The Reptile Room is the second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, written by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) and illustrated by Brett Helquist. It was published on September 30, 1999 by HarperCollins.
In this book, the Baudelaires are sent to live with a herpetologist who studies snakes.
If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I'm afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don't be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.
In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the reappearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again.
I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.
With all due respect,
- For Beatrice–
- My love for you shall live forever.
- You, however, did not.
After being taken away from their horrible guardian Count Olaf, the three Baudelaire children are taken by Mr. Poe to their new guardian, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, who lives on Lousy Lane, in a house that smells like horseradish. According to Mr. Poe, Dr. Montgomery is the Baudelaire's "late father's cousin's wife's brother. Dr. Montgomery, or "Uncle Monty" as he prefers to be called, is a short, chubby man with a round red face. He invites the children in for coconut cream cake (or in Sunny's case, a carrot). He is much of a more friendly man rather than Count Olaf, and gives the children free rein in the house. Each of the children can have their own room. Monty tells the children that they will be going on an expedition to Peru, once his new assistant, Stephano, arrives. He says that his old assistant, Gustav, had suddenly and suspiciously resigned.
The children are fascinated by the many snakes in the Reptile Room, a giant hall in which Monty's reptile collection is stored. They meet The Incredibly Deadly Viper, which Monty has only recently discovered. The snake's name is a misnomer since it is harmless; Monty intends to use it to play a practical joke on the Herpetologist Society in revenge for them ridiculing his name, Montgomery Montgomery. The three children are each given jobs in the Reptile Room: Violet is given the job of inventing traps for new snakes found in Peru, Klaus is told to read books on snakes to help advise Uncle Monty and Sunny's job is to bite ropes into usable pieces. She also befriends the Incredibly Deadly Viper.
When Stephano arrives, the children realize that he is Count Olaf in disguise. They try to warn Monty, but Stephano foils these attempts. Eventually, Monty does realize Stephano is evil but believes Stephano to be an impostor sent to steal the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Monty explains this all to the astonished orphans and tears Stephano's ticket to Peru up, saying that Stephano will not be going on the trip with them. Stephano threatens the children privately later, hinting at a plot he has for them when they reach Peru. They tell him that Monty won't let him go with them and Stephano becomes furious. On the day they are to leave for Peru, they discover Monty's dead body in the Reptile Room. He has two tiny puncture holes under his left eye, and Stephano claims that he has been bitten by a snake.
Stephano still intends to take the children to Peru where he will more easily find a way to get his hands on their fortune. However, as they are leaving the estate, Stephano's car crashes into that of Mr. Poe. They return to the house, where Poe and Stephano discuss what to do with the children. The Baudelaires try to prove that it was Stephano who killed Monty. During this time, Stephano calls in a doctor named Dr. O. Lucafont to do an autopsy on Monty where he claims that the Incredibly Deadly Viper killed him.
Meanwhile, the children realize that they'll need evidence to expose Stephano's scheme. Klaus and Sunny stage a diversion in which the Incredibly Deadly Viper pretends to attack Sunny to allow Violet time to find and open Stephano's suitcase. Violet does so and finds a syringe and an empty glass vial labeled the venom of the Mamba du Mal, while Klaus reads up on a book about how the Mamba du Mal is poisonous and chokes its victims to death as well, and that if it truly killed Monty, he would have a "tenebrous hue", not pale skin. Curious, Mr. Poe rubs away the powder on Stephano's ankle to reveal the eye tattoo, proving to no one's surprise but Mr. Poe's that Stephano was Olaf. In addition, Sunny also removes Dr. Lucafont's fake hands revealing that he is the Hook-Handed Man. Both Count Olaf and the Hook-handed Man get away.
Soon, the Baudelaires will be assigned to yet another guardian. They watch as Monty's reptile collection is taken away by Bruce. They watch as the car containing the Incredibly Deadly Viper drives off into the night, and they hope to have a more fortunate guardian soon.
In the last picture of The Reptile Room, Bruce and his partners are seen loading Dr. Montgomery's reptiles into a van. One of the men is wearing a shirt that reads Lachrymose Leeches on the back, a hint to the next book.
Letter to the Editor
To My Kind Editor,
I am writing to you from the shores of Lake Lachrymose, where I am examining the remains of Aunt Josephine's house in order to completely understand everything that happened when the Baudelaire orphans found themselves here.
Please go to the Café Kafka at 4 p.m. next Wednesday and order a pot of jasmine tea from the tallest waiter on duty. Unless my enemies have succeeded, he will bring you a large envelope instead. Inside the envelope, you will find my description of these horrific events, entitles THE WIDE WINDOW, as well as a sketch of Curdled Cave, a small bag of shattered glass, and the menu from the Anxious Clown restaurant. There will also be a test tube containing one (1) Lachrymose Leech, so that Mr. Helquist can draw an accurate illustration. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should this test tube be opened.
Remember, you are my last hope that the tales of the Baudelaire orphans can finally be told to the general public.
With all due respect,
- Violet Baudelaire
- Klaus Baudelaire
- Sunny Baudelaire
- Count Olaf (as Stephano)
- Hook-Handed Man (as Dr. O. Lucafont)
- Arthur Poe
- Add insult to injury: a phrase which here means "forcing somebody to do an unpleasant task when they're already very upset"
- Admonished: a word which here means "reprimanded Klaus even though he was interrupting for a very good reason"
- Alcove: "a very, very small nook just perfect for sitting and reading."
- Bambini: Italian for children
- Brummagen: a fancy word for "fake"
- Clouded Over:"took on a slightly gloomy look as Uncle Monty thought about his bad luck"
- Crude: the word "crude" here means "roughly made at the last minute" rather than "rude of ill-mannered
- Come clean: a phrase which here means "admit that he is really Count Olaf and up to no god"
- Come to Fruition: a phrase which here means "the Baudelaires were finally to learn of it."
- Constant surveillance: a phrase which here means, "kept watching them so they couldn't possibly talk to Uncle Monty alone and reveal that he was really Count Olaf,"
- Dramatic irony: when a person makes a harmless remark, and someone else who heard it knows something that makes the remark a different, and usually unpleasant meaning.
- Dumbly: the word dumbly here means "without speaking," rather than "in a stupid way"
- Entertaining: "thinking" rather than "singing or dancing or putting on skits"
- Generic: "when one is unable to think of anything else to say"
- Giddy: dizzy and excited
- Hash this out: a phrase which here means "talk about something a length until we completely understand it."
- Hue: colour
- Flourish: "a sweeping gesture, often used to show off"
- Hackneyed: "used by so, so many writers that by the time Lemony Snicket uses it, it is a tiresome cliche."
- Herpetology: study of snakes
- In conjunction: together
- Insipid: not worth reading to someone
- Inquisitive: Full of questions
- Meanwhile back at the ranch: a phrase used to link what is going on in one part of the story to what is going on in another part of the story, and it has nothing to do with cows or with horses or with any people who work in rural areas where ranches are, or even with ranch dressing, which is creamy and put on salads.
- Misnomer: "a very wrong name"
- Needle in haystack: It is very difficult, experts have told us, to find a needle in a haystack, which is why "needle in a haystack has become a rather hackneyed phrase meaning "something that is difficult to find."
- Nemesis: a word which here means, "the worst enemy you could imagine."
- Oblivious: "not aware that Stephano was really Count Olaf and thus being in a great deal of danger".
- -ology: Whenever a word as ology, it means the study of something
- Out of earshot: a word which here means "close enough to hear him"
- Perpetuate his deception: a phrase which here means "lie, lie, lie."
- Preempt: "It means that I think Stephano is going to steal my snake," Uncle Monty said "and present it to the Herpetological Society."
- Retrieve: "take away"
- Ridicule: to tease
- Ruffians: horrible people
- Segue: "let the conversation veer off"
- Strangulatory: having to do with strangling
- Suspicious: "If someone is suspicious, it means they're not sure"
- Take the Cake: a phrase which here means that more horrible things have happened to them than just about anybody
- Tenebrous: dark
- Transpired: a word which here means "happened and made everybody sad."
- Trapped in his inner sanctum: A phrase which here means "filthy room in which evil plans are devised"
- Unblemished: without tattoos.
- Vainglorious: a word which here means "braggy"
- Vanity: "Count Olaf thinking he's the most incredible person who ever lived"
- Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography suggests that Zombies in the Snow was encrypted with Sebald Code. This is confirmed in the TV series.
- In the new paperback version of the series, The Reptile Room or Murder, there is a circular stamp on Stephano's suitcase that has the V.F.D. insignia with a pupil drawn in the D.
References to the Real World
- Main article: References and allusions in Lemony Snicket's works
- Dr. Montgomery Montgomery may be a reference to Monty Python, a British comedy group. The children call him uncle "Monty" and him being a herpetological scientist that specializes in snakes may refer to "Python", a type of snake.
- Dr. Montgomery Montgomery's name is also reminiscent of Humbert Humbert, the main character in Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita.
- One of the snakes in Dr. Montgomery's collection, the Virginian Wolfsnake, takes the name of novelist Virginia Woolf. Uncle Monty warns the Baudelaire children never to allow the snake near a typewriter.
- Both the name of the boat to Peru, the Prospero and the name Count Olaf takes, "Stephano", are allusions to William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
- When planning how to prove that Stephano murdered Uncle Monty, Sunny is asked to watch the door and bite anyone that tries to enter the Reptile Room. Sunny replies, "Ackroid!," which probably meant something like "Roger!", a reference to Agatha Christie's 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
The Reptile Room has a 3.97/5 on Goodreads.com.
- "Someone important disguised as a taxi driver passes unnoticed." that could be referring to one of the Snicket Siblings.
- Lemony Snicket makes it clear with a lot of "ever"s that unless you are Violet, you should probably not mess around with electrical devices because you could die.
Several editions of The Reptile Room have been published. Some of these include foreign editions or re-prints such as: The Reptile Room (US), The Reptile Room (UK), The Reptile Room (UK Paperback), The Reptile Room or, Murder! and Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents.
The Reptile Room (UK)
The Reptile Room (UK) was released on May 26, 2003 by Egmont Books, Ltd. It features a black cover, different fonts and a lime-green spine. Brett Helquist's illustration also differs slightly. On each of the UK versions, between the coloured spine and the black cover there are narrow images depicting a reference to each books content. The Reptile Room features two entwined snakes. This is repeated on the back cover.
The Reptile Room (UK Paperback)
This is a paperback version of The Reptile Room released in the UK by Egmont Books in 2010. It has Lemony Snicket written on the top with A Series of Unfortunate Events written below it in an eye shape.
The Reptile Room: or, Murder!
The Reptile Room or, Murder! is a paperback re-release of The Reptile Room, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. It was released on May 8, 2007, by HarperCollins. The book features a new full-color cover, seven new illustrations, and the second part of a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade, which includes the second part of a 13-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled The Spoily Brats, an advice column written by Lemony Snicket, and the second part of a story by Stephen Leacock entitled Q: A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural, along with other novelty additions.
Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents
Le Laboratoire Aux Serpents is the French edition of The Reptile Room, published by Nathan Poche. It is almost completely black with a white snake.