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Orphaned when their parents die in a fire, the Baudlaires now have to escape the greedy hands of Count Olaf... and on their way, they uncover a massive conspiracy.
- A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Violet and Klaus, 14/15 and 12/13 respectively, fit the bill for the two older siblings. Although Sunny is no longer referred to as a baby from Book the Tenth onward, she is undeniably the age-distant baby.
- Ambiguously Jewish: Daniel Handler has mentioned that he tends to write characters as Jewish by "default" until elaborated otherwise. More to the point, in the final book, the Baudelaires mention that it is their family's tradition to name babies after deceased relatives — a Jewish tradition in real life.
- Badass Adorable: All three. Especially Sunny, who's badass even though she's a baby.
- Break The Cuties: Not quite, but it comes pretty damn close at times.
- Cassandra Truth: No one believes the Baudelaires whenever they see Count Olaf, except in the final book.
- Cinderella Circumstances: With Count Olaf.
- Clark Kenting: The group does this a few times.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The Baudelaires fear this and even do some morally questionable things later on - it's actually quoted in the tenth book.
- Power Trio: Sunny, as the baby, fills the Id, and Claus the walking encyclopedia fills the Superego. Violet usually leads the family as the Ego.
- Properly Paranoid: They aren't just seeing things; Count Olaf IS always there.
- Seekers: Eventually.
- Weirdness Magnet: Well, more like "Count Olaf magnet", who is one of the weirdest of them all.
Violet BaudelaireThe oldest of the Baudelaire Trio, Violet is an intelligent 14-15 year old inventor and responsible older sister.
- Character Tics: Violet always ties her hair back when she's thinking hard - usually about inventing.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Rarely anything particularly outlandish, as she did not often have much to work with.
- Lethal Chef: Violet burns everything she cooks, even toast.
- Locking Macgyver In The Store Cupboard: This happens to her roughly once per book
- Perky Goth: Violet's character design changes from a rather innocent 50's girl style, to a lolita-style goth in the film.
- Older Than They Look: Apparently will be this in the upcoming TV series- the official Netflix casting call describes her as a young-looking 14 year old.
- Promotion to Parent: Violet takes the vow she made to look after her younger siblings very seriously.
- Tomboyish Ponytail: in the film adaptation, anyway.
Klaus BaudelaireThe middle Baudlaire and only boy, Klaus is extremely bookish and prone to using big words. The vast amount of things he's learned from his reading, as well as his research skills, come in handy.
- Bookworm/Badass Bookworm: Though all the siblings qualify as this, Klaus's thing is that he uses books to kick ass.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: In Book the Fourth; he even appears to have Mind-Control Eyes on the cover.
- Character Tics: Klaus has a habit of polishing his glasses.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: His specialty is reading, which doesn't seem too good on paper and isn't looked highly upon by the villains. Usually, he'll find a library in a novel that will give him the power to help the Baudelaires get out of a jam. In later books, his range of knowledge basically covers anything that his sisters don't know.
- Photographic Memory: He remembers absolutely everything he's ever read.
- Running Gag: Adults explaining to Klaus the definitions of words that he already knows.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Klaus is fond of big words, much to the annoyance of the villains. He also explains the definitions of words to his siblings often.
- Middle Child Syndrome/ Sibling Rivalry: Klaus originally resented Sunny when she was born, but got over it quickly when he got to know her.
Sunny BaudelaireThe youngest Baudelaire is only a baby and only intelligible to her brother and sister (at least at the beginning). However, she is extremely intelligent, and in addition to having four very sharp teeth as a weapon, she also demonstrates admirable cooking skills later on.
- Baby Talk: This changes when she starts to speak coherently towards the series' end.
- The Big Guy: Especially at the beginning when her special ability was her sharp teeth. Sunny was often called upon to chew ropes or rocks and once fought off a sword with her teeth.
- Badass in Distress: Despite being able to take care of herself, Sunny is still a baby. She's the target of multiple kidnappings and once contracted a dangerous disease.
- Character Tics: Sunny likes to bare or sharpen her teeth, chews on objects when she's agitated or just for fun and bites people gently in greeting and hard if she doesn't like them.
- Child Prodigy: What she will definitely grow up to be.
- Cute Little Fangs: Four of them. Usually drawn in illustrations with the tip of one tooth sticking out of her mouth
- Deadpan Snarker: In Baby Talk. Especially prominent in the movie, where every other thing she says is some kind of insult or sarcasm.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: People who know her well understand her.
- In "The Slippery Slope", Sunny takes advantage of her tendency towards baby talk and repeatedly insults Olaf, knowing he can't understand her.
- And in later books, instead of gibberish, she often says words (or partial words) that relate to her response, or at least the topic being discussed. For example, when describing a sword fight, she says "Flynn", when somebody mentions a train, she says "Esoobac", when talking about going undercover, she says "Dragnet", and when somebody asks her to do something impossible, she exclaims "Unfeasi!"
- Even toward the beginning of the series, she often says things that seem like gibberish but are real words in other languages, making her a Bilingual Bonus. Some highlights include "Arigato", "yomhuledet", and "yomhashoah".
- Little Miss Badass: She once fought against a sword-wielding hypnotist with her teeth, and held her own for a good while.
- Supreme Chef: Grows into this. By about the 11th book, she knows cooking and food theory.
- Vague Age: While the other orphans are given exact ages, Sunny is just known as a baby. This is probably to keep her antics from being too unbelievable by tying it to an age.
- Wise Beyond Her Years: Even moreso than the other Baudelaires, as she's a very intelligent baby.
The main villain of the series, Count Olaf is a villainous actor whose goal is to murder the Baudelaire children and steal their fortune, no matter where they go and how many stupid disguises he has to wear. He's revealed to have a connection to the shadowy organization known as VFD.
- Abusive Parent: To the Baudelaires... an abusive foster parent, anyway.
- Alas, Poor Villain: After getting harpooned by Ishmael, Olaf realizes that all of his plans have been foiled, he has nothing left to live for, having lost everyone close to him, and he has no chance of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune. After learning that Kit has gone into labor, he does what Violet the single good deed in his life by carrying her to an area where childbirth will be easier. Although he has eaten an apple that cures him of the Medusoid Mycelium that was released when he was harpooned, he succumbs to his harpoon wound, but not before reciting the closing stanza of a poem and giving out one final "HA!"
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Assuming he's actually a Count.
- Big Bad: Olaf is the main antagonist pursuing the Baudelaires.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Is pretty proud of the fact that he sets fires and kidnaps children for their fortune.
- Clark Kenting: The Baudelaires never fall for it. Everyone else does.
- Creepy Crossdresser: On two occasions.
- Dirty Old Man: He hints he plans to consummate his marriage with Violet.
- Evil Laugh: One of the author's more questionable choices in books 11 and 12.
- Fauxreigner: One of his disguises.
- Hidden Depths: Olaf has a Mysterious Past and is apparently an orphan himself. He also apparently had some sort of relationship with Kit Snicket.
- High-Class Glass: As Gunther.
- Illegal Guardian: Played utterly straight at first in book one.
- Just a Stupid Accent: From the same disguise.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Though it comes far too late for the Baudelaires' taste, the toxic mushrooms he planned to use to threaten his enemies led directly to his death.
- Large Ham: Olaf's acting is VERY Narmy and over-the-top. Probably helps the Baudelaires recognize him all the time.
- Manipulative Bastard: Though having said that, it doesn't really appear that difficult to manipulate someone in the Snicketverse.
- The Mistress: To the already married Esmé Gigi Genevieve Squalor. (Surprisingly, the fact that she is married is never lampshaded in the series.)
- Mysterious Past: Duncan and Isadora Quagmire mention newspaper articles that a man with similar traits as Olaf had strangled a bishop and escaped prison in just ten minutes and another report of him throwing a wealthy widow off a cliff. The Baudelaire children agree that it sounds like Olaf and believe him to be the man mentioned in the articles.
- Older Than They Look: Hints throughout the later books would suggest that Olaf was in VFD training with Kit and Lemony, making him around 39-45, but Helquist's illustrations depict a man that looks around 50-60 years of age. Also, the movie's depiction.
- Old Man Marrying a Child: He attempts this with Violet in the first book and the film adaptation. He fails and attempts to kill Violet and her siblings.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: His disguises only ever cover up his unibrow and ankle tattoo, which is what everyone always recognizes him by.
- Pet the Dog: He has a moment with Kit just before his death that qualifies.
- Pyro Maniac: It's clear that he has at least burned a hospital, a carnival and a hotel to ground and it's suggested that he also burned the Baudelaires' mansion, but Snicket never confirmed the fact.
- In the final book, the Baudelaires confront Olaf over their suspicions of him burning down their mansion. His initial response is "Is that what you think?" followed by "You know nothing."
- Redemption Equals Death: His last action before dying is rescuing Kit Snicket.
- Smug Snake: Is he ever.
- Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: Olaf has VERY poor hygiene.
- The Unreveal: Did Olaf burn down the Baudelaire mansion?
- The Film of the Book gave a definitive "yes", but it's likely non-canon.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Maybe. It's implied that Beatrice and/or Bertrand Baudelaire and/or Lemony Snicket killed his parents with poison darts during a performance of La Forza del Destino.
- You Are What You Hate: Olaf, a man whose parents were killed by poison darts while at an opera house, has a license plate with "IH8ORPHANS" inscribed on it.
- You Killed My Father: The film makes it more blatant that he was responsible for the death of Baudelaires' parents and the burning of their mansion than in the book, as Klaus finds the giant magnifying glass responsible for it and exposes it by burning the wedding contract. In the books the Baudelaires accuse him of the act, but his response, while not definite by any means, implies heavily that he did not do it.
Count Olaf's Theater Troupe
Count Olaf's TroupeOlaf has a large variety of henchmen he calls his "acting troupe."
- Ambiguous Gender: The Person of Indeterminate Gender, a.k.a. the enormous person who looked like neither a man or a woman.
- Dirty Old Man: The Hook Handed Man, aka Fernald. The Bald Man also seems to be this way in regards to Violet.
- The Dreaded: The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with the hair with no beard. Even Olaf is afraid of crossing them.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The reason that the white faced women Heel–Face Turn.
- Heel–Face Turn: The white faced women, thanks to Sunny.
- Heel–Face Revolving Door: It seems like Fernald's whole life is a chain of Heel–Face Turn followed by Face–Heel Turn; in the eleventh book, he manages to do both in the space of three chapters.
- Hook Hand: Fernald, a.k.a. "the hook-handed man."
- Pet the Dog: Fernald has this in the form of his little sister Fiona. The White Faced Women also had a younger sibling that they lost.
- Punch Clock Villain: Some of Olaf's troupe, especially the Hook-handed Man. The Bald Man is much more questional however.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The white-faced women fall victim to this in Book the Tenth, as apparently do Fernald and Fiona in Book the Twelfth (albeit off-screen).
- Significant Anagram: Whenever they use a pseudonym while in disguise, they typically use some anagram of "Count Olaf". "O. Lucafont" and "Flacutono" are reoccurring examples for The Hook-Handed Man and The Bald Man, respectively.
- The Trope Without a Title: The white-faced women, the man with a beard but no hair... most of the troupe.
Lemony SnicketThe mysterious narrator of the series who holds a torch for a deceased woman named Beatrice.
- Alter Ego Acting: Daniel Handler and Lemony Snicket - separate characters in the books themselves.
- Author Appeal: Mild example - Daniel Handler is something of a gourmand, and hence the Lemony Narrator never misses an opportunity to describe some delicious dish, even providing a salad recipe in the midst of an urgent-seeming message to his sister embedded in the tenth book.
- The Eeyore: He is very sad.
- The Faceless: Largely because he's a wanted criminal.
- Greek Chorus: Lemony Snicket provides a running commentary on the events, and often addresses the reader directly.
- Lemony Narrator: Of course.
- Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: Snicket never shows his face in photographs, but there are several possible explanations for why this is, and most such photographs are only seen by the audience in his author bio rather than by the characters.
- This also applies in-universe. A note in the Quagmire diaries indicate that Snicket's face is never seen in a photograph. And indeed, when the Baudelaires find a photo of their parents, there is an unidentified man with his back turned next to them.
- Stalker with a Crush: Inverted - Lemony's a good guy, but he does stalk the children of the woman he loved but couldn't have but should have had.
Esmé Gigi Genevieve SqualorOne of the Baudelaires' many foster parents turns out to be evil and becomes Count Olaf's girlfriend. She's a wealthy woman ridiculously dedicated to keeping up with every ludicrously inane fad that comes about.
- The Dragon: To Olaf in books six through twelve.
- Fashion-Victim Villain: In-universe. Her octopus outfit and lettuce leaf bikini among other clothes, and both the narrator and the orphans find her fashion sense abysmal.
- Fur and Loathing: Esmé is said to wear a coat made from the fur of animals that had been killed in extremely nasty ways.
- Fun with Acronyms: Her initials spell E.G.G.S. Probably the one time in the series when a set of initials really doesn't mean anything. (Also, talk about fun with acronyms!)
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: Her dress that looks like a fire. Lemony describes it as hideous, but really...
- Incoming Ham: Her habit of dramatically announcing her full name to people who already know it.
- Manipulative Bitch
- Villain with Good Publicity: The only reporter we see in the series is in Squalor's fan club.
VFDThe mysterious initials of a shadowy organization that everyone - from Olaf to the Baudelaires' parents - is connected to.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Some members qualify as this.
- The Ghost: Several characters.
- Knights Templar: Gregor Anwhistle, who wanted to use the deadly Medusoid Mycelium on V.F.D.'s enemies.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: V.F.D., and specifically the transcript of the meeting of the vague "Building Committee" in the Unauthorized Autobiography - even the author didn't know some of what was being discussed here, and he was technically in attendance.
The QuagmiresNo relation to Glenn.The Baudelaires' friends are two triplets who help the Baudelaires out and get kidnapped for their trouble. Duncan is a journalist while Isadora is a poet specializing in couplets. Later on, Quigley is revealed to have survived.
- Alliterative Name: Quigley Quagmire.
- Ambiguously Gay: Isadora gets called 'Sappho' by Sunny in the fifth book.
- Angsty Surviving Triplets: Duncan and Isadora mourn their brother Quigley, not knowing he's alive.
- Brainy Brunette: All three have very dark hair and very intellectual interests.
- Brother-Sister Team: Isadora and Duncan.
- Insistent Terminology: Isadora and Duncan are triplets by birth, but have to explain this to those they meet.
- Intrepid Reporter: Duncan, too a degree, since his main interest is journalism and he puts himself and his sister in serious danger for the sake of finding out the truth.
- Love Interest: Duncan and Quigley for Violet. The latter may even have gotten to kiss her in The Slippery Slope.
- One Mario Limit: Oh, so much averted!
- Non Identical Triplets
- Put on a Bus: Duncan and Isadora escape the Village of Fowl Devotees on a Self Sustaining Mobile Home.
- Bus Crash: Possibly. The VFD eagles destroy the home and it crashes into the Queequeg.
- Theme Naming: Isadora and Duncan. (Isadora Duncan.)
- Odd Name Out: Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley.
Carmelita SpatsThe bratty girl becomes a hindrance to the Baudelaires in book 5 and is later adopted by Olaf and Esme.
- Alpha Bitch: In her first appearance as the rich bratty leader of the Prufrock Preparatory students
- Enfante Terrible: She is rude, violent, filthy, but apparently one of the most popular girls in her school, and in her later appearance is to be crowned "False Spring Queen."
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Her "tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian" costume from the eleventh book.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: A self proclaimed "tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian" and "ball-playing cowboy superhero soldier pirate".
- Red Headed Bully: Helquist gives her bright red hair on the UK book cover
- Tyke Bomb: In her second appearance, Count Olaf and Esmé Squalor adopt Carmelita Spats as a Tyke Bomb, but she's so thoroughly spoiled by Esmé as to be utterly unhelpful, and after demanding lessons on how to spit in exchange for shooting someone with a harpoon she's ditched by Olaf; he later turns his attention to Sunny as a possible replacement.
- Adults Are Useless: Oh so much. Most of the adult guardians do a terrible job of protecting the children
- Apathetic Citizens: Most of society is unwilling and/or unable to fight injustice, and many would prefer to gawk at violence for entertainment than attempt to stop it, unless it actually threatens them.
- Bus Crash: Let me see...Hector, the Quagmire triplets, Captain Widdershins, Fernald, Fiona. Maybe.
- Every single named character ever was left behind at the Hotel Denouement, in The Penultimate Peril. The hotel is set on fire by the end (while nearly everyone is blindfolded, and it's up in the air as to how many of them, if any at all, escape.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Phil, despite having just been brought back after an absence of seven books.
- Dirty Coward: Aunt Josephine descends into this trope at the climax of The Wide Window.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Jerome Squalor and maybe Charles (see below).
- Feet of Clay: Ishmael not only has clay on his feet, he has feet of clay.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Hugo, Colette, and Kevin, the "freaks," are a hunchback, contortionist, and ambidextrous, respectively. Subverted by the fact that most people do indeed think they're disgusting freaks.
- Knight of Cerebus: The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard make Count Olaf look pretty harmless by comparison.
- Pollyanna: Phil
- Posthumous Character: Beatrice
- Repetitive Name: Dr. Montgomery Montgomery
- Saved by Canon: The two teachers of Prufrock Preparatory are, in their initial introduction, blatantly revealed to have survived past their introduction... long enough for them to be arrested for robbing a bank, that is.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Charles, Jerome and Hector are all good-hearted and well-meaning men whose cowardice causes them to fail the Baudelaires.