Count Olaf is the main antagonist of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Count Olaf is greedy, and will go any lengths to get what he wants, even if it involves murder. He appears in every book of the "Series of Unfortunante Events," in some form or another.
He is a very intelligent villain, having the ability to stay ahead of the authorities and know just what the authorities will do in order to hunt him. Count Olaf can fool even the most intelligent person around him and even guardians of the Baudelaires - Some of whom have known Olaf for years - are not above his deceit and villainy.
Olaf was raised by his parents who apparently trained him in the art of villainy and pyromania, the latter of which became something of an addiction for him. During his childhood, Olaf was indoctrinated in the organization of V.F.D. (Volunteer Fire Department). Despite being trained to extinguish fires, Olaf loved arson so much that the hobby never really went away. It is proposed that he did not very much like the V.F.D. training nor its courses, because he aspired to be an individual practitioner, but Olaf did befriend two fellow arsonists within V.F.D.: The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard.Together this triumvirate of arsonists engineered a Schism within the ranks of V.F.D., and slowly the calm of the entire organization shattered as Olaf and his comrades spread doubt and uncertainty amongst the volunteers, forcing them to be untrustworthy of each other. Olaf promised wealth, freedom and power amongst the volunteers who would abandon their posts at V.F.D. and join him, but in reality this was just a cover-up so Olaf could gain the world's riches for himself. Eventually Olaf left V.F.D. to pursue his own goals, although not without doing enough damage to the organization. Many families were ripped apart by the conspiracy, and lives were claimed by the fire which the arsonists now began using. More and more volunteers joined the ranks of the arsonist half of the Schism, and hope was fading for the noble volunteers.Olaf eventually acquired a band of faithful henchmen who all aspired to set the houses of the noble volunteers on fire, and to end the fiasco in a blaze of flame. Count Olaf was the leader of his troupe, second only to his superiors the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard. Eventually these two villains took to arson and treachery with such an affiliation that even Count Olaf, who merely desired wealth and power, began to be afraid of them.
Count Olaf began threatening the Baudelaire, Quagmire and Snicket families for their fortunes, for these three combined fortunes would bring him immense power and friends in high places. Count Olaf wanted above all else to be respected and served, and the fortunes were his key to success. It appears he was very close to getting the Snicket fortune by the time the series began, but he was having trouble with the Quagmire fortune, that is, until he kidnapped the Quagmire triplets. He was also about to get the added bonus of the Squalor fortune, through his girlfriend Esme, and as Count Olaf had his girlfriend (who coincidentally was the city's sixth most important financial advisor) he was well on his way to having important connections. Count Olaf chased the Snicket brothers for their fortune, but even though he murdered Jacques Snicket, the younger brother, Lemony, was still at large. But Olaf framed Lemony for a crime he did not commit. Lemony's sister Kit was also still at large but posed a problem as she was pregnant and this meant that if the child was male, the fortune would be his; but if the child was female, her future husband would get the fortune. Count Olaf apparently seduced Kit in order to gain the fortune, but he apparently did not care about the Snicket, Squalor, or Sebald fortunes, because of the five, the Quagmire and Baudelaire fortunes were the most important.
Count Olaf first met the Baudelaire children - having been recently orphaned - after they had lost their home and their parents in a horrible fire. The Baudelaires suspected Olaf had killed their parents, but when they finally confronted him upon his death, he denied it, saying "You know nothing," probably implying that the Baudelaire parents were killed by the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard. Nonetheless, even if he hadn't killed the Baudelaire parents, Olaf was certainly a very evil man, because when the Baudelaires were adopted into his care, all he did was abuse his power over them by enslaving them to commit pointless chores such as chopping wood for the fun of it and mending broken windows which Count Olaf could have fixed himelf. Count Olaf also made the Baudelaires cook for him and twelve other people - His theater troupe, whom the Baudelaires met for the first time during their time at his house. The troupe were as cruel as their master, laughing at Olaf beating Klaus Baudelaire and mocking Violet and then thumping on the table, rudely demanding supper. Count Olaf also was extremely mean as well as evil because when the Baudelaires kindly made him and his troupe Puttanesca sauce Count Olaf insulted their effort and said they somehow ought to have known he loved roast beef. Nonetheless, he ate their meal but said they were barred from attending his troupe's play that night.
Halfway through the Baudelaire's stay, Olaf concocted a plan to get the Baudelaire fortune and rise in power. He would marry Violet in his play, with everyone believing it was a dramatization, and he would switch the documents for legal official documents which would mean Violet was truly married to him. The plan succeeded, but was foiled at the last moment by Violet using her left hand to sign the form rather than her right. As Violet was right handed, this foiled Count Olaf's plan, and he and his associates vowed to kill Violet and her siblings as soon as Olaf could get their fortune. A blackout was caused by one of Olaf's henchmen and Olaf and his gang ran out the theater and drove off into the night, plotting revenge.
Hunting the Orphans
The Baudelaires went to live with their Uncle Montgomery Montgomery, a herpetologist but when he hired a new assistant it turned out to be the evil Count Olaf in disguise. The Baudelaires were shocked to find that their enemy had found them so quickly, and tried to warn Uncle Montgomery about Olaf's arrival, but Count Olaf threatened to kill them all if they revealed his secret. Count Olaf eventually killed Uncle Montgomery, and framed the murder on one of his snakes, which already had a reputation for being extremely poisonous. Violet Baudelaire however managed to reveal Count Olaf as the murderer when she found the venom from the snake in a phial and a doctor's syringe which Count Olaf had used to inject their uncle.
During their stay with their aunt Josephine Anwhistle, Count Olaf miraculously arrived in town pretending to be a captain looking for business. Josephine was very taken to Olaf, as he was seemingly lonely and friendless, but despite the Baudelaire's attempts to warn her of the real danger, Count Olaf killed Josephine by feeding her to Lacrymose Leeches.
Count Olaf made use of his connections with a hypnotist named Dr Georgina Orwell to hypnotise Klaus Baudelaire during the orphans' stay at a Lumbermill. Count Olaf had killed the previous foreman and replaced him with his close associate, a bald man with a long nose. Count Olaf hypnotized Klaus twice, under the pretence of having Dr Orwell repair Klaus's broken glasses, and this was probably his greatest plan yet and one of the few plans which came close to succeeding. Olaf was just about to have the bald man feed Charles, the deputy manager of the mill, into a gaping saw and blame the murder on the hypnosis, and as he found out that Violet and Sunny Baudelaire were present at the murder, Olaf had Dr Orwell attempt to kill the infant Sunny so Olaf would get the Baudelaire fortune which would go to him upon the orphans' deaths, but Dr Orwell stepped backwards into the revolving saw and this particular plan failed.
Even at boarding school, the Baudelaire orphans could not escape the evil clutches of Count Olaf. At Prufrock Preparatory School, the Baudelaires finally met the Quagmire orphans, who had been triplets until they had - allegedly - lost their brother, Quigley, in a fire. The two Quagmire triplets, Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, befriended the Baudelaires, having both had similar backstories, and believed the Baudelaires the first time when they said that the new gym teacher, Coach Genghis, was actually Count Olaf in disguise. As Coach Genghis, Olaf made the Baudelaires run nine nights of successive laps, hoping that the Baudelaires would become so exhausted they would fail all their exams, and therefore they would be expelled from the school and Count Olaf said he would foster them (but in reality it was just so he could kill them and steal their fortune). Although he did not gain the Baudelaire fortune, he did succeed in kidnapping the Quagmire triplets, who tried to tell the Baudelaires that they had found a crucial, horrible secret related to Count Olaf's villainous past. All Duncan Quagmire managed to yell concerning the secret were the initials "V.F.D.!" before he and his sister Isadora were snatched away. Eventually the Baudelaires met up with the Quagmires at a tower block named 667 Dark Avenue, one of the richest blocks in the city. The Baudelaires were by this time being fostered by Jerome and Esme Squalor, the latter of which revealed herself to be Count Olaf's girlfriend and, having held the Quagmires hostage in her tower block, used her ignorant husband as bait for the Baudelaires. Jerome, who was truly innocent, attempted to arrest Count Olaf and his previous wife for kidnapping and child abuse but Count Olaf and Esme escaped with the Quagmires before any official action could be taken.
The Baudelaires participated in the village fostering programme, whose slogan was It Takes a Village to Raise a Child! and they coincidentally found a village named "V.F.D." in the programme. There was no other clue as to what the name of the village stood for. Having moved there, the Baudelaires were rather disappointed to find the initials stood for Village of Fowl Devotees, as a collection of ornithologists lived there and protected the crows - which actually belonged to the real V.F.D. It transpired that this would be one of the darkest episodes of the Baudelaires' lives. Count Olaf arrived in the village and framed the Baudelaires for the murder of Jacques Snicket, a man who had the same ankle eye tattoo as Olaf did, as well as the same monobrow, and who had indeed been mistaken for Olaf. Count Olaf now knew that he no longer needed a disguise, and after disguising himself as "Detective Dupin" he framed the Baudelaires for the murder of Jacques, even though the Baudelaires knew that Olaf was the real killer. Hector, the Baudelaire's guardian at the time and the only friendly person in the village to the orphans, was too afraid of the village elders to speak for them, but he helped the Baudelaires escape in his own dirigible. Esme Squalor, however, shot the rope ladder and caused the Baudelaires to fall back to earth and only the Quagmires - who had been imprisoned in the village fountain - were rescued by Hector, who was an agent of V.F.D. The Baudelaires next visited a hospital which contained the Volunteers Fighting Disease. Believing that this might be the real V.F.D., the siblings were once again disappointed. However, they did capture page thirteen of the Baudelaire file, an important piece of evidence against Count Olaf which could put him and his criminal friends in jail.
Escaping the burning hospital which Olaf had set aflame, in order to destroy the Baudelaire file, the orphans fled in the boot of Olaf's black car, which Olaf drove to Caligari Carnival, revealing how he had hunted down the orphans so easily. It turned out that Count Olaf had been duped by Madame Lulu (real name Olivia Caliban) who had turned traitor to both V.F.D. and the arsonists, selling information from newspapers to both sides and pretending that her crystal ball found the answers. All of Olaf's troupe were duped into believing that fortune telling was real. The Baudelaires found the truth and confronted Madame Lulu about her deception, and Lulu revealed her real name as Olivia Caliban and told them she was once an agent of V.F.D. Now she wanted to fight the arsonists and, in journeying into the mountains with the Baudelaires to find V.F.D. Headquarters, become noble again by rejoining their ranks. But before she could leave the Carnival with the Baudelaires, Count Olaf betrayed Madame Lulu and fed her to lions as an "exciting new attraction" the Carnival would offer. Olaf then set the Carnival aflame, as he did the hospital, to again destroy evidence against him and fled to the mountains. He revealed that the Baudelaires' identity was revealed - as at the Carnival he thought they were circus freaks - and pushed their cart down the mountain to their doom. However, Violet and Klaus stopped the cart and trudged up the mountain to rescue Sunny, their baby sister. Atop the mountain, they were reunited with Quigley Quagmire, who had turned out to have survived the fire after all and been tracking the Baudelaires ever since, and after rescuing Sunny, fled down the mountain but lost Quigley in the stream. Quigley was later revealed to have rejoined V.F.D. On the mountain peak, Count Olaf was given the Snicket file, which he read and destroyed, by his superiors: The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard. For the first time, Olaf began to show doubt and was noticeably afraid of his bosses.
After these pursuits, Count Olaf believed the Baudelaires had drowned in the mountain river and was celebrating with his girlfriend Esme, when his submarine picked up another submarine which had previously belonged to V.F.D. Aboard the second vessel, to his disappointment, Olaf found the living Baudelaires, albeit with a very ill Sunny, who had been infected with a mycelia of the Medusoid Mycelium, the very weapon with which Olaf had planned to use to destroy V.F.D. Olaf showed his ruthlessness when he withheld the vaccine from Sunny, and he seduced Fiona Widdershins, the Baudelaire's previous friend and sister of Count Olaf's henchman Fernald, into joining the arsonists. Fiona took the Medusoid Mycelium and betrayed the Baudelaires.
Violet, Klaus and Sunny fled to the last safe place, the Hotel Denouement, and Count Olaf jumped on them in the lobby, demanding their fortune. Count Olaf finally got into an argument with Esme, his girlfriend, and dumped her, due to her choosing V.F.D.'s precious sugar bowl - containing an antidote of the Mycelium - to the fortunes Olaf desired. Olaf killed Dewey Denouement, the manager of the hotel, and then thwarted V.F.D.'s attempt to arrest him and put him on trail by, yet again, setting the hotel aflame. Initially Olaf wanted to infect all the V.F.D. agents in the hotel with the Medusoid Mycelium, but realized that he might need it to threaten the Baudelaires. Rather, he let the fire finish everybody else.
Olaf escaped off the hotel rooftop with the Baudelaires and fled out to sea on a small boat.
Count Olaf and the Baudelaires were shipwrecked on a Nameless Island, and while the Baudelaires were recruited as the island's guests due to their kindness and gratitude, Count Olaf was left on the coastal shelf for being mean, conceited and evil. Eventually, Count Olaf returned, disguised as Kit Snicket, Jacques's sister, but the islanders recognized him immediately as Count Olaf, and imprisoned him in a cage. A mutiny then occurred amongst the islanders, stirred up by Olaf, and the latter threatened to unleash the Medusoid Mycelium on the former unless they worshipped him as their one and true king. However, their leader, Ishmael, who had been orphaned by Count Olaf - or so Ishmael claimed - shot Count Olaf in the stomach with a deadly harpoon gun Esme had previously owned, and then as Olaf was wearing the helmet containing the Mycelium in his gown, the helmet shattered and the mushroom spores flew out and infected everyone. The Baudelaires saved themselves by eating apples smeared in horseradish, the only antidote for the Mycelium, but when they tried to save the islanders there was a second mutiny and the islanders were leaving, although they were contagiously infected. Count Olaf was slowly dying from a combination of Medusoid Mycelium poisoning and harpoon spear wound. Kit Snicket had been washed up on the island and was slowly giving birth. The Baudelaires finally confronted Count Olaf of ruining their lives by killing their parents and destroying their home but when they pressed him, Count Olaf said "Is that what you know? You know nothing." He dies soon after, but not before kissing Kit and reciting a verse from one of the V.F.D. agents "Man hands on misery to man/It deepens like a coastal shelf/Get out as quickly as you can/And don't have any kids yourself."
Count Olaf was ruthless, evil, cruel and immoral, showing no concerns about physically beating children as young as infants, as is shown when he imprisons Sunny Baudelaire in a cage, and tries to marry fourteen year old Violet Baudelaire, although this is merely for his own financial gain and not for romance - As he plans to kill Violet along with her siblings Klaus and Sunny. He has abused all the Baudelaires in some way, be it emotionally, physically or mentally. Count Olaf was apparently evil from his schooldays, as Lemony Snicket writes that "one day the world will know of O's treachery" and that "the Sun cannot shine through the blackest of skies" and Olaf seems to enjoy flattering people to gain their trust - Examples of which are Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, Josephine Anwhistle, Vice Principal Nero, Sir of Lucky Smells Lumbermill and even Mr Poe, the Baudelaire's banker.
The world has originally been well aware of Olaf's evil acts, as in old newspapers in the books there are cuttings from Italy and Greece about a man resembling Olaf killing a bishop, escaping from prison within five minutes, and then throwing a widow off a cliff. It is likely Olaf's flattering skills stem from his days in the theater, with director Gustave Sebald, a young V.F.D. agent.
Count Olaf assumes different disguises while targeting the Baudelaire children's fortune where each disguise has his one eyebrow and his ankle tattoo covered up by something. Among his disguises are:
- Dr. Stephano - Dr. Montgomery Montgomery's replacement assistant in herpetology who has a long beard, no hair, and no eyebrows. Count Olaf uses powder to cover up his ankle tattoo.
- Captain Julio Sham - A sailor with a peg leg that hides his left foot and an eyepatch to hide his eyebrow. Captain Sham's claim of the peg leg is that he lost half his left leg to the Lachrymose Leeches.
- Shirley T. Sinoit-Pécer - Dr. Georgina Orwell's receptionist who wears stockings that have eyes on them in order to cover up the ankle tattoo. T. Sinoit-Pécer is actually "receptionist" spelled backwards. In the 2017 TV series, the alias is changed to Shirley St. Ives.
- Coach Genghis - A renowned gym teacher that wears a turban to cover up his eye brow and expensive-looking running shows to cover up the ankle tattoo.
- Gunther - A pinstripe-wearing auctioneer from another country that wears a monocle to distort his eyebrow and horse-riding boots to cover up his ankle tattoo.
- Detective Dupin - A "famous" detective that wears ridiculous sunglasses to hide his eyebrow and green plastic shoes with lightning bolts on them to hide his ankle tattoo.
- Mattathias - Heimlich Hospital's new Human Resources director whose only presence is his voice over the intercom.
- Kit Snicket - Count Olaf used this disguise in an attempt to fool the island's inhabitants to no avail. This disguise consists of seaweed hair, Esme Squalor's dress which she wore in The Slippery Slope, and a diving helmet with the Medusoid Mycelium to make it look like Olaf is pregnant.
The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with Count Olaf, their closest geographically living relative, after a mysterious fire destroys their home and kills their parents. Olaf's involvement in the fire was long suspected by the Baudelaires. When they finally confronted him and accused of him of starting the fire, Olaf did not seem surprised by the accusation but asked them "Is that what you think?" Whether this is a denial of involvement in the event or means something else is unknown.
Olaf was an actor and had an entire group of similarly evil associates who he refers to as his "theatre troupe". He wrote his own plays, under the pseudonym "Al Funcoot" (an anagram of "Count Olaf").
During the time the Baudelaires lived with him, the children immediately saw Olaf as a short tempered and violent man. Olaf provided them with one filthy room and forced them to do difficult chores (such as making them chop wood solely for his own entertainment) as he schemed to seize control over their fortune. Olaf once hit Klaus hard for talking back to him, and picked up and dangled Sunny for saying No! No! No! in response to his demand for roast beef instead of the puttanesca sauce they made.
Later, Olaf had the children participate in a play in which Violet plays a woman who gets married to a character played by Olaf. The children learned that Olaf was using the play to disguise the fact that the marriage will be legally binding and that he will have control over the fortune once the wedding ceremony is complete. To insure that the children cooperate with the plan, Olaf kidnapped Sunny and had her tied up, put in a cage, and hung outside his tower window, threatening to murder her if the children refused to cooperate.
The plan to marry Violet Baudelaire to gain the inheritance went awry. Violet managed to thwart Olaf's plan by signing the marriage with her left hand instead of her right, which as she was right-handed, was the required one to make it legally binding. Olaf was exposed as a criminal and fled, but not before promising to Violet that he would get his hands on her fortune no matter what and then murder her and her siblings with his bare hands. The children were sent to different relatives, with Olaf following in pursuit. Olaf's plans became more dangerous and murderous in nature. Many of them included the murder of the children's guardians, such as Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine. His plans were often complicated and many of the earlier ones involved him attempting to get the orphans legally into his care. Later, he simply wanted to abduct one child, murder the other two, and use the kidnapped one to blackmail Mr. Poe into giving over the fortune. Regardless of his tactics, Olaf's plans were always aimed at the goal of abducting the children through elaborate methods.
Olaf wears a new disguise of someone who works under the guardians or works near the area, usually murdering the person who had the occupation previously, that usually fools everyone but the Baudelaires. One or two of his henchmen, also usually disguised, accompany him and aid him in executing his schemes. The following is a list his primary disguises.
- Main article: Count Olaf (2017)
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