The Carnivorous Carnival
The Carnivorous Carnival Plot
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 who has told Count Olaf where the Baudelaires are hidden each time they move. Count Olaf and his troupe depart the car and the Baudelaires then make it out of the trunk thanks to some clever lockpicking on the part of Violet. They realize they are outside Caligari Carnival.
Noticing a phone booth at the carnival, Violet calls a phone operator to let them contact Mr. Poe. The operator asks for money, but Violet tells the operator that they are in an emergency and they lack money. The operator asks what the emergency is and Violet can’t help but cry a little while telling the operator her story, but the operator hangs up on her. The Baudelaires are confused about what to do, stranded with no money, and everyone thinks they are murderous criminals as a result of The Daily Punctilio.
Hearing nearby laughing, 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 use Count Olaf’s disguises stored in the trunk of his car to disguise themselves so they can be in the carnival’s House of Freaks. 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. They are hired by Madame Lulu after Violet and Klaus eat an ear of corn as a two-headed person and Sunny acts menacingly by showing off her sharp teeth and biting things. Madame Lulu leads them to the caravan where the other freaks live. Hugo is a hunchback, Colette is a contortionist, and Kevin is ambidextrous (and very pessimistic). Sunny also discovers her talent in cooking when she comes up with an idea to add cinnamon to the hot chocolate Hugo made.
The next morning they discover that when Olaf asked Madame Lulu if one of the Baudelaire parents is still alive, she consulted the crystal ball and answered that one was indeed still alive and is up in the Mortmain Mountains. The children perform in a humiliating freak show and then encourage the other freaks to not just settle for being sideshow freaks and instead embrace their potential and lead a better life. Afterward, Olaf arrives with a pack of lions as a gift to Madame Lulu and announces that a lion pit will be dug. During the show, one of the freaks will be thrown in the next day in order 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 tricks 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 that 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 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 lightning 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. Esmé gives Hugo the large coat the hook-handed man wore when he was the doorman in The Ersatz Elevator which completely disguises his hunchback. She gives Colette a large robe that would allow her to contort her body into any shape she wanted without people being aware. She gives Kevin a rope that would allow him to tie one hand behind his back so that he can have a dominant hand like regular people. Esmé gives Beverly and Elliot a sack that would allow them to hide one of their heads. She gives Chabo the Wolf Baby 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. They 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 noisy, 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 The Bald Man with the Long Nose fall into the pit and get devoured. The Baudelaires are deeply depressed after not keeping their promise to Madame Lulu.
After escaping to Madame Lulu’s tent with tears in their eyes, 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. Their blackened bodies are later found by Lemony Snicket.
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 cut the caravan off the car while on a steep slope.