loaded on to the sleigh to go to the arboretum, despite the children's protests. When they are left alone together, Ishmael gives them some not-so-friendly advice. Lunch is soon served and the children are not so impressed. They're also worried about just what is going on here on the island.

Thoughts as I read:

We've got a picture of some of the islanders on this page. Nine of them in fact and they're all dressed in their white robes and holding onto various items they've scavenged off the coastal shelf. I can't see everything but we can see a window (or mirror), a 'one way' sign, a typewriter, a fish, a hammer, and a stripey propeller. They're obviously queuing up to show their finds to Ishmael so he can tell them it needs to be dumped in the arboretum.

Sure enough when the children get back to Ishmael's tent all those islanders are waiting to see the leader and the sheep are waiting with their sleigh to transport the stuff away. Everyone is clearly curious about who the Baudelaires are but the Baudelaires have got used to being the new guys and take it all in their stride.

Ishmael's pleased to see that the children have decided to conform to the ways of the island. Sunny's not so sure, probably because she knows they've all got something from their pasts in their pockets, and says 'Pyrrhonic?' meaning 'How can you be sure of such a thing based on our clothing?' (Google tells me Pyrrho was a philosopher).

All the same, Violet expresses thanks for being allowed to stay and then they ask to meet the other colonists (which seems to be what we're calling the islanders now). So it's time for more introductions.

First up is Alonso, the guy we saw with the propeller. I said at the beginning that there were links to The Tempest, well here's one. Ishmael says a propeller will be no use on the island and when Violet points out she could use it to make a fan, Ishmael says that would cause arguments and that would create a fuss. He tells Alonso it's up to him, but only after pointing out how much hassle using the propeller to make the fan would cause. Obviously Alonso does what Ishmael is pushing for and loads his find onto the sleigh.

The next to step forward is another The Tempest character, though female instead of male, named Ariel. She's got a dagger though Klaus identifies it as paper-knife. Of course he petitions for it to be kept in case a book washes up on the island but Ishmael once again tells the colonist that it's not up to him but if it was, he would get rid of it. So Ariel does.

It's interesting to note the language Ishmael uses. He always reinforced the fact that he's not forcing anyone to do anything, but then uses words like 'silly thing' and 'all the fuss it might cause' so he deliberately leads people in the direction he wants. I'm not sure if that's the linguistics geek in me or the bit of me that's been watching too many episodes of The Mentalist recently speaking.

Now I wasn't sure who the name Sherman might relate to as it wasn't ringing any bells for me. Some Googling turned up the comic strip Sherman's Lagoon though, so that might be it. Anyway, he's found a cheese grater and Ishmael immediately says he doesn't see the point of it as he doesn't have any cheese. Sunny suggests using it to make coconut cake but Ishmael doesn't see the point of that. He wouldn't. So onto the sleigh it goes.

Other people who live on the island include a man named Robinson, a woman named Erewhon (that's a book I still have to read), a red-haired woman called Weyden (van der Weyden was a painter and at one of his paintings was of a red-headed woman so I wonder if that's where this name has come from), Ferdinand (another Tempest character), Omeros (title of an epic poem), Calypso (hello again The Tempest), Byam (a character in Oroonoko), Mr. Pitcairn (obviously after the island), Ms. Marlow (from Heart of Darkness perhaps), Dr. Kurtz (ditto), and Rabbi Bligh (obviously as in Captain). Others I couldn't identify are: Larsen, Finn, Brewster, Willa, Professor Fletcher and Madame Nordoff. All of their stuff is assessed and popped onto the sleigh.

Two other characters are mentioned, a brother and sister named Jonah and Sadie Bellamy and they've found part of Olaf's boat. It's not needed so everything is loaded onto the sleigh to be dumped on the other side of the brae.

Violet's curious about if there were any other castaways from the storm but not even Olaf has shown up again yet. The Baudelaires are a little worried about what's going to happen to the Medusoid Mycelium. Hopefully they're able to grow horseradish on this island. The children were hoping that perhaps Kit or the Quagmires might have reached the island but Ishmael thinks there's still a chance because another storm is coming.

How does he know this? Not because he has a barometer. He just knows stuff. Ishmael is definitely up there with Count Olaf on the weirdness scale! Oh and he uses magic. Sunny's response is apt, as usual, as she says 'Meledrub' meaning 'I find that very difficult to believe'.

Snicket explains that the children have faced many unexplainable things but that they still don't believe in magic:

Late at night, of course, when one is sitting upright in bed, having been woken up by a sudden loud noise, one believes in all sorts of supernatural things, but it was early afternoon, and the Baudelaires simply could not imagine that Ishmael was some sort of magical weatherman.

Hehe, 'magical weatherman'.

Friday is then dismissed so Ishmael can talk to the Baudelaires alone. That's ominous.

Ishmael's advise to the children is 'Don't rock the boat'. It's not said in a totally sinister way, but he's obviously not being entirely cordial either. Basically what it probably boils down to is that he's got a good thing going on here, getting to sit around all day every day with his feet in blocks of clay while everyone defers to him on every little matter. He doesn't want outsiders coming in and upsetting things. And the Baudelaires do have a bit of a habit of upsetting things, even though it's usually the fault of Olaf that things get upset.

Before things can get too awkward Mrs. Caliban (oh look, yet another The Tempest name) shows up. She's Friday's mother and she's serving up ceviche which we're informed is a raw seafood dish from South America. Snicket tells us this is an acquired taste. I would die on this island as seafood is really not my thing at all. The Baudelaires haven't eaten for a while though so they decide to give it a go.

The colonists basically eat with sporks since knives and forks could be used as weapons and Ishmael doesn't want anyone rocking the boat, remember? The description of the sporks makes it clear they are sporks but Friday calls them 'runcible spoons' and Google confirms this is actually a thing, even if the spell check on Google Chrome thinks otherwise.

Sunny says 'Negihama' which is a type of sushi (the kind of sushi you tend to picture when someone says sushi) which Violet translates as 'My sister is something of a chef... and was suggesting that she could prepare some Japanese dishes for the colony, if there were any wasabi to be had.' Having some wasabi around would also help to protect them again Olaf and his diving helmet full of deadly fungus.

Ishmael is quick to point out that the colonists don't need spices so if any washed up they'd be taken to the arboretum. How can no one see how insane this man is? I'm fairly certain we'll be paying a visit to the arboretum at some point to see all the cool stuff he's had stashed there over the years.

So what else is on the menu on the island:

"... we only have ceviche for lunch. Every morning we have seaweed salad for breakfast, and for dinner we have a mild onion soup served with a handful of wild grass..."

Delicious! As I said above, I would die.

Mrs Caliban and Ishmael drink a toast to the Baudelaires and Friday announces that she wants them to stay forever. The Baudelaires are obviously thinking differently. They've not had a great time of it recently, but they're not in any hurry to live out the rest of their lives on a bizarre little island ruled by a strange man who doesn't want to give his colonists too much freedom.

They looked up at their facilitator, uncertain if they were safe after all, and wondering what they could do about it if they weren't.
"I won't force you," Ishmael said quietly to the children, and the Baudelaire orphans wondered if that were true after all.

We'll find out more about their new home this afternoon.

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