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Headscratchers / A Series of Unfortunate Events

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  • In the movie, what was Olaf trying to achieve with his train scheme? Although the ASOUE universe's legal system might be too clueless to suspect foul play, he would still get in big trouble for criminal neglect, letting his children in a car parked on a freakin' railway?
    • He probably figured it would be a lot easier to get out of charges of criminal neglect than it would be to get away with murder (plus, given just how much Mr Poe embodies Adults Are Useless, it's not a stretch to imagine that he only took the kids away because Sunny was in the driver's seat; had she not been, Olaf likely would've got to keep them).
  • Why is it that Mr. Poe first said that their parents' will states that the Baudelaires would be raised in the most convenient way possible, but the when Justice Strauss wanted to adopt them, he states it says that they can only be raised by a relative? Plus, the only relatives that raise them after Count Olaf are Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine.
    • Children passing to relatives is the normal definition of "convenient." Besides which, he barely knows Justice Strauss. He has no way of knowing if she'd be a good guardian to them or not, and the little he has seen of her isn't exactly a glowing endorsement. She was just as fooled by Count Olaf as everyone else.
  • The Beatrice Letters.
    • Alright, so maybe some of the letters are from different people, as implied by the last letter, but that doesn't explain how these imposter Beatrices can all be in contact with Lemony.
    • The letters make even less sense if read in the order implied by the provided alphabet letters: B-E-A-T-R-I-C-E S-A-N-K. However they do seem to become more consistent in their visual style; e.g. typewriter, handwritten etc.
    • It gets more confusing though after this troper read the last chapter in The End again: maybe the letters were in fact written by Kit Snicket's daughter, whom the Baudelaire's named Beatrice? This could imply that the letters stating B-E-A-T-R-I-C-E S-A-N-K means that after the thirteenth book, there was an accident, in which Beatrice was separated from the the Baudelaires - and thus the Beatrice in the Beatrice Letters is a different Beatrice - to what the reader may first expect.
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    • I thought this was obvious. The letters written by Lemony were written to the Beatrice Lemony loved, while the letters written to him were written by Beatrice Snicket, Kit's daughter. As for B-E-A-T-R-I-C-E S-A-N-K, I'm pretty sure it's referring to a ship named Beatrice.
    • There are three Beatrices: Beatrice Baudelaire, the Baudelaire sibling's mother; Beatrice Snicket(?), Kit's daughter; and Beatrice, the vessel that the Baudelaires sailed away on in the epilogue. Those poor kids can't seem to get a break.
  • My second confusion is the line "Sunny appearing on the radio to discuss her recipes" (K, BB to LS #3). Maybe it's just the handwriting, or my interpretation, but does that mean there's a significant time-gap between this letter and the main series of books, and Sunny is now working for radio?
    • I thought it was just a joke about Sunny's personal dialect. She had been getting more proficient in English quite quickly once she set her mind to it.
    • But there was quite a time gap, seeing as how the younger Beatrice Baudelaire, who wrote that line, was only a year old at the end of The End, and The Beatrice Letters states she's now ten years old. I wouldn't be surprised if Sunny was a successful young chef by this time.
  • In the first book, Mr. Poe says that their parents' will says they must be in the care of a relative. This prevents the Baudelaires from living with Justice Strauss. However, why is Mr. Poe quite willing to hand the children over to Count Olaf in disguise (not knowing he is Count Olaf, an actual relative), a complete stranger, in the third book, breaking the conditions of their parents' will?
    • Mr. Poe believes that he is following the wishes of Aunt Josephine, who was the Baudelaires' legal guardian at that time. Presumably the parents' will stated that the children are to be left in the care of a relative, but allows for the relative to make their own arrangements in the event of his/her death.
      • Adding to the point above; presumably the Baudelaire Parents did allow for said Guardian to choose another guardian - who, Beatrice and Bertrand probably assumed would be from the good side of VFD - in the event of said guardian's death, but assumed that A) Monty would not be viciously and violently killed off by Count Olaf and that B) if Josephine did become the guardian of their children, that she wouldn't give them to a crazy murderer who is trying to steal their fortune!
  • How in the world does Sunny know Japanese and Jewish? For that matter, how do her siblings translate phrases that's she's probably never had to say before? (Like, when would a two-year old need to utter something about VFD Headquarters before book 10?)
    • Daniel Handler (the actual author of the series) has said that he makes his characters Jewish by default. For everything else, it's a kid's book.
  • I find it hard to believe that as long as Nero has been principal, with his general douchebaggery, that he has not been A. hunted down by the school board for making kids sleep in awful conditions B. reprimanded about his teachers' teaching methods, or C. given poisoned candy, during his weird buy-me-candy-and-watch-me-eat-it punishment. Let's face it. He should have been dead/gone WAY before now.
    • Technically he was Vice Principal, but like the point above stated, the series basically takes all of the elements in children's literature that pertains to Adults Are Useless and greatly satirizes it. In the case of The Austere Academy, it parodies the strict rules and punishments in boarding schools, the unfair living conditions, and bizarre teaching methods (for the record, this Troper knows a girl who is taking a college course on vampires in literature. This girl insists that her professor goes on rants about how sly and manipulative women are instead of teaching about vampires, so there are teachers who have useless teaching methods). Anyway, if it were real life, then none of these things would have happened since in all likelihood, the children would have been taken away from Count Olaf's care when they first talk to people about their living conditions.
    • Still, one's come up with the idea of killing him off by the very punishment he requested?
      • He could insist on only pre-packaged candy. Then again, someone could still get revenge by giving him Atomic Warheads. Or Zagnuts.
      • Or these godforsaken things.
  • In The Hostile Hospital, one, how the hell did nobody realise that the bad guys were going to kill their 'patient'? And that whole thing with the rusty knife- come on, as if that would ever be used in a hospital.
    • Intentional Idiot Plot.
    • This series is the epitome of Adults Are Useless. If it might help the Baudelaires for them to realize something, it's guaranteed they won't realize it at all.
  • What time period does the series take place in? I always got a Edwardian Era sort of feel from it.
    • Before Europe and after America? But seriously, the Schizo Tech places it firmly in an alternate universe that happens somewhere between our 1940-something (Lemony Snicket having got in a fight with a television repairman) or late '50s, maybe '60s (western horseradish-based imitation wasabi paste), and the present. I like to think it is in the mid-sixties or early eighties, but I think there were a few clues that placed it firmly in the 1990s (despite the distinct lack of modern cellular phones pushing it back to the 1980s or early '90s).
    • I'd assumed it was the late 30's to early 40's.
    • Klaus was born 1924 according to the Snicket Wiki, and he was 12 by the start of the series. That puts it at 1936.
      • The same wiki now says he was born in 1969 so.. Yea.
      • 1920s is actually pretty close; at least, the film implies that. Josephine has black and white pictures of herself and Ike and Monty and the Baudelaire parents. Josephine, Monty and the Baudelaire parents are recognisable and the images of Josephine show that she hasn't changed much in appearance making it about 14 years - or there abouts, since the Baudelaires know nothing of their parents past - since the pictures were taken. The Autochrome plate was introduced and became the first commercially successful color photography product in 1911. This places the film in no later than 1925, which would be 14 years after the images would be taken - why would VFD use black and white photos when colour is available? They're a secret organization and black and white pictures would stick out like a sore thumb!
      • It's left deliberately ambiguous. There are references to fax machines, modern computers and the existence of cell phones. Aesthetically it's a Retro Universe where everything looks late Victorian though.
  • I remember going on the "Series of Unfortunate Events" website and reading a FAQ, where Lemony Snicket (the character) implies that Count Olaf was still alive. However, in The End, Count Olaf dies. Uh... What?
    • Lemony Snicket is still researching the events of the series while he's writing the books, and some of the events are possibly still occurring (hence the secret message to Kit Snicket in The Slippery Slope when she dies in The End); when he wrote that, either he hadn't yet discovered that Count Olaf had died, or Count Olaf was still alive at that point.
  • Captain Widdershins forgives Fiona after she 'failed him'. I'm sorry, what? He swam off while she was out doing something very dangerous, left the submarine empty with no hint of where he'd gone. Fiona was so desperate to find him - her sole parent - that she joined with the bad guys - very briefly, I might add - in the hope they'd help her find him. And she failed him?
    • This troper can't recall the exact circumstances behind that part, but perhaps it was referring to some unknown agreement the two made? Like, Widdershins had warned Fiona about how dangerous the bad guys were and told her that she was always to resist them.
    • The exact line was "The captain had forgiven the failures of those he had loved." This troper always thought it referred to Fernald.
  • How on earth would the freaks be considered 'freaks'? I've seen a good number (okay, three, not including a couple others with scoliosis) of hunchbacks in my life and there are some people that are like crazy-flexible. I know Snicket likes satire, so it may be poking fun at it. But seriously? Ambidexterity? Hell, I'm ambidextrous myself and just...seriously?!
    • That's the joke. The "freaks" have absolutely no reason to be in the freak show, but they're all convinced that they're hideous abominations. (Though the ambidextrous guy still makes me angry.)
      • Why would the ambidextrous guy make you angry? The whole POINT is that the guy is completely normal but is delusional about being apparently abnormal. You could not miss the point of the gag any harder. He is paranoid and thinks that everywhere he goes, everyone is whispering about him being a freak.
      • This might be just something personal, but after discovering myself bisexual (actually, pansexual), and observing how bisexual are often considered freaks, the ambidextrous guy makes a lot more sense to me. If people with equally strong attractions can be considered a freak, it's not too far-fetched for someone with two equally strong hands to be considered one too.
    • I always figured this took place at a time where people segregated others who were too different to be "normal". This may help give a clue as to what time period the series may take place in, as freak shows were a popular Victorian entertainment, and it continued to be popular (in the United States anyway) until the mid-20th century.
      • But there were at least basic computers at this time, so it couldn't be Victorian.
      • Schizo Tech.
  • Why does Hal change his opinion on the Baudelaires with no provocation? In The Hostile Hospital, he fully believes they are murderers and arsonists. In The Penultimate Peril, he says they are innocent. What changed his mind? There's no indication that he could have found out the truth.
    • He might have run into someone who'd met the orphans before, who could provide a better character witness to how innocent they are. Or, after reflecting on things and calming down, he realized that he could have been wrong about them.
  • What is "?" (The Great Unknown), the horrible-underwater-thing?
    • Lemony Snicket will shed more light on it in his new sequel, All the Wrong Questions.
    • Symbolism for the great unknowns of the universe? We never find out what it is, much the same way we will probably never find the true answers to some of our biggest questions about life during this life (if you even believe there's some kind of afterlife after this one where we'll find out). It would fall in line with the moral of the end of The End, that we're never going to have all of our questions answered and sometimes none of them are.
    • Wait just a minute... OH MY GOD...
    • So, the first book of All The Wrong Questions hints it's the Bombinating Beast, a Cthulhu-esque creature, half-horse and half-shark, that was named for the buzzing sound it made when hunting its prey. It was said to have been slain years ago, but legends of it continue to persist.
      • That's... really anticlimactic. I'm kind of wishing he hadn't revealed what it was, but that's a conversation for the forums.
    • I kind of just assumed that it was the Incredibly Deadly Viper...

  • Does Prufrock Prep have an ACTUAL Principal? How did Nero even get his job?
    • The school was originally designed to be a training centre for future VFD members. When the school was hijacked by the villains, they probably replaced the Principal with Nero to keep VFD out.
    • The Netflix adaptation reveals that Ishmael was the principal and used the school to recruit for VFD. It's implied he gave up and ran away after the schism, which eventually landed him on the island. Whether or not any of this is canon in the books too is anyone's guess.
  • Count Olaf spends thirteen books chasing three children around with vague notions of kidnapping them for their fortune, possibly taking them to Peru where he could somehow utilize "relaxed guardianship laws" or having other people name his false personas their guardian, which of course would be checked by the government (supposedly; adults are useless and all.) He clearly has no scruples or morality—so why the hell didn't he ever just ROB Mulctuary Money Management? If Poe is any indication, the people working there are completely incompetent. Surely robbing the bank wouldn't be any harder than tracking the orphans through the country, using a complicated hypnotism scheme, and infiltrating a school dressed as a gym teacher?
    • Actually - unless I'm remembering wrong - isn't there an implication that the Baudelaire parents helped kill Olaf's parents? That might explain why he's specifically targeting the kids...
      • Yes, that's implied in book 12. Poison Darts.
    • Maybe Olaf thought it would be too easy to just walk into the bank and steal it. Some people prefer tough challenges.
      • It's also possible that the money Mrs. Bass stole from the bank could be the Baudelaire fortune (can't remember where I heard that theory, probably on The Other Wiki.) Wouldn't it be funny if Olaf went to steal the fortune only for the whole thing to be gone already?
    • I don't believe that it actually was about the money. The killing of Baudelaire's parent was a mix of a personal vendetta and VFD inner war, and he planned to also take their money as an added bonus. Then, after being bested by the kids, it became personal.
  • Pretty much everything about the sugar bowl. First of all, in order to know anything about it, we have to accept that the sugar bowl contains horseradish as is heavily implied in The End. But that doesn't make sense. Nobody could have had enough foresight to anticipate that the Beaudelaires would accidentally release the Medusoid Mycelium when they weren't supposed to be in the grotto in the first place. Given that horseradish's only plot significance is to act as an antidote for the Medusoid Mycelium, why was it in the sugar bowl? Moreover, why was Count Olaf looking for the sugar bowl before the Medusoid Mycelium was released?
    • Huh? Where'd you get that from? I didn't get that impression at all, as far as I was aware it was never revealed or even strongly hinted at what was in the sugar bowl. Did I miss something?
    • Basically, when Klaus reads from his parents' entries in the island's log titled A Series of Unfortunate Events, it briefly mentions than Esmé has packed horseradish in a vessel, and the sugar bowl was once referred to as a "Vessel For Disaccharides" (which means sugar). But that seems like a horribly anticlimatic content for the sugar bowl, since horseradish is so common.
      • No, it wasn't Esmé. It was Beatrice. Read page 277 of The End (US edition). And, if Beatrice had the sugar bowl with her when she left the island, maybe that's why Esmé holds her responsible for stealing it from her. The real thief was Lemony Snicket himself (The Hostile Hospital, US edition, pp. 90-91.)
      • And don't forget, as was already mentioned, horseradish is the one and only antidote to the Medusoid Mycelium. And, according to the Arc Words from The End, "Everything eventually washes up on [the island's] shores." They were prepared for the contingency of a toxic, parasitic fungus somehow finding its way to the island even after the passageway to Anwhistle Aquatics remained unfinished.
  • How did the Beaudelaires manage to accidentally and fatally shoot Dewey Denouement with the harpoon? The physics of such an action seem questionable at best, especially given that they were facing the wrong way at the time.
  • Why are Violet and Klaus only shown going to school in "The Austere Academy"? In books 1-4 and 6-7, there's no evidence whatsoever that they 're getting any sort of education - shouldn't their guardians have been getting into trouble for that sort of thing?
    • Schools can sometimes take a couple of weeks to process the transfer and enrollment papers, especially if it's during the school year. And they only ever stayed with a guardian a few days before they moved on. The only relatives they spent a good deal of time with would have been either smart enough to teach themselves (Uncle Monty) or just didn't care (Sir and the Village of Fowl Devotees)
  • If the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard were always telling Olaf where the Baudelaires were, why was he going to Madame Lulu to find them?
    • It helps to double check your sources. And once in a while Lulu might have pretended "the inner eye is too unclear now to see where they are" or whatever, in which case he'd need another source.
  • In The Ersatz Elevator, when Sunny says, "Hansel! Gretel!" to suggest using a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way through the Squalors' massive house, Violet says, "Oh! You mean those two dim-witted children in that fairy tale." I'm sorry, what?! Hansel comes up with the breadcrumb/stone trail to find their way back to the house and later fools the witch with the chicken bone, while Gretel uses a different trick to shut the witch in her own oven. The only thing they do that qualifies as even remotely stupid is being fooled by the witch's gingerbread house, and by that point, they'd been left in the woods by their parents to die. What were they supposed to do, starve in the woods while there was a giant house made of delicious candy right in front of them?
    • This isn't the best thing to say about Violet, but she may have some degree of pride due to her VERY large intellect. She may have read the story and thought the children weren't very clever. There may have been some other variant of the original that she read that painted the two in a more foolish light. Who can honestly say? Klaus is the literary type and is a better judge of characters in literature.
    • Part of the Series' humor comes from looking derisively at typical children's stories (or satirizing the "morals" found within them), and presenting the Baudelaire children as being above such things (a ten-year-old who's read Tolstoy?)

  • So, how is Klaus reading the triplets' notebooks if they have his glasses? The point is made very clear in the Miserable Mill that Klaus is blind without his glasses.
    • It's not like he's completely unable to see without them. At the right distance (probably very, very close up) it's possible to read things.
    • He was still able to see in the Carnivorous Carnival as long as he was squinting.

  • So, what purpose does Carmelita Spats have in the series other than to make fun of the 'Cakesniffing Orphans in the Orphan's Shack'? It seems to me as though that's really it, even though she shows up in the later books as Olaf and Esmé's adoptive-ish daughter. She seems to embrace evil, not just being a bully. Is there something wrong going on inside her head?
    • After reminding myself of the major events in this series, and Carmelita's appearances in the later books,I've concluded that she was there entirely for the purpose of making the Baudelaire children's lives more miserable. She bullies them in Pruffrock Prep and later adopted by Esmé and Olaf. This is rubbing salt into the wound since Esmé betrays the children in the book right after The Austere Academy, #5. She never has any effect on the overall story or in any moment that she appears. I think she was made to be the most insufferable character in the world, and who gets a free pass to do it.

  • How old is Count Olaf? I had pictured him being considerably older than the Baudelaire parents (or at least around the same age), yet the Penultimate Peril implies (though never confirms) that he was orphaned by the Baudelaire parents when he was still a child. The murder weapon was poisoned darts, and Kit relates a story of sneaking poisoned darts into an opera to give to the Baudelaires sometime after the two eldest Baudelaire children had been born. Kit (whose age we don't know, either, but we at least know she's of child-bearing age) states that she was four when the schism occurred, and Olaf implies that he was seven. How old are any of the adults in this series?
    • I never got the vibe that his parents were murdered while he was still a child. He could have easily lost them when he was a young adult (perhaps 18-25?) if the Baudelaire parents were roughly the same age and Olaf's parents were maybe in their 40s-60s when they were killed, still plenty young enough to be active members. The way I see it Olaf, the Baudelaires, and Lemony Snicket were all around the same age (give or take a year or so), and Kit was a few years younger. I'm not exactly sure though because many of the character ages almost seem to contradict each other at times.

  • Given that Lake Lachrymose is infested by a swarm of carnivorous, predatory leeches, vicious enough to kill a person and strong enough to sink a wooden boat, why would anyone willingly even live near it, much less build a resort town around it that presumably involves a lot of swimming, boating, and other activities like that? Since Adults are Useless, I suppose it's too much to hope that the leeches would be exterminated, but why is it even legal to swim or boat on the lake?
    • It's worth noting that the leeches are only ever harmful to people if they smell food on them. There's no evidence to suggest they'll attack you if you waited a full hour before going swimming. So, just make it painfully obvious to any guest that there are carnivorous leeches in the water that will only kill you gruesomely IF you go in the water less than an hour after eating. Considering humans are morons, it'd still be problematic in reality, but it can be hand waved a little.


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