Krook, Mrs. Smallweed’s brother, is an old drunk who keeps a rag and bone shop in back street behind the court of Chancery. Krook is illiterate and cannot read the heaps of legal documents contained within the shop. He tries to teach himself to read by spelling out individual letters in chalk on the walls of the shop and asking people to read the words back to him. However, he never makes any real progress towards literacy and is constantly drunk on gin. Krook is a sinister and implicitly threatening old man. He keeps a bad-tempered cat who claws things on his command, and he spies upon his tenants and closely questions people who visit the shop. It is unclear how much Krook knows about the lawsuits and secrets which are contained in the documents that populate his shop, but he is clearly a greedy and miserly old man and wishes to keep these secrets to himself, and always to gather new ones, even if he does not understand what they mean. His proximity to the courthouse has earned him the nickname the “Lord Chancellor,” and he is a parody of the Chancery court and the confusing jumble of papers which the real Lord Chancellor presides over. The amount of gin that Krook drinks means that his breath is ripe with alcohol fumes, and he sees to steam at the mouth. This description ties in to the idea that Krook is a fairy tale villain, like a dragon or a wolf, which is he also associated with by his lodger Miss Flite, and that he unknowingly guards the treasure which reveals the key to Esther Summerson’s identity: the letters from her mother, Lady Dedlock, to her father, Captain Hawdon, who is also Krook’s lodger, Nemo. Krook is also associated with a dragon in the manner of his death; he spontaneously combusts, and Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle discover his ashes. This suggests that Krook’s insides catch on fire—that he is consumed from the inside out by a fire caused by the gin he drinks and perhaps his own smoldering greed.