Sally Sebald's letter to Lemony Snicket Feb 20, 2020 22:06:08 GMT -5 via mobile
Post by Optimism is my Phil-osophy on Feb 20, 2020 22:06:08 GMT -5
The letter can be found in chapter 4 of LSTUA. The introduction of the letter indicates that it is a reply letter from Sally to Lemony. There is a symbol at the top right that indicates that Sally Sebald was chosen as Executrix of the Sebald Estate. Thus, when Sally wrote this letter, Gustav Sebald's death was already public knowledge. I came to think Sally Sebald had assumed the identity of Gustav Sebald after Gustav's death, but this symbol, which was to be used in several correspondences from Sally, indicates that Sally Sebald made no attempt to hide Gustav's death.
When was this letter written? Evidently after Gustav's death. But was it many years after Gustav's death, that is, many years after the main events narrated by Lemony Snicket in ASOUE? At first I thought so, but I was wrong. This letter was evidently written before Lemony published TBB, but after Dr. Owell's death. Looking back, Lemony started writing the first sketches of ASOUE's books during the main events narrated in ASOUE. But Lemony published TBB and TRR after a few years of the main events narrated in ASOUE. Keeping that in mind helps us to understand some of Sally's statements in this letter.
Sally says: "What a relief it was to learn that you are alive and that Dr. Orwell is dead! For years I suspected the opposite, and assumed that one of your siblings was handling your affairs, as I am handling Gustav's."
The fact that Sally believed that Lemony was dead for years, matches the time when Kit believed that Lemony was dead, as she stated in TE. Lemony's death had apparently been widely publicized among VFD members. (Of course, this was not the only time this happened. Nor was this the last time this happened). If when Lemony wrote the letter to Sally in which he told Sally he was alive, he had already published TBB to the general public in his universe, it was highly unlikely that Sally Sebald would still believe that Lemony Snicket was dead for many years.
In the letter Lemony sent to Sally, he told her that he was writing books about the Baudelaires. But that does not mean that he has already published any of them. Sally wrote:
"I hope that the books you are writing about the Baudelaires will make people remember the director of Ghosts in the Desert ... Zombies in the Snow ..."
Sally also points out that she and Gustav had the opportunity to talk about the movie Zombies in the Snow. She said in the letter:
"A Crucial Scene in Zombies in the Snow... was meant do deliver a message concerning the survivor mentioned in your letter, but my brother told me no more than this."
Recalling the secret message contained in the letter is as follows:
"Attention, hidden in he snowman is a survivor of the fire. Meet us in the town where this film takes place bring the three children. Your new assistant is not one of us. Beware!"
I know that the first impression we have is that it is a message about the Baudelaires about Count Olaf. But a second reading will help us to realize that this interpretation simply would not make sense.
(I think now is the time to talk about the photos and the hypotheses at the same time.)
Of course, it is possible to use non-canonical devices to resolve this, such as stating that there is more than one Gustav. I am not saying that this is not possible, but that it is a non-canonical device that "creates" a character not mentioned in ASOUE. The same is true when defending a remake of Zombies in the Snow. This is a non-canonical device, because it "creates" a film not mentioned by Sally in a list of films. Some also question the credibility of the photos in Sally's letter, and in a way "create" a different photo depicting the real Gustav Sebald building the snowman. Snicket Sleuth hypothesized that the real Gustav Sebald would be at the back of the snowman and the boy portrayed in Sally's photo. In this way he "created" a man in an image. All are hypotheses and all help to solve the mystery, but all use non-canonical tools, although all of these hypotheses use previous examples in which these mechanisms were used. But the difference between the examples and the reality is that in the examples Daniel Handler made it clear that that mechanism was being used, but not here.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not against using non-canonical devices to solve some ASOUE mysteries. I am one of those who use them the most, so I know how to identify them so well. But I know when I am using them, and I am fully aware that these devices are fragile, and must always succumb to canonical explanations. And I also know that a non-canonical explanation must not succumb to another non-canonical explanation. In this case it's just a matter of preference that you want to believe.
But in this specific case, I defend the idea that the only canonical hypothesis for the photo of the boy building the snowman that Sally Sebald claims to be Gustav Sebald, is that it really is Gustav Sebald. To believe that it is not necessary to "create" anything. This would make the hidden message referring to an old case, from the time when Gustav was a child. The three brothers of almost the same age are just three people unknown to us. After all, Prufrock Prep is very old, and has long since received orphans.
This solution is simple and combines with the concept that Daniel Handler worked on TPP and TE. In TPP, in the account of the mysterious taxi driver, Lemony talks about people who had no direct relationship with the Baudelaires. Lemony knew about information about children from other cities, because at the time of the main events narrated in ASOUE, several cases other than the Baudelaire case were in progress. In TE Olaf and Ish do monologues that also demonstrate cases that have nothing to do with the Baudelaires. So this concept was very much in Daniel Handler's mind when he wrote LSTUA, and LSTUA itself is proof of that. Realize how little LSTUA brings content about the Baudelaires while it is rich in content about different characters!
Even when Daniel Handler wrote File Under 13, he put Mimi to watch a movie with Zombies in the winter when Lemony was still a teenager. The idea of wanting Zombies in the Snow to be a remake of this old film instead of the old film itself stems from a desire for everything to be connected. I also understand this desire very well, but it is dangerous and blinds us to the simplest truths. Zombies in the Snow already existed when Lemony was a teenager. Zombies in the snow was recorded when Gustav was a child, this is what Daniel Handler wants to tell us with the photo of Gustav building the snowman. The survivor is the unknown child, whose whereabouts are unknown. Guatav was killed by Count Olaf before the events narrated in TRR.