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Literature / Carnivorine

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Published in 1889 by Lucy H Hooper, this is the tale of a middle-aged dilettante, Ellis Graham, who goes on a quest to discover the fate of his old friend Julius Lambert, a scientist. To his dismay, Graham finds that his friend has bred a carnivorous plant with decidedly-dangerous capabilities, with which Lambert is obsessed.

Decidedly-dangerous carnivorous tropes include:

  • Antagonist Title: Carnivorine is the monster.
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  • Artistic License – Biology: Postulating a carnivorous plant the size of a small tree isn't that unreasonable, but the explanation Hooper has Lambert give for the origin of Carnivorine is absurd even by the lights of 1880's evolutionary biology.
    Lambert: It has always been my theory that the hydra, the dragon, and other monstrous forms of animal life really did exist, and that, in the evolution of ages and by reasons of geological changes on the surface of the Earth, these creatures, deprived of their accustomed forms of nourishment, degenerated into trees and plants and took root in the earth.
  • Blatant Lies: When Graham asks Lambert what he's been doing in the years since last they met, Lambert says "Nothing. I have done — I am doing — nothing."
  • Botanical Abomination: The titular Carnivorine.
    Graham: ...a strange plant — a hideous shapeless monster: a sort of vegetable hydra — or, rather, octopus — gigantic and size and repulsive in aspect and in coloring. So immense were its proportions, that is filled by itself the whole space of the conservatory. It consisted of a central bladder-shaped trunk or core, from which sprang countless branches — or, rather, arms — thick, leafless, of a livid green, and streaked with blotches of a dull-crimson. Each arm terminated in an oval protrusions which had a resemblance to the human eye.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: Ellis Graham goes searching for Julius Lambert in and around Rome, but cannot find where he went. When he decides to go out for a horseback ride in the Campagna, he stumbles across a half-ruinous villa by sheer chance, and discovers Julius Lambert to be living there.
  • For Science!: Lambert's cool is to give Carnivorine the power of locomotion and set her free upon the world, for no very obvious reason other than that he believes he can, and that it would be an interesting scientific experiment.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Ellis Graham is a middle-aged man of means and leisure, who originally planned to travel to Rome "to write a history of the Cenci family."
  • Haunted Castle: The Villa Anzieri is an Italian variant. It's described as "modern," which in this context might mean anything from ~1700 on. It is half-ruinous, and the home of Julius Lambert and his Carnivorine.
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  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lambert succeeds in giving Carnivorine the power of locomotion — which she promptly uses to catch and devour him.
  • Mad Scientist: Julius Lambert becomes obsessed with cultivating a huge and highly dangerous carnivorous plant, to the point of losing his life in the endeavor.
  • No OSHA Compliance: considering that Carnivorine is an aggressive predator the size of a small tree and that Lambert correctly believes that it is possible to give her the power of locomotion, Lambert's experimental setup in the conservatory is incredibly dangerous. There is no clear barrier or marker indicating the creature's reach, nor any means of restraining her other than the fact that she is literally rooted to a large tub of earth. Unsurprisingly, she kills Lambert as soon as she gets loose of the soil.
  • Sci-Fi Horror: The biology is dodgy even by 1880s standards, but there is no hint that Carnivorine is in any way of supernatural origin.
  • Wine Is Classy: Lest the reader forget the upper-class origins of both Graham and Lambert:
    Graham: Dinner was served at last — a very palatable stew flavored with red peppers and tomatoes, with the accompaniment of some fine oranges and grapes by way of dessert, and a flask or two of Chianti wine and one of the delicate Civita Latina.

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