This little piggy went to market. This little piggy went to town. And this little piggy (Hugo) runs all the way home back to his secret apartment in the train station.
He goes to a secret hiding place in the wall and pulls something out. Guess what it is?
Hugo's uncovering a little man sitting at a desk poised as though he’s about to write something… wait, this looks a little familiar. Talk about déjà vu.
In the next image, we get a close-up of the little man’s face, which looks just like the drawings from Hugo’s notebook—masklike.
The little man, whatever he is, is made completely out of clockwork and other machinery.
How did all this come about? Well, we’re about to embark on a rather sad back-story.
You see, Hugo’s father used to own a clock shop and also took care of the train station clocks.
One day, he came home with an automaton that he found in the attic at the museum where he worked.
What is an automaton, you ask? Well it’s a wind-up figure that does something when it’s working—and this one writes. It was broken though, so Hugo wanted his father to fix it.
We see Hugo’s father sitting at his workshop, wearing glasses and poring over some sort of thingamabob. He was absolutely surrounded by all sorts of machinery and clocks—kind of like a crazy scientist.
Hugo’s father filled up notebooks with drawings of the automaton, as he opened and closed the automaton to look at all its parts.
He tries to work on it and bring it back to life.
But then one night, something very bad happened—the guard at the museum didn't realize that Hugo’s father was working in the attic and he locked the door.
Uh oh. Flames were coming from inside a cracked window.
The next thing Hugo knew, his Uncle Claude arrived to tell him that there had been a fire at the museum and that Hugo’s father was dead. Bring out the tissues.
Hugo was obviously kind of shell-shocked at this news, but Uncle Claude, who smelled like alcohol, sure didn't sugarcoat things to make them any easier.
He told Hugo that he was going to live with him at the station and be his apprentice. Hugo was not even going to go to school anymore.
So Uncle Claude taught the kiddo all the tricks of the clock-tending trade. Oh, and because he was such an outstanding role model, he also taught Hugo to steal.
As time passed, Uncle Claude started to disappear for hours at a time. And then one day he disappeared altogether.
So what did Hugo do? He left the station to go for a walk. As he walked, he passed the ruins of the museum where his father died, and he saw something in the rubble.
It was the automaton, lying on its back (and looking kind of torn up, naturally) in a pile of junk.
Hugo sat down and took a gander at the little thing. Eventually, he picked it up and brought it back to the train station, where it now resides.
The automaton seemed to want him to fix it (creepy or hallucinatory?), and Hugo decided to try.
He stayed at the train station, keeping the clocks running and hiding from the Station Inspector because if he knew Hugo was there alone, he’d surely send him to an orphanage.
Hugo has managed to stay invisible in the train station for three months. And now he has to get that notebook back so he can keep working on the automaton.