Great Unknown (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

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"Great Unknown" redirects here. For other uses, see The Great Unknown.
Great Unknown
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Great Unknown as illustrated by Brett Helquist
First appearance The Grim Grotto

The Great Unknown is a fictional entity in the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It features in the 11th (The Grim Grotto) and final (The End) books of the series.


It is larger than both the submarines Carmelita and Queequeg,[1] and may in fact be neither a submarine nor a boat at all. This theory is reinforced in the first novel in Snicket's prequel series 'All The Wrong Questions' where it is suggested that The Great Unknown could be the Bombinating Beast. It appeared in the shape of a question mark and it appeared at the most inconvenient times, or just when people thought a situation was about to get better.


The Great Unknown first appeared during The Grim Grotto, where it was shown that both Captain Widdershins and Count Olaf are afraid of it. It should also be noted that Count Olaf tells Carmelita Spats not to tap dance while returning to the Carmelita during the time the sub was being threatened by the Great Unknown, because, as he says, "I don't want to show up on their sonar."[2] In The Grim Grotto the Great Unknown always appears in time to save the Baudelaires. It first appears when Count Olaf is moments away from discovering the Queequeg, and it chases him away. Captain Widdershins describes its appearance on the ship's sonar as "a shadow of something greater and more terrible than you can imagine", referencing Plato. Its second appearance is when the Baudelaires are in Olaf's clutches, but Olaf and Esme are forced to leave the Baudelaires in the Queequeg so they can drive their octopus submarine away. When the Baudelaires are left alone to operate the Queequeg, the Great Unknown approaches on the radar just as they finish repairing the porthole that Olaf damaged in capturing the submarine, and the Baudelaires see its shadow in the water, though they do not see enough to determine what it is. The author remarks that it may not have even been a submarine, but some sort of dark sea beast. Eventually, the entity moves away and the Baudelaires escape. The author says that he knows what the Great Unknown is, but refuses to elaborate further on a description.[3]

During The End, it is mentioned that the Queequeg sailed out to sea with Kit Snicket, Ink, Captain Widdershins and his stepchildren Fernald and Fiona on board, to find the self-sustaining hot air mobile home where Hector and the Quagmire triplets were living, in order to aid them in a battle against trained V.F.D. eagles. A shipwrecked Kit later tells the Baudelaires that the eagles popped the balloons of Hector's mobile home and the falling wreckage destroyed the Queequeg. Then, all but Kit and Ink chose to be taken by the approaching Great Unknown, although it is unclear whether it rescued or captured them; at a point in the novel not long before this occurrence though, the author does refer to the Quagmires' present situation as being similarly dire but more damp to that of the Baudelaires, but this could plausibly be considered a reference to the mobile home/Queequeg collision. Kit states that her brother (although she does not specify which) called the question mark "The Great Unknown", which is often a euphemism for what comes after death. By the end of The End, the Quagmires, Hector, Captain Widdershins, Fernald, Fiona, and Phil are taken aboard, "rescued, or swallowed up." An illustration on the last page of Chapter Fourteen suggests that the Baudelaires encounter it, although they appear to have survived the experience.[4] However, in the Author's Notes section of The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition, Snicket mentions that Violet Baudelaire would visit Briny Beach for a third time,[5] and The Beatrice Letters indicate that Kit Snicket's daughter has memories of the Baudelaires siblings, including Sunny's appearing on the radio to discuss her recipes,[6] implying that the Baudelaires survived their ocean voyage.

The Great Unknown will be featured again in the new Lemony Snicket series All the Wrong Questions.[7] It is hinted that the Great Unknown may be the "Bombinating Beast", a mythological creature that is greatly feared and claimed to be still seen by sailors by its question-mark silhouette, in the first book of the series, Who Could That Be at This Hour?


  1. ^ The Grim Grotto narration
  2. ^ The Grim Grotto
  3. ^ Snicket, Lemony (2004). The Grim Grotto. A Series of Unfortunate Events. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-441014-5. 
  4. ^ Snicket, Lemony (2006). The End. A Series of Unfortunate Events. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-441016-1. 
  5. ^ Snicket, Lemony. (2003). The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition New York: Harper Collins Publishers
  6. ^ Snicket, Lemony (2006). The Beatrice Letters. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-058658-3. 
  7. ^ Wade, Mike (January 14, 2010). "Lemony Snicket tells lies to children". The Times. Retrieved January 23, 2010.