|“||I see your new friends have been keeping you in the dark. You think V.F.D. is noble? Think again. I bet your self-righteous volunteers never told you what's in the sugar bowl, why it's important, or how it was stolen, but I could. Oh, the secrets I could share... about V.F.D., about your parents. You think you know this story, but you don't even know how it begins... I'm your last chance to learn what really happened. I can tell you things that you'll never learn on your own. Your choice.||”|
— Count Olaf to the Baudelaires, "The Penultimate Peril: Part Two"
Count Olaf is the main antagonist of A Series of Unfortunate Events and its various adaptations. He is a criminal, mastermind and serial killer who leads various Fire-Starting members of the Volunteer Fire Department. He is an enemy to the Baudelaires and plots to steal the Baudelaire Fortune from them.
He is identified by his unibrow, as well as his tattoo of the V.F.D. eye on his left ankle, although he is not the only one bearing these traits. He usually attempts to hide them in his disguises.
Count Olaf is claimed to be a distant relative of the Baudelaires (their third cousin four times removed or their fourth cousin three times removed). However it is never revealed as to how he is related to Bertrand or Beatrice. It is most likely, however, that this relation is a lie he fabricated so that he could adopt the Baudelaire orphans to get their fortune.
In The Bad Beginning, to obtain the Baudelaire fortune, he becomes the adoptive father of the Baudelaire orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny after their parents' death in a mysterious fire which he may or may not have been involved in.
After he loses custody of the children when his "Marvelous Marriage" play scheme fails, he begins to stalk and follow them everywhere, plotting complicated schemes to obtain the fortune, even if it means bribing and murdering them, their guardians and people nearby.
As Olaf had gained notoriety for numerous counts of arson, the Baudelaire orphans believed he may have caused the fire that killed their parents, but he neither confirmed nor denied it when confronted by the Baudelaires in The End. 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.
- 1 Personality
- 2 Biography
- 2.1 Early Life
- 2.2 Adulthood
- 2.3 Role in the Schism
- 2.4 The Bad Beginning
- 2.5 The Reptile Room
- 2.6 The Wide Window
- 2.7 The Miserable Mill
- 2.8 The Austere Academy
- 2.9 The Ersatz Elevator
- 2.10 The Vile Village
- 2.11 The Hostile Hospital
- 2.12 The Carnivorous Carnival
- 2.13 The Slippery Slope
- 2.14 The Grim Grotto
- 2.15 The Penultimate Peril
- 2.16 The End
- 3 2004 Film Divergent Canon
- 4 TV Series Divergent Canon
- 5 Victims
- 6 Physical appearance
- 7 Disguises
- 8 Behind the scenes
- 9 Quotes
- 10 Trivia
- 11 Appearances
- 12 Gallery
- 13 Sources
|“||I may be a terrible man, but I have been able to concoct a foolproof way of getting your fortune, which is more than you've been able to do. Remember that, orphans. You may have read more books than I have, but it didn't help you gain the upper hand in this situation. Now, give me that book which gave you such grand ideas, and do the chores assigned to you.||”|
— Olaf after being told he's a terrible man by Klaus
Olaf is greedy and he is obsessed with the Baudelaires' inheritance. He is a stalker who has followed them to their new homes, and even kills some of their guardians. In the TV series, he claims money is the most important substance on earth, apart from applause and lip balm. This opinion may be the result of him growing up in a society where money is everything, as the saying goes: "money makes the world go around." Later, it is revealed that Olaf was also an orphan, and his misfortunes throughout his life have shaped him into something grotesque. At the end of "The Carnivorous Carnival: Part Two", Olaf comments that he knows what "a great deal of suffering and pain and then a long fall to rock bottom" feels like. He comes off as an extremely cynical and jaded realist who has come to accept that life is unfair. His behavior and mentality is likely the result of someone who has felt he has been "wronged" multiple times. For example, he was expelled from school because he did not do well in gym class, greatly hurting his dream of becoming a famous actor, as well as future job prospects and opportunities. While the books imply his parents were murdered, in the TV series, he lost his mother in a fire and his father was later killed by Beatrice, explaining his hatred for the Baudelaire children.
Olaf seems to be a misanthrope who has stopped caring about human society, which could explain why he is unhygienic as he seems to have stopped caring about what other people think of him or appealing to the standards of others. This contrasts him to Esmé Squalor who cares too much about what other people think of her. He claims he's not the only one in the world who runs around with their secrets and their schemes to outwit others and that "everyone" else is guilty of it, implying he views humanity constantly trying to control and manipulate others for their desires. Olaf dislikes pretentious people and know-it-alls like Klaus. Olaf also may be antinatalist; before he dies, he says, "Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don't have any kids yourself" (quoting the poem "This Be The Verse" by Philip Larkin). In the TV series, he says the last part like a warning to the Baudelaires.
In the TV series, he called himself a "rebel" in school, likely due to his annoyance at all the rules set by those in power in society, and the often ridiculous pedantic following of them society is seen throughout the series. This makes him different than the many other adults in the series such as Mr. Poe and Justice Strauss who feel the constant need to follow the law, even to the point of absurdity. Olaf could also be viewed as a free thinker like the Baudelaires.
Olaf is revealed to be rather intelligent. An example of this being how Violet thinks: "The really frightening thing about Olaf, was that he was very smart after all. He wasn’t merely an unsavory drunken brute, but an unsavory, clever drunken brute." He employs his acting skills and is a master of disguise, using various disguises in his plots. In the movie and TV series, he is shown to be talented doing accents. His disguises usually do little besides cover his eyebrow and tattoo, which is sufficient to fool most. The Baudelaires can recognize his other characteristics, such as his wheezy voice and shiny eyes, but others don't notice these marks, and very few of them believe the Baudelaires' claims to recognize him.
As the main villain of the series, Olaf is violent and terrifying. He is a psychopath/sociopath involved with murder, kidnapping and arson. Apart from trying to kill the Baudelaires numerous times, he also once threatened to cut off one of Sunny's toes in The Reptile Room, teases that two of the Baudelaires will be burned to death at the stake in The Vile Village, and demands that Sunny be thrown off a mountain in The Slippery Slope. His eyes tend to become shiny the angrier he becomes and he is prone to rage when he loses his temper.
He is psychologically manipulative, uses gaslighting techniques and often plays the victim card. In the TV show he views the Baudelaires as spoiled rich kids who never had to work hard in their lives, even when they defend themselves by saying they help around the house, Olaf simply doesn't care, probably because he thinks mere house chores do not compare to his life struggles and hardships. He says he chose to offer his heart to the Baudelaires and they won't even serve him roast beef, and he blames them, despite that he never asked for it. However, this could just be his excuse to slap Klaus, as it seems that it was not the roast beef that set him off, but rather, Klaus reminding him that the Baudelaire fortune is not to be used until Violet is of age.
He has used child abuse; for example, he refers to the Baudelaires as "orphans" and "brats", gives them a pile of rocks as toys, he slapped Klaus' face for not serving him roast beef, locks the children in their bedroom where they sleep on one bed, treats them like slaves, traps Sunny in a birdcage and hung her in a tower and threatened to drop it, and has threatened death and murder on the orphans, their relatives and their friends. In The Reptile Room, under the dinner table, he gently rubs the blade of his knife against Violet's knee for their entire meal, just to make her feel scared and terrible, and perhaps indulge in the feeling he has power over her. Klaus has called him a "terrible man" while Violet called him a "monster".
Olaf is a heavy meat eater, a carnist, and someone who does not seem to care about animal welfare, like Esmé. He does not think a meal is complete without roast beef and apparently thinks it's a given for dinner, becoming violent when the Baudelaires tell him they did not prepare beef. In the TV series, he asks Violet if she's ever hunted to which she replies, "Of course not." Olaf implies he enjoys hunting and says that if she did hunt, she would be familiar with watching the fear and horror in an animal's eyes before their death. He uses the phrase "it gives its life to you", as if he believes animals consciously give consent to being killed. Asides from burning ants as a child, in The Carnivorous Carnival, he would regularly whip the lions to force them to become obedient and he also starved them so they would be hungry at the lion show. In the GBA version of the video game, Olaf's house has a cold storage locker full of hanging meat carcasses.
Olaf can be perceived as a drunk, as he is often mentioned drinking wine and the Baudelaires mention he constantly drinks, even having wine for breakfast once.
In the film and TV series, Olaf is portrayed as dumbed down as opposed to intelligent; for example, in the book, Olaf tells Klaus he knows what "nuptial" means, while in the TV series, he thinks "knowledge" begins with an "n". However, Olaf was probably born in the early 20th century when literacy was not as common, so one can't fault Olaf too much for this. Live action Olaf has a more comedic tone instead of the sinister and serious tone Olaf has in the novels. He is also much more animated with body language in these adaptations. Despite not being as intelligent as his book divergent, Olaf still has his moments. He is far more intelligent than most of the adults in the film, as he has fooled them time and time again (although this is mainly because of the people being rather gullible), and was able to recognize the Baudelaires when they disguised themselves.
In the TV series' second season, Olaf begins to gradually become much more dark and violent, due to his plans repeatedly failing, and lusts to murder the children most horrifically as retribution for their success over his schemes. This can be seen as following more closely to the source material.
Considering Olaf as a whole, Olaf could be perceived as somewhat mentally unstable. Apart from sociopathy/psychopathy, he is also very narcissistic, frequently praising and congratulating himself, and is the self-proclaimed "world's greatest actor." This implies he has narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps to cope with feelings of worthlessness. He also enjoys putting the Baudelaires down intellectually; for example, when Violet is about to say "Don't be absurd..." but does not finish with "surd" because of uncertainty, he tells her that only a stupid person would say a word like 'ab.'
Depending on reader interpretation, Olaf may not be past the point of redemption. One could imagine he has a better side. Two examples of this are when he hesitated to kill Dewey, replying, "What else can I do?" (or "It's all I know how to do" in the TV series) and he also saved Kit and helped assist her pregnancy. It is also implied he had a compassionate side with Kit Snicket and his other love interests.
Olaf said that when he was a child he loved raspberries. In The Wide Window, it is revealed that as a child, Count Olaf would torture and kill ants with a magnifying glass, as he would set them on fire. This shows early signs of Count Olaf's psychopathy and arson. The video game has a portrait of this in his house.
At some point, he was recruited into VFD. A young Lemony, in a letter to Beatrice, mentions him 'filling his notebook with anagrams of obscene words" in class, and that he was tempted to talk to him, but was a bit reluctant to, after "the incident with the bottle of ink and the root beer float."
When he noticed a map of the Mortmain Mountains in Madame Lulu's tent, Olaf referred to a coded stain spilt on the Valley of Four Drafts, stating that he was taught to use such stains to mark secret locations when he was a young boy.
Olaf may have also gone to Wade Academy, as there is graffiti on the tower that bears his name which says he loves Guess Who, a board game about identifying people. This also implies he may have been raised in Stain'd-by-the-Sea.
A letter written from Sally Sebald contains a picture of the young boy who was to play Young Rölf in Zombies in the Snow, a film directed by her brother Gustav Sebald. She says that she thinks his name might be Omar (a name that many confuse with Olaf). Olaf says that his acting career began when he was approached by Gustav Sebald (then a "young director") because he was the "most handsome fellow at school", which would make it a very old movie, since Count Olaf himself (disguised as Stephano) watched the film in theater with the Baudelaires and Dr. Montgomery. Since the film contains a Sebald Code message for Monty Montgomery warning him about Stephano, some argue that the film itself was shot decades ago, and that the Sebald Code was later dubbed into the movie when it was re-released near the events of The Reptile Room. Others argue that the young boy is Omeros and not Olaf.
At some point in time, he met Kit Snicket and fell in love with her. He also became the acting teacher of Esmé Squalor.
Duncan and Isadora Quagmire mentioned that they read about a man, with similar traits as Olaf, that strangled a bishop, escaped prison in just ten minutes, and threw a wealthy widow off a cliff. The Baudelaire children agreed that it sounds like Olaf and believed him to be the man mentioned in the articles (although this is never confirmed).
In the books, Kit mentioned that she was able to smuggle a box of poison darts to the Baudelaire parents before Esmé Squalor caught her. Through a few subtle hints, it becomes apparent that Lemony Snicket was present as well. Olaf revealed that poison darts were the reason he became an orphan himself, which is confirmed in the TV series, where, after Lemony Snicket and Beatrice Baudelaire steal the Sugar Bowl, Beatrice throws a poison dart at Esmé, but, before it could hit her, Olaf's father accidentally walked in front of Beatrice, hitting (and killing) him instead, which could explain Olaf's hatred for the Baudelaires.
The White-Faced Women hinted that Olaf may have been responsible for the fire that consumed their home and took the life of one of their siblings and perhaps the lives of their parents.
It is strongly hinted and almost outright stated by Olaf that he burned down the childhood home of Dewey Denouement and murdered almost his entire family.
Count Olaf mentioned that he saw Fiona when she was an infant and that he tried to throw thumbtacks in her cradle.
In The End, Ishmael says that Olaf set fire to his home, murdered his parents and that he locked him in a birdcage (which Ishmael also does to him) though Olaf said that he did not set that fire to his home.
Role in the Schism
Olaf had something to do with the schism that separated V.F.D. This is hinted the most in a letter Jacques Snicket wrote to Jerome Squalor. The letter explained that a member which he only referred to as O was acting in such a violent manner that his actions have caused the organization to split in two. As the members of the organization often use the first letter of their names to talk about one and another, it is generally assumed O stands for Olaf. Many members of V.F.D., such as Widdershins, often use Olaf's name immediately when talking about the treachery of the fire starting side of the schism. This hints that Olaf has done a great deal of harm to V.F.D. more than most of the other villains involved have, furthering the concept of him being one of the leaders of the schism. However, it should be noted that Kit and Dewey claim the schism occurred when they were four years old; as Olaf is around their and Lemony's age, he would scarcely be old enough to begin the initial schism, though as an adult he could have advanced it.
Olaf was involved with the organization for many years and knows many, if not all, of the secrets surrounding the organization that the Baudelaire children seek to know. He is also responsible for numerous fires and deaths of V.F.D., as mentioned by Lemony Snicket himself, and plans on gaining control of all the fortunes of the members in thirst of revenge. In a transcript of a VFD meeting, Olaf and Esmé arrive and threaten the Volunteers.
It is revealed that he took over a VFD play, The World is Quiet Here, and he fired Beatrice from the lead role before renaming the play One Last Warning to Those Who Try to Stand in My Way and casting Esmé as the lead. Lemony Snicket wrote a scathing review of the play, and while that was taken down, this apparently caused Olaf to speed up his plans. He framed Lemony for several crimes, causing him to have to go on the run.
The Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, were sent to live with Count Olaf, their closest geographically living "relative" (possibly a lie), after a mysterious fire destroyed their home and killed their parents which was possibly set by Count Olaf. Olaf was an actor and had an entire group of similarly evil associates who he refers to as his "theatre troupe". He wrote his plays, under the pseudonym "Al Funcoot" (an anagram of "Count Olaf"). His house was covered with weird paintings of eyes that made the Baudelaires feel they were always being watched.
During the time the Baudelaires lived with him, the children immediately saw Olaf as a short-tempered and violent man who was interested in obtaining their inherited fortune. He calls the Baudelaires "orphans", provided them with one filthy room with only one bed, a pile of rocks, and a cardboard box for clothes, and forced them to do difficult chores such as making them chop wood solely for his entertainment.
When Count Olaf asked the Baudelaires to prepare dinner, the Baudelaires prepared pasta puttanesca. Count Olaf asked where the roast beef was and when the Baudelaires replied he never asked for it, Count Olaf demanded they make roast beef. Sunny said "No! No! No!" and Count Olaf picked her up and dangled her in the air. After saying all they made was a disgusting sauce, he let Sunny go and ordered the children to go to their beds. Klaus replied that only had one bed, prompting Olaf to reply that they could use their fortune to buy another one. Klaus reminded Olaf that they can't use it until Violet is of age. Olaf then struck Klaus' face for back talking, slapping him hard enough that he fell to the floor and a bruise remained the next day. The children complained to Mr. Poe, calling Olaf a madman, but Poe did not care and dismissed their complaints.
One morning, Olaf revealed Mr. Poe blabbed to him about their visit. Olaf apologized for being "standoffish" and gave the children oatmeal with raspberries. Violet and Klaus suspected the raspberries may be poison berries, so Olaf ate one to prove it was safe. While the children ate the breakfast, Olaf asked them to participate in a play called "The Marvelous Marriage" 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 ensure that the children cooperate with the plan, Olaf kidnapped Sunny and had her tied up, mouth taped, put in a birdcage, and hung outside his tower window, threatening to murder her if the children refused to be in the play. Violet constructed a makeshift grappling hook and used it to climb up the tower. She found the hook-handed man (a member of Olaf's theatre troupe) waiting to capture her. Klaus was brought up to the tower and they were locked together in the room until the play began.
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, making her emit a cry of terror.
Olaf disguises himself as Stephano, pretending to be a member of the Herpetological Society, who is supposed to be the new assistant of Montgomery Montgomery, the newest Baudelaire guardian. Monty thinks he is a spy due to his lack of knowledge in the field. At one point, they all go to see the movie Zombies in the Snow.
Later, Olaf murders Monty and frames his death as a snake bite when in actuality, he used injected venom to mimic one. Olaf tries to abduct the Baudelaires, but their car crashes into Mr. Poe's. The Baudelaires expose Stephano's lies and he flees.
Count Olaf disguises himself as Captain Julio Sham at Lake Lachrymose. He woos Josephine Anwhistle while she and the Baudelaires are grocery shopping. When they are alone, he orders Josephine to write a suicide note putting the Baudelaires in his care, and orders her to kill herself. However, while Josephine writes the note, she includes a secret message in it which will give the Baudelaires her location, then fakes her death. Mr. Poe arrives to see how the Baudelaires are doing and is convinced Sham is a suitable new guardian. They have lunch at The Anxious Clown.
The Baudelaires rescue Josephine but they become swarmed by the Lachrymose Leeches. Olaf rescues them and is angered at Josephine for faking her death. He almost considers sparing her life after she promises to go into hiding and give him the Baudelaire fortune. However, after she corrects his grammar, he shoves her off the boat, and it is heavily implied she either drowns or is eaten by the leeches.
Back in the town, Olaf and the Baudelaires are found by Mr. Poe. Sunny bites his peg leg, revealing his identity, and he flees.
Count Olaf disguises himself as a female receptionist named Shirley close to Lucky Smells Lumbermill in Paltryville. He works for his associate Dr. Georgina Orwell at her optometry office and helps her mind control Klaus through hypnotism. Olaf also has his associate Foreman Flacutono (the Bald Man in the book and Hook-Handed Man in the TV series) infiltrate the lumbermill as a worker.
Violet and Sunny help Klaus break free of his mind control. Orwell accidentally dies after being killed by a factory buzzsaw. Olaf and Flacutono are detained in a room. Sir, the latest Baudelaire guardian, finally sees through Shirley's disguise after seeing the eye tattoo. Olaf and Flacutono throw a book at a window and escape.
Count Olaf disguises himself as Coach Genghis. He becomes the school's gym teacher and forces to Baudelaires to run laps called S.O.R.E. He does this to tire them out so they can not pay attention and fail their classes, hoping they will become suspended through flunking or cheating, and offering to take them in. He refuses to remove his turban for religious reasons, and his shoes because he claims his feet always smell.
After almost failing into Olaf's trap, the Baudelaires reveal his identity by removing his turban. Olaf gets away, also kidnapping two friends of the Baudelaires, Isadora Quagmire and Duncan Quagmire.
Count Olaf disguises himself as Gunther, a foreign auctioneer assisting Esmé Squalor and Jerome Squalor prepare for the In Auction. He secretly collaborates with Esmé to steal the Quagmire Sapphires. Jerome does not believe the Baudelaires that Gunther is Olaf and suspects they are simply xenophobic. After the Baudelaires realize who Esmé is, the auction begins. The Baudelaires bid on get V.F.D., but it turns out to be Very Fancy Doilies and not the Quagmires. Count Olaf escapes with Esmé, leaving the scene with a giant red herring statue which the Quagmires were actually in.
Count Olaf disguises himself as a "cool" detective, Detective Dupin. He is assisted by a mysterious female officer, Officer Luciana. He manipulates the villagers into following him using herd mentality, saying only "cool" people follow his order.
Later, he frames the Baudelaires of murdering Jacques Snicket, a man who for unknown reasons at the time, has a unibrow and eye tattoo like Olaf. Olaf kills Jacques himself. Detective Dupin even shows the Baudelaires an article from the The Daily Punctilio stating that the Baudelaires killed "Count Omar."
The Baudelaires flee from the angry villagers after rescuing the Quagmires and putting them in the care of Hector on his mobile home. During that time, one of the villagers sees Dupin without his sunglasses where they noticed his one eyebrow leading to Count Olaf being exposed when some of the Council of Elders managed to remove one of his shoes and exposed the ankle tattoo. Count Olaf escapes from the villagers after Esmé, in the alias of Officer Luciana, accidentally injured a crow.
Count Olaf disguises himself as Mattathias at Heimlich Hospital, speaking through the intercom system. He tries to perform a "Cranioectomy" (decapitation) on Violet, hinting that by this point, Olaf is satisfied with revenge on the Baudelaires for ruining his schemes instead of the Baudelaire fortune itself. He sets the hospital on fire and blames the "Baudelaire murderers" for doing so. He flees with his troupe in a car yelling at his troupe, unaware the Baudelaires hid in his trunk.
Count Olaf does not wear a disguise in this book, although he dons a ringmaster disguise in the TV series. He visits Olivia Caliban (Madame Lulu) at Caligari Carnival, asking her if one of the Baudelaire parents are still alive. She claims one of them is hiding in the Mortmain Mountains. He gives Olivia lions as a gift, and convinces her to sacrifice one of the Caligari Carnival freaks to boost the carnival's popularity.
During the lion show, Olivia dies when she and the Bald Man fall into the lion pit. After gaining the allegiance of Hugo the Hunchback, Colette the Contortionist, and Kevin the Ambidextrous Man, Olaf sets the carnival on fire. He also has Violet and Klaus, in disguise, assist with the immolation. He takes the Baudelaires along to the mountains, although he has seen through their disguise. He abducts Sunny while sending Violet and Klaus to their doom in a runaway caravan.
Count Olaf has abducted Sunny. He and his troupe rest on top of the Mortmain Mountains, and bark outrageous orders at her, such as to set up their tents and make dinner. Olaf meets up with the Man with a Beard but No Hair and the Woman with Hair but No Beard who are both so villainous that they even frighten Olaf. The two people give Olaf the rest of the Snicket File.
Violet, Klaus and Quigley Quagmire arrange a deal with Esmé, meeting up with Olaf, saying they can give them the sugar bowl in exchange for Sunny. Olaf is unconvinced but Esmé is. Olaf orders the white-faced women to throw Sunny off a mountain as means of forcing the Baudelaires to give them the sugar bowl, but the women become disgusted and leave, implying they suspect that Count Olaf may have killed their third sibling. The Snow Scouts, including Carmelita Spats and Bruce, arrive. Olaf and Esmé adopt Carmelita after Esmé promises Carmelita a fabulous and stylish life. The Baudelaires and Quigley then escape with Sunny.
Count Olaf and his troupe somehow obtain an octopus submarine called the Carmelita, and use children abducted from Prufrock and the Snow Scouts to power it. They approach the Baudelaires, Captain Widdershins, Fiona and Phil in the Queequeg. Fortunately, a mysterious object shaped like a question mark scares off Olaf's vessel.
However, Olaf's submarine returns and engulfs the Queequeg in its "jaw". Olaf comes down to the children and tells them that he has been at the Hotel Denouement preparing for his final scheme, but had to return to search for the sugar bowl himself, which is the only thing he needs to complete his nefarious plans. He is overjoyed to find he has also captured Fiona, and shows little concern for Sunny's condition. He is also working on perfecting a villainous laugh. As he leads the children through to the brig, he marvels at the octopus submarine, which he stole, which can be used to destroy all of V.F.D.'s armies.
Eventually, Olaf announces triumphantly that they are just minutes from the Hotel Denouement and, even worse, Fiona has joined their team. Olaf captures a sample of the Medusoid Mycelium in a helmet, which is a poisonous fungus whose spores cause death within the hour of exposure. Olaf is happy with the prospect of using it as a biological weapon. The mysterious question mark appears again, and during the commotion of trying to avoid it, Fiona secretly lets the Baudelaires onto the Queequeg to escape.
Olaf and his troupe arrive at Hotel Denouement in order to locate the Sugar Bowl. He has kept a sample of the Medusoid Mycelium with him.
He finally showed signs of hesitation at committing crimes and murder. He was about to kill Dewey Denouement with a harpoon gun when the Baudelaires begged him to stop and be a noble person. Olaf whispered, "What else can I do?" This gave rise to speculation that Olaf was not entirely evil, but felt obligated to continue his deeds as he has already gone too far from being noble. Olaf tossed the gun to the Baudelaires, but they drop it and accidentally kill Dewey. A crowd appears, woken up by the commotion, and force Olaf and the Baudelaires to stay and await a proper trial tomorrow, locking Olaf in a room.
During the trial, Olaf is able to rig it in his favor because the judges are actually his two assistants, the Man and Woman from The Slippery Slope. Because the audience is blindfolded, Olaf abducts Justice Strauss and holds her hostage. He and the Baudelaires go to the laundry room. When he discovers the Sugar Bowl is not there, Olaf agrees to burn down the hotel at Sunny's suggestion. He was able to flee the burning Hotel Denouement by boarding a boat (then called the Carmelita) with the Baudelaires off the roof.
The Baudelaires and Count Olaf are trapped on a boat heading away from the Hotel Denouement and to the sea. The Baudelaires were forced to listen to Count Olaf brag about how he had triumphed and how successful he was. He mentioned he intended to purchase a car with their fortune and ordered them to take him to the nearest luxury car dealership, despite that they were stranded in the middle of an ocean.
Olaf was marooned with the Baudelaire orphans after a vicious storm on a remote island. He thought he "discovered" it himself and named it "Olaf-Land" after himself. Despite that Violet pointed out there were already people living on it, he wanted to be treated as their royal king anyway. However, Olaf was immediately rejected due to his unkind behavior by Friday Caliban, one of the island's inhabitants.
After a pregnant Kit Snicket was also stranded in another storm, Olaf attempted to disguise himself as her, using a round diving helmet filled with Medusoid Mycelium to make his stomach bulge as though he were pregnant, although this disguise did not fool anyone.
Olaf is soon forced to enter a bird cage as the prisoner of the islanders, which is ironic after what he once did to Sunny. Olaf's personality becomes significantly different as he is seen as more timid, desperate and depressed. This is probably because none of his past methods and tactics work on the islanders and that there is truly no place for him on the island. Olaf is also shown to sympathize with the children, telling them that life is unfair and a miserable place. He seemed to have gained a reluctant respect for them, calling them his new henchmen and even attempting to convince them to escape with him.
The Baudelaires accused Count Olaf of making them orphans, a suspicion that all three siblings had kept in their hearts for as long as they can remember. Count Olaf, however, upon asking the Baudelaires if that's what they think and receiving Sunny's cold answer, "We know it," retorts that the orphans "know nothing," thus making it uncertain if he was the one responsible for that particular fire.
Later, the island's leader, Ishmael, fired a harpoon at Olaf (as Olaf planned) only for it to hit the encased Mycelium against his stomach and causing it to burst so that its deadly spores are released into the air, contaminating all of the islanders as well as Olaf himself. Olaf started laughing, stating that Ishmael has murdered everyone on the island as he has just released a deadly fungus into the air.
Olaf realized that he has nothing left to live for, having lost all his henchmen, his parents, his girlfriend, his true love, all his plans ruined, and no chance of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune or any other one for that matter. Too depressed to go on living, Olaf at first refused to take a specially produced apple (which is mixed with horseradish, the cure for the Mycelium), saying that he has lost everything important to him. However, upon finding out that Kit Snicket is going into labor, he eats the healing apple and carries her to where she can better-perform childbirth, thus performing what Violet calls the one good deed in his life, during which he surprisingly kisses Kit on the lips, hinting at a past relationship between the two.
Although Count Olaf was cured from the Medusoid Mycelium, he was still dying from the harpoon wound. He looked at the Baudelaire orphans in pain and helped them bring Kit on to the beach who seems to be dying from the fungus. The Baudelaires helped Kit give birth when she recited the poem "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" by Francis William Bourdillon which is answered by Olaf reciting the final stanza of Philip Larkins's "This Be the Verse".
|“||Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can. And don't have any kids yourself.||”|
— Count Olaf's final words
Afterwards, Olaf croaked a final unsettling laugh and died. The Baudelaires buried Count Olaf along with Kit. Lemony Snicket mentions that, despite all the cruel things he did to the Baudelaires, they would sometimes still visit Count Olaf's grave and merely stand silent for a few moments.
2004 Film Divergent Canon
Olaf's role is mainly the same as the books. However, the children are taken out of Olaf's care after he nearly hits them with a train (he parked on the train tracks and left them there, locked in the car), and Mr. Poe takes them out of his care because Olaf "let Sunny drive".
When Count Olaf saves the children from the leeches they are placed back in his care and then are forced to participate in the play, The Marvelous Marriage, instead of how they left Olaf's care in the first place.
It is heavily implied in this canon that Olaf burned down the Baudelaire mansion with a magnifying glass which can set fire at a distance using sunlight. In the books, this is something left ambiguous to the reader.
After Count Olaf's scheme is exposed, Mr. Poe, Polly Poe, and the crowd converge on Count Olaf who is then handcuffed by the Constable. Lemony Snicket stated that the judge's decree had Count Olaf suffering every hardship he has put the Baudelaires in before he can serve a life sentence. Before Mr. Poe letting the Baudelaires visit the ruins of their mansion, Lemony stated that Count Olaf vanished after a jury of his peers overturned his sentence.
TV Series Divergent Canon
Olaf's role is mainly the same as the books. However, there are more details to his backstory, and he also uses more disguises than the books.
It is revealed Count Olaf went to Prufrock Preparatory School with Lemony Snicket in his adolescence. Both of them were also part of their school's drama club. The school principal Ishmael made Olaf think poetry, books and learning would keep him safe from the horrors and treachery of the world, and recruited him into VFD.
Olaf claimed he was a rebel and girls were falling for him, and not just because he enjoyed tripping them. He was expelled from Prufrock because he flunked his physical education class since gym teacher evaluations are worth 51% of a student's grade.
In "The Vile Village: Part One", just before Jacques Snicket and Olivia Caliban break into the saloon where Count Olaf is hiding himself, Olaf looks at a heart carved into the counter with three female names: Georgina Orwell, Josephine (possibly Aunt Josephine) and Kit. It implies he visited the village saloon with all three of them, and shows the chronological order of his relationships. Why Josephine never mentions a previous relationship with Olaf is unknown.
In "The Slippery Slope: Part One," it is revealed the Man and Woman are his adoptive parents and mentors. A flashback reveals they recruited Olaf to the fire-starting side of the V.F.D. when he was a young man, shortly after the murder of his parents.
In "The Penultimate Peril: Part One," Count Olaf, Esmé, and Carmelita pose as the Normal Happy Family again when they check into Hotel Denouement. Also, Count Olaf poses as Jacques Snicket when he meets with Mr. Poe in the hotel's Indian restaurant.
In "The Penultimate Peril: Part Two", it is revealed in a flashback that Beatrice accidentally murdered Olaf's father during the play with a dart meant for Esmé, while Lemony took the blame for it, causing Olaf to develop a hatred for Lemony.
|“||I wouldn't mind harpooning you either, orphans. When it comes to slaughtering people, I'm very flexible! Ha!||”|
— Count Olaf in The Penultimate Peril
Confirmed murders include:
- Montgomery Montgomery
- Captain Sam (in the film, possible in books/Netflix series)
- Gustav Sebald
- Jacques Snicket (in the Netflix series, he is beaten to death by Olaf with a crowbar)
- Olivia Caliban (in the Netflix series, ambiguous in the books)
- Larry the Waiter (in the Netflix series)
- Dewey Denouement (indirectly; Olaf shoves a harpoon gun to the Baudelaires, but they accidentally drop it and it kills Dewey)
Possible victims include:
- Josephine Anwhistle (unknown if deceased, but heavily implied she drowned or was eaten by leeches due to Olaf shoving her into the lake)
- White-Faced Women's Third Sibling
- Beatrice and Bertrand Baudelaire (implied in the film, although set in its canon, denied in books and Netflix series)
- Foreman Firstein
- Ms. Tench (in the books, Vice Principal Nero claims she accidentally fell out of a third-story window a few days ago. In the Netflix series, Nero says she mysterious vanished.)
- "Chief of Police" of the Village of Fowl Devotees (Officer Luciana claims he has a sore throat after accidentally swallowing a box of thumbtacks)
- Babs (in the books, Olaf claims she resigned from the hospital because she decided to pursue a career as a stuntwoman and has begun throwing herself off buildings immediately. In the Netflix series, he does not murder her.)
- Esmé Squalor (in the Netflix series, he truthfully warns her and Carmelita about the hotel fire, but does it in such a way to make them think he's lying, so if they died in the fire, he would be responsible for their deaths.)
- Carmelita Spats (see above)
It is also notable that Count Olaf burned down locations such as Heimlich Hospital, Caligari Carnival, and Hotel Denouement. His victim count could be in the hundreds, and he probably burned many people to death who could not evacuate these locations in time.
While on the island, Olaf intimidated Ishmael into harpooning his fake pregnant belly which released the spores of the Medusoid Mycelium throughout the air of the island. Because of this, anyone who may have died as a result could be viewed as an indirect victim of Olaf's, such as Kit Snicket.
Olaf is described as very tall and very thin with bony hands and pale skin. His angular face is unshaven as he has a goatee beard and large sideburns. He has a long unibrow and gray-white receding hair. He has a prominent hooked nose. He has a little chest hair, as shown by one of the illustrations for The Vile Village.
His eyes tend to gleam and shine when he asks serious questions in a sarcastic, mean manner, as if he is telling a funny joke, which frightens the Baudelaires. His features could be interpreted as unusual, as if animalistic or demonic. Violet remarks that she cannot picture Olaf as a child — all his features seem to be those of an adult.
He has a tattoo of an eye on his left ankle which is a mark for members of VFD, the organization to which Olaf belonged before becoming what he describes as "an individual practitioner."
Clothing-wise, he meets the Baudelaires dressed in a gray suit with many dark stains on it.
He is often described as unkempt and often dirty. Olaf's poor hygiene is frequent and Olaf mentions that he often goes ten days without a shower. His lack of personal hygiene worsens although Sunny is shocked to see that Olaf has bathed and changed into a new suit.
Olaf wears a new disguise and alias 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 of his primary disguises.
- Yessica Haircut (The Bad Beginning, TV series) - Count Olaf used this improvisational disguise to convince Mr. Poe, whom incidentally had a haircut scheduled, that the Baudelaire children should be given to him.
- Al Funcoot (The Bad Beginning) - An anagram for and used by Count Olaf (the playwright of The Marvelous Marriage).
- Stephano (The Reptile Room) - Dr. Montgomery's assistant herpetologist with a long beard, no hair, and no eyebrows. He had powder covering his ankle tattoo.
- Captain Julio Sham (The Wide Window) - A sailor with an eyepatch to hide his one eyebrow and a wooden leg to hide his left foot. The real Julio Sham is captain of the Prospero.
- Rabbi - (The Wide Window, book) - Count Olaf disguised himself as a rabbi in order to board a train to flee Lake Lachrymose's proximity.
- Shirley T. Sinoit-Pécer/St. Ives (The Miserable Mill) - Dr. Orwell's receptionist (T. Sinoit-Pécer is receptionist backwards) who wears stockings with eyes on them to cover up the ankle tattoo.
- Coach Genghis (The Austere Academy) - A "renowned" gym teacher working at Prufrock Preparatory School who wears a turban to cover his one eyebrow, and expensive looking running shoes to cover his tattoo of an eye on his ankle. He is reluctant to remove his turban for "religious reasons."
- Gunther (The Ersatz Elevator) - A pinstripe-suit wearing auctioneer. He pretends to come from another country so people believe that he doesn't speak fluent English. Olaf constantly says "please" after and in the middle of every sentence. This is also done by Madame Lulu. He wears horse riding boots to cover up his tattoo, and a monocle to distort his eyebrow.
- Lonely Old Bartender (The Vile Village, TV series) - This disguise only appears in the beginning of The Vile Village in the TV series. Mr. Poe is the only person to be fooled by it.
- Detective Dupin (The Vile Village) - A 'famous' detective obsessed with what's cool, including ridiculous sunglasses which cover up his one eyebrow and green plastic shoes with yellow lightning bolts on them that hide the tattoo of an eye on his ankle. He seemingly murdered the real police chief of the Village of Fowl Devotees.
- Mattathias (The Hostile Hospital) - Heimlich Hospital's new Human Resources director. In the books, his presence is only known from a voice over the intercom, while the previous HR director's fate is unknown. However, it is presumed that she was pushed off a building. In the TV series, Mattathias' role is expanded as a doctor named Mattathias Medicalschool so that he has a more visual presence.
- Ringmaster (The Carnivorous Carnival, TV series) - Although there is no mention of Olaf disguising himself at the carnival in the book, he dons a ringmaster disguise in the TV series.
- Dad (The Grim Grotto and The Penultimate Peril, TV series) - Exclusive to the TV series, Count Olaf disguises himself as a tourist with his family he dons this disguise during '"The Grim Grotto" and "The Penultimate Peril"' episodes.
- Jacques Snicket (The Penultimate Peril, TV series) - Exclusive to the TV series, Count Olaf disguises himself as Jacques Snicket during The Penultimate Peril episodes.
- Kit Snicket (The End) - Count Olaf disguises himself as a pregnant Kit Snicket and uses the helmet containing the Medusoid Mycelium as his false baby (this is his only disguise that doesn't fool a single person).
Following the events of The Vile Village it is no longer necessary for Olaf to use any disguises as he murders a man, Jacques Snicket, who was believed to be Count Olaf/Omar at the time. The Daily Punctilio published articles before this event that entailed that the man who committed numerous crimes was Count Omar and not Olaf. This allowed Olaf to no longer disguise himself and even use his name as everyone believed Omar was the villain's name. Even though his need for disguises was minimum, he does so one last time in The Hostile Hospital to gain entry into the area. The eighth book also starts Olaf's open obsession with fire, as he burns down Heimlich Hospital in that book and then Caligari Carnival in the ninth book. Numerous mentions of other fires he started and others he plans to do strengthen the theory that he was the one who burnt the Baudelaire Mansion down and murdered the parents.
Behind the scenes
- In the 2003 Multi-Voice Recording of The Bad Beginning, he is voiced by L.J. Ganser.
- In the film, he is portrayed by Jim Carrey.
- In the video game, he is voiced by Jim Carrey.
- In the TV series, he is portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris.
Count is a title in European countries for a noble of varying status. It is unknown why he is "Count" Olaf. "Count" may be a self-proclaimed title he gave himself, as he is a very narcissistic character. People thought of as "royalty" have also tended to be very wealthy throughout history, although Olaf is implied to live in near poverty, so "Count" may also be a parody of his financial wealth, or technically speaking, lack of.
Olaf is a Scandinavian name, meaning "ancestor", though whether Handler picked the name for its meaning is unknown. Handler has stated that part of the reason he picked the name was to keep the location of ASOUE unknown, as the name of the Baudelaire children are from other locations.
Count Olaf is probably named after Count Olaf Labinski from Theophile Gautier's short story Avatar. Count Olaf in ASOUE has almost no physical or personality resemblance to this potential literary namesake. Gautier and the real life Charles Baudelaire were contemporaries and friends, and the Baudelaire family in ASOUE was named after Charles Baudelaire.
See: Count Olaf/Quotes
- Part of the depiction of Olaf being such a bad person in the narration of ASOUE seems to be from Lemony Snicket's own personal dislike of Olaf.
- Although he is mentioned to have a high, wheezing voice in the books, neither the show or movie go in this direction.
- He was going to appear physically, and prominently in All The Wrong Questions, but this idea was scrapped early on.
- ASOUE is often categorized as "children's literature", albeit a parody of it which adults can also enjoy. In addition to being a serial killer, Olaf does not shy away from using slightly profane language like "damn" and "hell" which makes him unique in the children's literature medium.
- Olaf has also been theorized by many readers to be an ephebophile, due to his interactions with Violet. Kit Snicket also seems considerably younger than he is, supporting he prefers women on the young side. Despite the fortune being his main incentive for the play, it is possible that Olaf actually preferred a marriage with Violet, enjoyed the idea of being her husband and seriously planned on living with his "countess" for the rest of his life. He says, "Now, if all of you will excuse me, my bride and I need to go home for our wedding night." In The Carnivorous Carnival, when the troupe votes on who to keep alive, Olaf says, "...Violet. She's the prettiest." In the TV series, Olaf also goes in for a kiss, although he stops and says "okay" when he sees Violet does not want to.
- In Lemony Snicket's Unauthorized Autobiography, the VFD members are talking about where to find new headquarters. O. (Olaf) and E. (Esmé) interrupt the conversation. O. announces that he wants to be called 'T'. It is implied that his real name starts with a 'T'. However, he could only want to be called, "The Count."
- In The Bad Beginning, it is mentioned Olaf often travels around the world with various theater companies, although it is unclear how as he seems to be financially poor.
- In The Bad Beginning: Special Edition, at the Author's Notes, Lemony Snicket has hinted that the City's official fire department might actually be owned by Olaf, based on the fact there is a large O signage at the fire department.
- His license plate is IH8 ORFNS, shown in an illustration for The Carnivorous Carnival.
- It is possible he was once in a relationship with Olivia Caliban (Madame Lulu), since she said the she remembers when he visit "only for the pleasure of her company."
- He seems to be an avid fan of cake as he stole 27 cakes. He is also shown eating cake in the TV series.
- Due to his first name and title etymology source, his surname could possibly be Labinski.
- It's possible that he was loosely based on the character of Count Fosco in the novel The Woman in White, a gothic novel of the "secret society" and "anti-Illuminati" sub-genres. Fosco also plots to steal fortunes and murder those who hold them. Additionally, he is outsmarted by his intended victim and scared off by a member of a secret society, which happens to give all its members a brand, or mark. He is described as having glimmering eyes, similar to Olaf's "shiny eyes". See quotes from The Woman in White below:
|The Woman in White|
"He fixed his unfathomable grey eyes on me, with that cold, clear, irresistible glitter in them which always forces me to look at him, and always makes me uneasy while I do look. An unutterable suspicion that his mind is prying into mine overcomes me at these times, and it overcame me now."
"He spoke last of you. His eyes brightened and hardened, and his manner changed to what I remember it in past times—to that mixture of pitiless resolution and mountebank mockery which makes it so impossible to fathom him."'
"Not the shadow of a doubt crossed my mind of the purpose for which the Count had left the theatre. His escape from us, that evening, was beyond all question the preliminary only to his escape from London. The mark of the Brotherhood was on his arm—I felt as certain of it as if he had shown me the brand; and the betrayal of the Brotherhood was on his conscience—I had seen it in his recognition of Pesca."
- In a deleted scene, Olaf kicks the Baudelaires' dinner shouting 'BEEF! BEEF! BEEEEEEF!" because they did not give him roast beef.
- Olaf may have knowledge of Italian. When the Baudelaires announce they are serving pasta puttanesca, Olaf replies, "What did you call me?" The name translates to "sauce in the style of the prostitute" or "whore's spaghetti". Italian legend has it that this dish was named as such because it was the everyday prostitutes signature dish, due to the affordability of its ingredients and how 'easy' it is to make. Later, when he is disguised as Stephano, he claims to be an Italian man.
- Olaf's eye tattoo resembles Brett Helquist's earlier illustrations, rather than the V.F.D. insignia seen in later books.
- Olaf attempts to kill the orphans with a train and frame it as an accident, making it seem like it contradicts his motives as Olaf needs at least one of them alive, preferably Violet, to inherit the Baudelaire fortune. However, Olaf has the misconception that he would inherit the fortune if all of them died. His play was originally titled The Marvelous Carriage, and the plot involved the real deaths of the Baudelaire children by being fatally struck by a carriage in an "accident". After finding out from Mr. Poe that the children's death would not deem him eligible for a claim to the Baudelaire fortune, he renamed and completely rewrote the play into The Marvelous Marriage.
- The production company and license used to film the series in Vancouver is called "Olaf II Productions Inc."
- Neil Patrick Harris got a real tattoo on his ankle.
- When Neil Patrick Harris asked Daniel Handler how old Count Olaf was supposed to be, Handler replied, "You know, however old kids think old people are."
- Count Olaf sometimes makes fourth-wall breaks. For example, he says he prefers entertainment from the comfort of his own home, a reference to Netflix. Sometimes he occasionally looks directly into the camera after saying something like, "I hate boring television." During Season 2, he tells the Baudelaires, "If you had the skills to stop me, we wouldn't be having this batch of episodes in your new lives."
- In the movie theater, Olaf insults a movie theatre as a "godforsaken nickelodeon". "Nickelodeon" was in fact a term for a neighborhood movie theatre that took a nickel as the admission fee. However, some fans believe this is Daniel Handler throwing shade at the film which was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, due to the fact that he wasn't allowed to work on it much and had mixed feelings about it.
- A running gag in Season 2 seems to be that Olaf is clumsy.
- Olaf's car is a flat-grey 1968 or 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado.
- According to a Daily Punctilio seen near the end of The Austere Academy: Part One
- PROSE: The Beatrice Letters
- PROSE: The Carnivorous Carnival
- PROSE: Shouldn't You Be in School?
- PROSE: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography
- PROSE: Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?
- The Jewish Secrets of Lemony Snicket
- PROSE: The Penultimate Peril