Chapter summaries: Part 1


Chapter: 1

Place/Time: July 17, 1738, marketplace for victuals, Saint-Merri cloister

Characters: Grenouille, his mother, police officer La Fosse, nurse Jeanne Bussie

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is introduced. His name appears in a line with other important personalities of the time.

The living conditions of people in 18th century France are shown, with particular emphasis on the unpleasant smells. Jean-Baptiste is born on July 17, 1738, in a marketplace. His mother is selling fish and gives birth to him under the sales table.

The young woman faints. Other market visitors become aware of her. She quickly recovers from the incident and dismisses it as insignificant. As the child begins to scream, people discover that she has given birth. The woman is arrested, convicted of being a child murderer, and beheaded.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is raised by wet nurses. Since he needs too much milk, none of the women wants to have him with them any longer. The police officer La Fosse orders a church organization to take Grenouille in. Grenouille is sent to the cloister of Saint-Merri. There he is baptized and placed in the care of the wet nurse Jeanne Bussie.

Chapter: 2

Place/Time: Saint-Merri Cloister

Characters: Father Terrier, the nurse Jeanne Bussie

The nurse Bussie brings Grenouille back to the cloister and wants to leave him with Father Terrier. The child has drunk so much milk that she can no longer take care of him.

The Father is reluctant to take the baby and offers the nurse a raise. She rejects this and insists that she wants to give Grenouille away. Bussie claims that Grenouille is possessed by the devil and mentions that he has no smell.

The Father insists that Grenouille is not possessed and sees the boy's lack of any scent as a sign of health. In the end, he takes the child with him to the cloister and sends the wet nurse away.

Chapter: 3

Place/Time: Saint-Merri Cloister

Characters: Father Terrier, Grenouille

Father Terrier feels sorry for the child. He smells the boy and notices his lack of smell. When the child opens his eyes, they are slimy. Grenouille cannot see Father Terrier, but he can smell him. The monk feels uncomfortable being sniffed by the child and starts feeling repelled by Grenouille. For this reason, he no longer wants Grenouille near him. When the child also begins to scream, Father Terrier takes him to Madame Gaillard.

Chapter: 4

Place/Time: House of Madame Gaillard

Characters: Madame Gaillard, Grenouille

Madame Gaillard is introduced. She lacks the ability to smell.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille grows up in her care. He suffers various illnesses and injuries, gets by with little food and little emotional closeness. Grenouille is not a loving child. Instead he is introverted and fixated on himself.

Madame Gaillard is not bothered by his behavior. However, the other children find him scary and even try to kill him.

Chapter: 5

Place/Time: March, house of Madame Gaillard

Characters: Grenouille, Madame Gaillard

Grenouille slowly learns to speak.

He has his first intense olfactory experience when he consciously smells wood for the first time. After smelling things, he pronounces the word of the scented object. Pro...

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