The Carnivorous Carnival

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The Carnivorous Carnival
Carnivorous Carnival.PNG
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 Gothic fiction
Absurdist fiction
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
October 28, 2002
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 286
ISBN 0-06-441012-9 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 49952611
Fic 21
LC Class PZ7.S6795 Car 2002
Preceded by The Hostile Hospital
Followed by The Slippery Slope

The Carnivorous Carnival is the ninth novel in the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins where The Hostile Hospital left off, with the three Baudelaires still hiding in the trunk of Count Olaf's car, listening to Count Olaf and his troupe discuss their plans. They talk about a woman named Madame Lulu. Madame Lulu has told Count Olaf where the Baudelaires are hidden each time they move. Count Olaf and his troupe depart the car and the Baudelaire then make it out of the trunk of Count Olaf's car through some clever lockpicking on the part of Violet Baudelaire. The orphans spy on Madame Lulu's caravan in Caligari Carnival and hear her explaining to Olaf that her carnival needs more customers otherwise they may close. They also recognize Lulu's accent as that used by Olaf when he was disguised as Gunther in The Ersatz Elevator. Madame Lulu is Count Olaf's bartender and it is also implied that Madame Lulu and Count Olaf likely had a romantic relationship in the past.

They disguise themselves for the carnival's House of Freaks, using Count Olaf's disguises stored in the trunk of his car. Sunny Baudelaire wraps herself in a beard to disguise herself as Chabo the Wolf Baby. Violet and Klaus Baudelaire squeeze into one large shirt as a two headed person with highly differing voices, 'Beverly' and 'Elliot'. Violet and Klaus also put scars on their face and sprinkle talcum powder in their hair to further disguise their appearance. Madame Lulu hires the children after they do an act for her in which Violet and Klaus attempt to eat an ear of corn as a two headed person and Sunny acts menacing by showing off her sharp teeth and biting things. Madame Lulu leads them to a caravan in which the other three freaks live. The Baudelaires befriend the freaks: Hugo, who is a hunchback, Colette, who is a contortionist, and Kevin, who is ambidextrous (and very pessimistic). Sunny also discovers her talent in cooking when she comes up with idea to add cinnamon to the hot chocolate Hugo made.

The next morning they discover that when Olaf asked Madame Lulu Is one Baudelaire parent still alive?, she consulted the crystal ball and answered Yes, one is up in the Mortmain Mountains. The children performed in a humiliating freak show. They then encouraged the other freaks to not just settle into being sideshow freaks and instead embrace their potentials and lead a better life. Afterwards, Olaf arrived with a pack of lions as a gift to Madame Lulu and announced that a lion pit shall be made in which one of the freaks shall be thrown tomorrow. This is intended to draw a large audience.

The orphans go back to Lulu's tent to search for clues. They first discover the V.F.D. symbol on the outside, and inside find a secret archival library under the table hidden by a tablecloth that she uses to aid her in her predictions. The mysterious effects behind her fortune telling turn out to be no more than ropes and pulleys. They accidentally break Lulu's crystal ball when trying to lift the tablecloth higher to get a better glimpse of the archival library, and they are discovered when Lulu comes in. Lulu breaks down and throws off her disguise, revealing herself as a woman named Olivia who just wants to give people what they want. She is a member of V.F.D. and tells them about the V.F.D. disguise kit and a schism which happened in the organization. Olivia discovers that the children are actually the Baudelaires in disguise when Klaus lets slip that Olivia made a prediction regarding the Baudelaires' parent. The Baudelaires admit to their identity and plan to travel with Olivia to the Mortmain Mountains to determine if one of their parents is really alive. Though Olivia did say to Count Olaf that one of the Baudelaires' parents is alive, she is not actually sure and only suggested the Mortmain Mountains as their possible location as that is one of the few remaining V.F.D. headquarters. Violet plans to invent a vehicle made from the cars from the nearby roller coaster and the fan belt from the lightening effects Olivia used in her fortune telling that would enable them to escape from the carnival and travel up the Mortmain Mountains.

That night Esmé Squalor, who is jealous of Olaf's attention to Madame Lulu, comes to the caravan of the freaks in an outfit that says I Love Freaks. It also has a sack on one shoulder to mimic Hugo's hunchback and a hat with something sticking out of it to imitate Beverly and Elliot's two heads. She tries to convince them that whoever is picked to be thrown into the pit of ravenous lions the next day should throw Madame Lulu in instead. If they do that, they will be made part of Count Olaf's theater troupe and have an exciting career as a criminal. She also bribes them by giving them gifts that disguise their deformities. To Hugo, Esmé gives the large coat the hook-handed man wore when he was the doorman in The Ersatz Elevator which completely disguises his hunchback. To Colette, she gives a large robe that would allow her to contort her body into any shape she wanted without people being aware. To Kevin, she gives a rope that would allow him to tie one hand behind his back so that he can have dominant hand like regular people. To Beverly and Elliot, Esmé gives a sack that would allow them to hide one of their heads. And, to Chabo the Wolf Baby, Esmé gives one of Olaf's razors. Hugo, Colette, and Kevin are completely fooled by Esmé, feeling happy that for once a normal person likes them and gives them an opportunity to do something other than be in a freak show, and agree to do exactly what she suggested. The Baudelaires, however, are not fooled by Esmé and decline the offer, much to Esmé's chagrin. The next morning the orphans go and get the coaster carts ready.

A large and rude audience shows up to see the lions devour someone. Among the audience is the female reporter who broke the story that the Baudelaires murdered 'Count Omar' (Olaf). Olaf dramatically unfolds a paper that will show who is to be devoured by lions, and Beverly and Elliot are picked. They manage to stall and eventually create a chaotic scene in which Madame Lulu and one of Olaf's henchmen (the bald-headed man) fall into the pit and get devoured.

Escaping to Madame Lulu's tent, the orphans find a map of the mountains with a coffee stain on it. Olaf appears, apparently still not recognizing the Baudelaires in their disguises, and states the stain indicates V.F.D.'s secret base in the Mortmain Mountains. The orphans are recruited into Olaf's troupe as are the other freaks. The carnival is burned to destroy the evidence, and the lions, trapped in the pit and unable to escape, are burned to death and are later found as blackened bones by Lemony Snicket during his research. Together Olaf, his employees, and the children depart for the mountains. Beverly and Elliot are in the travel trailer caravan behind Olaf's car, while Chabo is in the automobile car. Olaf then reveals that Lulu told him that they are the Baudelaires, and the newly recruited freaks (who took the Baudelaires' misinterpreted advice) cut the caravan off the car while on a steep slope, leaving the book on a cliffhanger.


  • On the last picture, there is a Snow Scout handbook falling from the Freaks caravan, foreshadowing The Slippery Slope.

Rare copies[edit]

There are some copies of this book that have a Vile Village version of Count Olaf and the Baudelaires on the inside of the back cover. There are only a handful of these special copies made.[citation needed]


When the Baudelaire's examined Lulu's tent and Violet found her ribbon, she thought that Olaf must have kept it in the previous book. This may confuse some readers because she used her ribbon to trick Hal into thinking they were his keys, and he never returned them to her or gave them to Count Olaf.[citation needed]

Literary allusions[edit]

  • "Elliot" and "Beverly", the aliases Violet and Klaus use when disguised as weird freaks are those of twin brothers, both played by Jeremy Irons, in the David Cronenberg film Dead Ringers.
  • Klaus refers to Joseph Merrick (incorrectly naming him "John Merrick") when discussing the cruelty of freak shows.
  • The Caligari Carnival is an allusion to the German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
  • The Hunchback named Hugo is an allusion to The Hunchback of Notre Dame written by Victor Hugo.[1]
  • At one point, Sunny uses the word "Dragnet" to refer to the police. Dragnet is the name of an old police-based show.
  • The image for Chapter Seven depicting Madame Lulu's broken crystal ball shows several darkened images, presumably of Lemony Snicket (one is on a cover page of The Daily Punctilio, with a headline beginning with "Snicket"), a topographic map of Mortmain Mountains, a menu from Café Salmonella, a boarding pass for The Prospero, and a document featuring the V.F.D. logo.
  • "Plath Pass" in the map of the mountains may allude to poet Sylvia Plath.
  • "Colette" may refer to the French novelist and performer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.
  • In the first chapter, when Sunny says "We'll need money to make a phone call", the word she uses is "Veriz". This may be a reference to the American telecommunications company Verizon.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kramer, Melody Joy (12 October 2006). "A Series of Unfortunate Literary Allusions". NPR. Retrieved 20 November 2010.