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medusoid

Medusoid Mycelium

In Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Medusoid Mycelium is a deadly poisonous mushroom that grows in the Gorgonian Grotto, serving as major plot devices in the books The Grim Grotto and The End. The fungus was accidentally made by Gregor Anwhistle.

The following is a passage from Mushroom Minutiae (a fictional book of mushroom science quoted in The Grim Grotto):

"The Gorgonian Grotto, located in propinquity to Anwhistle Aquatics, has appropriately wraithlike nomenclature, with roots in Grecian mythology, as this conical cavern is fecund with what is perhaps the bugaboo of the entire mycological pantheon. The Medusoid Mycelium has a unique conducive strategy of waxing and waning: first a brief dormant cycle in which the mycelium is nearly invisible, and then a precipitated flowering into speckled stalks and caps of such intense venom that it is fortunate the grotto serves as quarantine. As the poet says,

A single spore has such grim power
That you may die within the hour.
''Is dilution simple? But of course!
Just one small dose of root of horse."

Kit Snicket writes a letter making references to both the fungus and Opportune Odors Horseradish Factory:

"The poisonous fungus you insist on cultivating in the grotto will bring grim consequences for all of us. Our factory at Lousy Lane can provide some dilution of the mycelium's destructive respiratory capabilities."

Appearances in A Series of Unfortunate Events

In Book the Eleventh (The Grim Grotto), it plays a major role when Sunny gets infected while searching, with the other siblings and Fiona, for the sugar bowl in the Gorgonian Grotto. Luckily she survives, as her siblings give her a dose of the antidote, wasabi (Japanese horseradish). At the end of the book, however, Count Olaf gets hold of a sample of the fungus, and in The Penultimate Peril he attempts to infect all the guests of the Hotel Denouement with this newfound weapon. The plan is foiled, and Count Olaf escapes with the mushrooms, along with Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. Also, an interesting point to make is that Dewey Denouement told Olaf that he "would not dare" unleash the Medusoid Mycelium because Dewey had the sugar bowl.

When Olaf forces the orphans to sail away from the hotel, he keeps the mushrooms in a sealed diving helmet, threatening to release the Mycelium and poison them all if the children refuse to row the boat

In The End, Count Olaf disguises himself as a pregnant Kit Snicket and uses the helmet containing the Medusoid Mycelium as his false baby. When Ishmael shoots him in the stomach with the harpoon gun, the fungus is once again released. In fact, the entire island's population, besides Ishmael, is infected with the Medusoid Mycelium, but by the time the Baudelaires returned with the curative apples hybridized with horseradish, everyone had boarded the outrigger canoe and refused to listen to the children telling them to take the cure. The Baudelaires and Count Olaf were cured by eating a horseradish-apple hybrid, but the poison fungus claimed the life of Kit Snicket who couldn't eat the fruit due to its harmful effect on pregnant women's unborn children. It is not known if the other islanders survived, as Ishmael refused to allow the curative apples onto the departing outrigger (though it is clear that Ishmael himself had recently eaten an apple to cure himself). It is suggested in the book that Ink the Incredibly Deadly Viper may have succeeded in getting one curing apple to the departing islanders without Ishmael noticing, to tide them over until they can cure themselves properly. Their ultimate fates are unknown.

Description

As can be deduced from the passage above, the Medusoid Mycelium is a mushroom that resides in the Gorgonian Grotto and has a unique habit of shrinking and disappearing underground, then sprouting silently and very quickly back up to full size again. The mushroom (like most mushrooms) has an umbrella-shaped pileus, and both the pileus and the stipe are dark gray, randomly speckled with black spots. It grows thickly in the throat, constricting the air-passage and choking the victim. The only cure for this infection is horseradish (or a variant like wasabi or Eutrema), which the V.F.D. once processed in the Opportune Odors Horseradish Factory on Lousy Lane.V.F.D. also created a hybrid tree by cross breeding Horseradish and apple trees.This Tree grew on the island sometimes called Olaf Land and effectively destroyed all remaining spores in that area. Although it is referred to as a mushroom, it should actually be called a toadstool because of its poisons which render it inedible, though the poison may be removed by boiling as is done with many other 'mushrooms'. Until the events at the end of The Grim Grotto, it had been safely quarantined in the Gorgonian Grotto, but a sample was taken from the grotto and kept by Count Olaf as a biological weapon which, if opened, could spread the deadly fungus far and wide. It is stated by Fiona that the fungus can actually be the source of some marvellous remedies.

Song lyrics

For Book the Eleventh, a song entitled "A Million Mushrooms" was recorded by The Gothic Archies for the audiobook version of the book. According to Lemony Snicket, this song describes the Medusoid Mycelium.

The song lyrics are as follows:

A million mushrooms fill the field Where marchers' bodies lately fell

More marchers marching, heavy heeled

Release more spores that march as well

Across the twi-lit charnel ground

And over long-bewildered farms

Through palaces, where not a sound is heard

Though there should be alarms.

But winter comes and only ice

Is crushed beneath the marching feet,

In all the land where once was rice

There now is nothing fit to eat …

… Except mushrooms

Which nourish not the body

Nourish not the mind

And often poison, eating rot

The marchers march insane and blind

References

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