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Literature / Voyage of the Basset

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Voyage of the Basset is a 1996 fantasy novella. It tells the story of Professor Algernon Aisling and his two daughters Miranda and Cassandra as they set off on the HMS Basset, a marvelous ship run by dwarves and gremlins, into the lands where magical creatures live. It was adapted as Voyage of the Unicorn.

This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aerith and Bob: Played with. One of the trolls is named "Bob", but the author tells us that "Bob" is short "not for Robert, but for Bobalogwar."
  • All Myths Are True: The protagonists end up meeting the Minotaur, the Sphinx, harpies, a dryad, elves, Medusa, ogres, and a unicorn.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The ones the Basset encounters are human-sized, ugly creatures with a decidedly malicious bent.
  • The Aloner: When they find Medusa, she is completely alone because of her petrification powers. She tells the crew she has grown tired of it.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Basset contains far more rooms than it should be able to, looking at the outside. Miranda calls Sebastian on this, to which he answers, "As you said, Miss Miranda, it's all nonsense."
  • Cassandra Truth: Cassandra tries to tell her father that stealing the dragon skull from the trolls' lair is a bad idea, but he doesn't listen to her. It ends up bringing the trolls down on them at the end of the book.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Presumably, Professor Aisling's belief is what enabled him to safely look into Medusa's eyes near the end.
  • Deadly Gaze: Medusa has her famous gaze, which can cause people to be Taken for Granite.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Medusa. She is cold and arrogant when they initially find her, but she becomes a part of the team.
  • Everyone Can See It: Multiple characters remark on the Manticore and the Sphinx's unsubtle interest in each other.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Medusa.
  • Griping About Gremlins: These are decidedly curious rather than malicious.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Cassandra believes this thanks to Miranda, but it is averted in Professor Aisling, as well as in Cassandra and Miranda at the end of the book.
  • Happily Married: Cassandra (to a botanist) and Miranda (to a clergyman) at the end of the book.
  • Hates Baths: According to the text, trolls may fear hair-washing more than fire.
  • Harping on About Harpies: Although loud and prone to snatching food if not invited to join the dinner, these are actually good creatures and enthusiastic cooks.
  • Held Gaze: As Professor Aisling falls in love with Medusa, he finds himself wishing to look into her eyes.
  • In Defence of Storytelling: Professor Aisling's quest, touched off by a taunting colleague, is to prove why the old stories are important. He eventually decides that stories are important for keeping open the mind and giving it ideas.
  • Kid Hero: Cassandra, who is only nine.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: The harpies, who usually are simply annoying, can reputedly be fearsome opponents if you mess up their kitchen.
  • Meaningful Name: Cassandra, who foresees disaster without being believed.
  • Missing Mom: Mrs. Aisling died of an unknown illness sometime before the start of the book.
  • More Hero than Thou: Professor Aisling and one of the dwarves have a discussion like this when they think a preventative may have been found for Medusa. Medusa cuts them short, saying that she'll test its efficacy on the birds if the crew will give her a moment alone on deck.
  • Must Let Them Get Away: Professor Aisling wants to pursue and kill the trolls at the end, but the dragon reminds him that they are part of the myths too.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Professor Aisling causes the trolls to pursue the Basset by stealing a dragon skull from their lair, against the protests of Cassandra.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: the Basset takes on a classical griffin when he saves Cassandra from the trolls.
  • Our Manticores Are Spinier: The party encounters a manticore. He is leonine with a human face and intelligence to match. He initially decides he has to kill them, because he's under orders by the fairy king Oberon as a guard, but when the fairies tell him otherwise, he backs off.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: The Basset crew encounters ogres that, while ugly, are actually friendly and reasonably intelligent. One of them even leads them to where they can find the unicorn.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: These are lovely, friendly women with fish tails and a none-too-serious outlook on life.
  • Power Limiter: Medusa cannot turn a person to stone if her eyes are shut or covered. Partway through the book, the Basset crew discovers that she can live a fairly normal life by wearing smoke-stained glasses.
  • Reluctant Monster: Medusa seems to have this vibe; although detached about the statues in her "garden" upon first sighting, she doesn't want to turn so much as a seagull into stone during her time on the Basset. That doesn't stop her from accidentally petrifying the first mate.
  • Second Love: Professor Aisling falls in love with Medusa.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: The mermaids can sing with haunting beauty, although they use it to call the sea serpent so he can save ships from being dashed on the rocks. According to Professor Aisling's notes, they allege that sailors made up the whole "singing sailors to their deaths" bit.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The mermaids' sea serpent looks like a snake, but unlike some presentations, he saves ships rather than sinking them.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • Sebastian gets turned into a statue halfway through the book when he tries to prevent Medusa from accidentally doing the same thing to Cassandra. This touches off the quest for a unicorn.
    • Medusa weaponizes her gaze towards the trolls in the final battle.
  • Taking the Bullet / Tuck and Cover: After pushing Miranda and the unicorn out of the way of the dragon's flame, Professor Aisling covers them with his body. He isn't hurt, though; the dragon only gets Skotos, the troll chief.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Minotaur was trapped in his labyrinth because he didn't realize that the way in could be used as the way out.
  • Unicorns Are Sacred: But the trolls don't mind strangling one.
  • Visible to Believers: The titular ship's motto, "Credendo vides", is translated in - universe as "By believing, one sees." In fact, a more accurate translation of the latin might be "you believe as you see".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Professor Aisling becomes one of these midway through the book in his zeal to prove the importance of myths; he rationalizes taking the mythological creatures back with him and putting them on display in London. He gets better.
  • What Have I Done?: Professor Aisling when his change to a well-intentioned extremist inadvertently contributes to Sebastian's petrification.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: When Professor Aisling tries to look into Medusa's eyes, she says, "Algernon, don't!" Normally, she refers to him more formally.