The Grim Grotto


The Grim Grotto

infobox Book |
name = The Grim Grotto
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption =
author = Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
illustrator = Brett Helquist
cover_artist = Brett Helquist
country = United States
language = English
series = "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
genre = Novel
publisher = HarperCollins
release_date = September 21, 2004
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (hardback & paperback)
pages = 323
isbn = ISBN 0-06-441014-5
preceded_by = The Slippery Slope
followed_by = The Penultimate Peril

"The Grim Grotto" is the eleventh novel in the book series "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket.

Plot summary

The book begins immediately after the events of "The Slippery Slope" with the Baudelaires travelling on a collapsing toboggan down the Stricken Stream of the Mortmain Mountains. They are washed into the ocean where they are caught on a submarine which rises from the waters. A voice within asks if the orphans are friends or foes, then asks for the password. Violet guesses correctly that the password is the V.F.D. motto: "The world is quiet here", as they saw it written in the ruins of the V.F.D. library. The children descend into the submarine, which they discover is the "Queequeg" captained by Captain Widdershins, a V.F.D. member and old friend of the Baudelaire parents. Also on board is Widdershins' stepdaughter Fiona and the ship's cook, Phil, the optimist whom the children first met at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill in Paltryville.

The Baudelaires discover that the crew of the Queequeg are searching for the mysterious sugar bowl which was thrown downstream. As time passes, Fiona, an expert mycologist, and Klaus begin to fall in love with one another. Sunny, meanwhile, helps Phil cook dinner for everyone. Violet also learns that Fiona and Widdershins have learned of the Baudelaires' plight via their telegram device, which is now broken. She tries to fix it.

Klaus, meanwhile, has examined the tidal charts to estimate the location of the sugar bowl given the water cycle. He suspects it to be in the Gorgonian Grotto, located near Anwhistle Aquatics. Widdershins explains that the aquatics center was founded by Aunt Josephine's brother-in-law Gregor. At this time, the group are interrupted by an approaching submarine vessel on the sonar, in the shape of a giant multi-tentacled octopus, captained by Count Olaf. The octopus is, however, driven off by a mysterious ship which appears on the radar in the form of a question mark.

Over dinner, Fiona explains her family situation - her brother Fernald has been missing for many years, her real father left when Fiona was small and her mother died in a manatee accident. The group then discusses V.F.D., which began as a volunteer fire department but soon became volunteers for everyone.

Fiona asks about the message Violet and Klaus found at the former V.F.D. headquarters. Widdershins doubts it would be for Jacques, who is dead, which gets the group wondering about whose initials "J.S." stands for. Fiona then looks in her mycological textbooks to discover information about the Gorgonian Grotto. It is a cone-shaped cave which houses a rare species of poisonous mushroom. They wax and wane periodically, but when the mushrooms are waxing, they are extremely deadly - as a poet says in her text - "a single spore has such grim power/That you may die within the hour". The Grotto is remote enough that it acts as a quarantine for the Medusoid Mycelium which would otherwise be unstoppable, although Fiona suspects there is an antidote. Widdershins sends the children off to get some sleep, but steadfastly refuses to tell them about the sugar bowl's purpose in the plot.

Later, the children wake to find the submarine has arrived at the Grotto. Widdershins and Phil are too tall to fit into the narrow point of the grotto so Fiona, Klaus, Violet and Sunny - who cannot fit into a diving suit but instead floats in a diving helmet - are sent in. Inside the grotto, the children find a dry area above the waterline, which is littered with detritus, some of which is connected with the V.F.D. It is filled with items, mostly junk and wasabi, but also - as Fiona discovers - is the breeding ground of the Medusoid Mycelium. The children scurry into the far corner where they are safe while the mushrooms rise out of the earth. While they are waiting for the Medusoid Mycelium to wane again, the children occupy themselves by investigating the knick-knacks lying around the cave, many of which seem to be connected to the V.F.D.

On returning to the submarine, the children find Phil and Widdershins gone. In their place are three balloons tied to chairs, with the letters "V", "F" and "D" on them. But this is little horror compared to what happens next, as the children discover a spore of the mushroom has infiltrated Sunny's helmet. Fiona stops Klaus from opening the helmet, since at the moment they must keep the girl quarantined. She goes to work on an antidote while asking the others to fire up the engines. Just as the ship starts up, Olaf's submarine returns and engulfs the "Queequeg" in its "jaw". Olaf comes down to the children and tells them that he has been at the Hotel Denouement preparing for his final scheme, but had to return to search for the sugar bowl himself, which is the only thing he needs to complete his nefarious plans. He is overjoyed to find he has also captured Fiona, and shows little concern for Sunny's condition.

As the children enter the next room they see how the ship is powered, by dozens of children rowing the "tentacles". Among them are children from Prufrock Preparatory School, the Snow Scouts, and other children the Baudelaires do not recognize. Esmé Squalor, wearing an octopus costume, is in charge of the children. It is here that we learn the ship is named the "Carmelita", after Carmelita Spats who is also on-board and being spoiled by Esmé. The children are taken to the brig where they are to be interrogated by the hook-handed man, until Olaf stuns them all: the hook-handed man is Fiona's brother - Fernald. Fiona is shocked, but Fernald defends his work saying that Olaf isn't all evil, that no one is all evil. Fiona begs him to help them get back to the "Queequeg", for Sunny's sake, and Fernald finally agrees on the condition that they take him along.

So, the Baudelaires, Fiona and Fernald plot their escape, aided unwittingly by Carmelita, who is doing a song and dance routine that distracts Esmé and the rowing children. The Baudelaires return to the "Queequeg", but Carmelita spots Fiona and Fernald trying to leave. Fernald pretends that Fiona has joined the team, and they need to borrow Esmé's "tagliatelle grande" - the giant noodle she uses to whip the children - to torture the Baudelaires. Esmé gives in, but changes Fiona's name to "Triangle Eyes" because of the shape of her glasses. Back on the "Queequeg", Sunny is close to death. Klaus and Violet read Fiona's texts and realize that the antidote is horseradish. Although they have none, they discover a surprise Sunny and Phil had made - a birthday cake for Violet who turned fifteen without even realizing it. Violet breaks down but Sunny saves her own life when she manages to blurt out one word, the culinary equivalent of horseradish: wasabi, which they discovered in the underwater cavern.

While Sunny recovers, Klaus and Violet are stunned when the telegram machine starts back up again. The Voluntary Factual Dispatch they receive is from Quigley Quagmire, with a copy sent to the mysterious "J.S." Quigley needs the Baudelaires at a certain coded location by Tuesday, the very next day, and just two days before the meeting at the Hotel. Violet suggests that answering the code and finding Widdershins are more important than freeing Fiona, who would not return the kindness, and Klaus reluctantly agrees. Sunny, recuperated, joins her siblings. Klaus is first to solve the riddle: Quigly will meet them at Briny Beach. As Violet begins decoding the other part, they are discovered by Olaf, Esme and Carmelita. Olaf announces triumphantly that they are just minutes from the Hotel Denouement and, even worse, Fiona has joined his team. Fiona enters, with Fernald, in uniform and tells the Baudelaires that it is true.

Olaf triumphantly tells the Baudelaires that, once they arrive at the Hotel Denouement, he will have won. While he, Esmé and Carmelita search the "Queequeg" for things to pilfer, Violet and Klaus attempt to reason with Fiona. They offer her the mushroom sample still inside the helmet, which she could study. She is clearly tempted, but Olaf returns and takes it. Suddenly, on the radar, the mysterious question mark ship appears again. Olaf clearly knows what it is, as he orders everyone to battle stations to flee. Fiona, knowing that she has made the wrong decision, allows the Baudelaires to escape in the "Queequeg", and kisses Klaus before she leaves. Violet powers up the "Queequeg", as Klaus navigates her out of the "Carmelita".

When Tuesday comes, they find themselves at Briny Beach - back where all of their troubles began. Surprisingly, Mr. Poe emerges from the fog. He received a message from J.S. - whom he assumes is "The Daily Punctilio"'s reporter Geraldine Julienne - that he had to meet them at the beach. He seems, also, oddly interested in their fortune. He tells the children to come with him to the police station to resolve all of their troubles.

Violet, however, has decoded the Eliot message, which states: "violet" "taxi" "waiting" and has concluded that a taxi will be at the beach for them. The children say goodbye to the startled Mr. Poe and walk up the beach where they find the waiting taxi. At the wheel is a woman they have never seen before; even though children are instructed not to get into cars with strangers, they decide taxi cab drivers are different - and the orphans drive off with Kit Snicket to the Hotel Denouement.

Cultural references and literary allusions

*Queequeg is a character in "Moby-Dick", and the face of Herman Melville appears on the submarine's uniforms.

*In another reference to "Moby-Dick", Brett Helquist's self-portrait depicts him as a man similar to Captain Ahab with a scar on the side of his face, a whaling harpoon and a peg-leg, as described in Melville's novel.

*Throughout the novel, there are constant jibes at Edgar Guest's lack of talent.

*Hobson's choice

*While in the Grotto Klaus Baudelaire finds a rock, it's description closely resembles the Rosetta stone

*Sunny uses foreign words in this book:
**"Yom Huledet", which means birthday in Hebrew
**"Shalom", which means peace and is used for hello or goodbye in Hebrew
**"Cuisi" which is short for cuisine meaning kitchen in French.

*Three poems are mentioned involving the Verse Fluctuation Declaration.
**Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess"
**Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
**T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"

*In the final illustration, there is a concierge's cap on the beach. The cap reads "Hotel D", foreshadowing the Hotel Denouement in the next book, "The Penultimate Peril".


=Cover

Translations

* Russian: " _ru. Угрюмый Грот", Azbuka, 2006, ISBN 2-352-01790-7


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