|“||People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.||”|
— Fernald, The Grim Grotto
A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Please note that this plot summary mainly follows the books and may have differences from the film and TV series.
In his youth, Fernald studied poetry with Captain Widdershins, the stepfather of Fernald and his sister Fiona. According to Fiona, he always carried a deck of cards to prevent boredom, and he even created a game called "Fernald's Folly" that the siblings played together whenever they had a long wait.
Fernald was a once a Volunteer of the Fire-Fighting side of V.F.D., but he had a genuine dislike of Captain Widdershins due to his bossy ways and constant "Aye!"s.
According to a Daily Punctilio article entitled "Verifying Fernald's Defection," written by Jacques Snicket, Fernald was responsible for burning Anwhistle Aquatics, and possibly for the murder of Gregor.
Fernald is among the guests who arrive at Count Olaf's home for dinner, along with the Bald Man with the Long Nose, the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender and the White-Faced Women. He and the rest of the troupe are impatiently banging on the table in order to hurry the Baudelaires as they cook dinner. He is also there to witness Olaf striking Klaus.
He is later sent by Olaf to retrieve the Baudelaires when they visit Justice Strauss' house. He surprises Klaus Baudelaire and explains their importance to Count Olaf's plan, with sinister overtones over their eventual fates upon the scheme's success. Klaus is plainly afraid of Fernald and cannot rebut his threats.
When Violet Baudelaire attempts to rescue her sister Sunny from a suspended cage outside the tower, Fernald catches her outside the window and pulls her inside. He informs Olaf of the situation with a walkie talkie, though he has brief issues using it. He leaves the room afterwards and locks it, trapping both Sunny and Violet inside. He accompanies Count Olaf when they retrieve the Baudelaires from the bedroom to prepare them for the upcoming marriage.
During The Marvelous Marriage, Olaf instructs Fernald to retrieve Sunny from the tower and to bring her to the theatre. When Olaf's plan is foiled, Sunny escapes him and he gives chase to her as she reunites with her siblings. With their plan in shambles, the acting troupe and Count Olaf escape when the Wart-Faced Man turns the lights out.Montgomery Montgomery at the time when Count Olaf is posing as Stephano. Fernald concealed his hook-hands with fake hands in order to avoid detection. He confirms Stephano's claim of the Incredibly Deadly Viper's responsibility for Montgomery's death. Both are surprised when Sunny expresses friendship with the Viper and Sunny soon bites Lucafont's hands off to expose his hooks. With their identities compromised, both men flee the home and drive away in Fernald's car.
Fernald poses as the doorman at 667 Dark Avenue where his long sleeves cover up his hooks and his hat's brim covers most of his face. He directs the Baudelaires to the suite of their new guardians, Jerome and Esmé Squalor. When questioned about the nearby elevator, he insists that the elevator is not out of order, but "out" meaning unpopular.
Later, Jerome and the Baudelaires return from the Café Salmonella, Fernald refuses to permit the four residents to access the suite until Gunther, Count Olaf's disguise has left. After much convincing, Fernald finally permits them and they find Esmé, who explains that Gunther left long ago. Klaus later finds Fernald decorating the ground floor while he is exploring the hotel for clues to the Quagmires' whereabouts.
During the auction at the Veblen Hall, the Doorman bids and wins Lot #48, a large Red Herring statue containing the Quagmire orphans. Upon spotting the Baudelaires entering the building, he informs Olaf. He is exposed when Count Olaf slips on the freshly spilt pile of Very Fancy Doilies and exposes his ankle. With the red herring, Fernald, Olaf, and Esmé escape the crowd as they begin slipping on the doilies in an attempt to catch them. The Baudelaires recognize him only when he rolls up his sleeves to drive the car, exposing his hooks.
Fernald poses once again as Dr. O. Lucafont at Heimlich Hospital. He and the Bald Man await Esmé's arrival with Klaus and Sunny, both of whom are wearing disguises that Fernald and the Bald Man confuse for the White-Faced Women. They lead the unconscious Violet to the operating theatre and pose as assisting doctors for a "craniectomy", which Klaus is intended to carry out.
As Klaus and Sunny buy time for Violet to regain consciousness, Esmé and the real White-Faced Women enter to expose them. They flee the theatre with Violet. Fernald is next seen fleeing the hospital as it burns to the ground, entering Olaf's car with the rest of the troupe and driving away.
Fernald disguises himself as a carnival employee, though he never disguises his hook hands. Because of this, the carnival freaks Colette, Kevin, and Hugo mistakes him for a freak due to his disability, greatly offending him. He is equipped with a giant noodle to whip any freak who disobeys.
The mistake in identity is made again by a member of the audience during the lion show, who insists that Fernald should use prosthetic hands instead of hooks to avoid this problem in the future. After the Bald Man and Olivia Caliban are eaten by the lions, Fernald sets the Caligari Carnival on fire and flees with Olaf and the troupe.
Fernald travels with Count Olaf and the remaining members of the acting troupe over the Mortmain Mountains and stays in a ranch. While forcing Sunny into servitude, Fernald is ordered by Olaf to fetch some salmon from the waterfall to cook. Towards the end of the book, Fernald is ensnared in a net with the Snow Scouts and is carried away by eagles to The Carmelita.
The Baudelaires and their new ally Fiona are captured by Esmé aboard the Carmelita and Fernald is instructed to interrogate them. However, Fiona recognizes him as her long lost brother and identifies him by name, both delighted by their reunion and horrified by his turn to villainy. Fernald explains that Count Olaf is not an entirely evil person and insists that the two opposing sides of V.F.D. don't adhere to the moral extremes that the Baudelaires had been led to believe.
Fernald eventually agrees to help Fiona and the Baudelaires escape to the Queequeg and requests to join them in the escape. As the Baudelaires are returned to the Queequeg, Fernald and Fiona are discovered by Carmelita and Esmé. To protect her, Fernald claims that Fiona has joined the theatre troupe and requests to use Esmé's "tagliatelle grande" for the interrogation.
Fernald and Fiona are with Olaf and Esmé when they recapture the Baudelaires as they are solving the riddles within Widdershins' poems aboard the Queequeg, both now dressed in the Carmelita uniforms. But as the troupe begins looting the submarine, a large entity is detected on the radar approaching them. Remaining loyal to his sister, they both remain on the Carmelita and face the approaching horror as the Baudelaires escape.
It is unknown what happens to Fernald after this moment as he and his sister never return in the later books. Olaf states that Fernald and Fiona stole the submarine during the attack of the Great Unknown. Kit Snicket would later imply that Fernald returned to the Fire Fighting Side of V.F.D, though his fate still remains unclear.
He is first seen with the rest of the acting troupe when they first arrive for dinner in Count Olaf's home. He stands with Count Olaf as he instructs the orphan's to prepare dinner by 8:00, where he removes his fake hands to reveal one of his hooks and says "Sharp!"
During rehearsals, Olaf uses his hooks as a coat rack for his robe before assigning roles, Fernald suggesting out of necessity for Olaf to play the part of "The Most Handsome Count in all the world." During the rehearsals, he and the rest of the troupe fall asleep and are eventually awoken when dinner is served. Count Olaf destroys the dinner plates and rants over how the children should've served roast beef instead, and the troupe applauds him.
During the children's time with Montgomery Montgomery, he disguises himself as a doctor to confirm a false cause of death, though he and Count Olaf are eventually exposed and he flees the scene, leaving his fake hands and doctor's outfit behind.
Fernald is later seen setting up the play The Marvelous Marriage, taking people's coats and helping the Bald Man entertain a critic. During the play, Fernald plays a soldier that aids the Count in his battle against "the hordes" and eventually find his beloved. The play is suddenly interrupted when Olaf discovers the Bald Man playing the camel instead of Klaus. He orders Fernald to go find him.
As Klaus attempts to rescue Sunny from the tower and discovers the cause of the Baudelaire fire, Fernald ambushes him and expresses his involvement in the fire. After a second attack, he clumsily falls out the window and is left hanging from Sunny's suspended birdcage for Olaf and the Audience to see.
What happens to him is unknown, though it is likely he fled with Count Olaf.
In the TV series, his role mainly follows the books. However, there are a few differences.
He is shown to be able to understand Sunny, although it is unknown how. He seems to be friendlier with her, even playing a game of poker with her while she is trapped in the cage to ease her boredom.
In The Carnivorous Carnival: Part One, Madame Lulu tells Fernald that his sister depends on him, referring to Fiona. He is also later seen debating about whether or not he should call his step-dad (Captain Widdershins).
In The Slippery Slope: Part One, Fernald shows a softer side to Sunny and helps her to prepare a meal for Count Olaf. He confides that he has a foster-father (Captain Widdershins) who did not approve of his life choices, and he expresses his disillusionment with Count Olaf. Fernald along with the White-Faced Women, the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender, and The Bald Man with the Long Nose also appreciate Sunny's cooking.
In The Slippery Slope: Part Two, Sunny manages to convince Fernald to get her a soft drink, taking advantage of the distraction to communicate with Violet and Quigley Quagmire. Later, Fernald is the only member of Count Olaf's troupe to comply with his orders to throw Sunny's cage down the mountain. However, it is revealed that Sunny had escaped using an unlocking device provided by Violet. It is also slightly implied that Fernald may have helped her escape offscreen.
In The Grim Grotto, Fernald's relationship with Olaf begins to sour as Olaf blames him for Sunny's escape, and Carmelita and Esmé treat him badly as well. When he next encounters the Baudelaires in the submarine, he tells Sunny he can't help her this time (more evidence he may have helped her escape before) and is sent to search the submarine, where he finds his sister Fiona and hides her presence from Olaf.
Eventually, Fernald's background with Gregor Anwhistle is revealed- he was once an apprentice for Anwhistle Aquatics. Gregor Anwhistle was developing the Medusoid Mycelium and despite Fernald's warnings about its dangers, Gregor refused to listen. This caused Fernald to burn Anwhistle Aquatics. Debris that exploded from Anwhistle Aquatics fell onto him. Fernald tried to block it with his hands, causing him to lose them. Fernald's arson caused him to be kicked out of the Fire-Fighting side of V.F.D. and Captain Widdershins was furious at Fernald but kept this truth hidden from Fiona. Fernald decided to join Count Olaf's Theater Troupe, largely due to his annoyance at Widdershins.
Fernald is convinced to help the Baudelaires when he sees that Sunny's life is on the line. Eventually, Fiona is discovered and Olaf begins to choke Fernald for his betrayal, but Fiona saves him by lying to Olaf and giving him the Medusoid Mycellium. When they leave Fiona's ship, Olaf reveals he knows Fiona was lying and threatens Fernald further. Fernald and Fiona's last appearance in this episode is them stealing the submarine and driving off.
In The End, Fernald and Fiona are shown finally finding their stepfather in their submarine together.
Fernald has a typically cold and calm attitude while working with Count Olaf, rarely expressing his feelings on a matter and maintaining a stiff-upper-lip in his work. He can also be very intimidating when he finds it necessary, using his appearance and his attitude to harass and frighten the Baudelaires.
Underneath this, however, is a level of philosophy and consideration that is rarely present in characters within the series. He is convinced that the Fire Fighting Side and the Fire Starting Side of V.F.D. have more similarities than most have been led to believe.
While his hooks can possibly function as weapons, he rarely uses physical force in Count Olaf's schemes, preferring instead to outsmart his enemies.
Despite Count Olaf's fondness for the trade, Fernald ironically seems to possess a greater skill in disguises. This is due to the Baudelaires immediately recognizing Olaf in his disguises, but rarely identifying Fernald until he abandons his disguise deliberately.
He has shown to care for his sister, and he quickly prioritizes her safety over his loyalty to Count Olaf. Despite this, he has a great disdain for Captain Widdershins, so much so that he is partially the reason Fernald joined Count Olaf's troupe in the first place. He also seems to have a toxic partnership with the Bald Man with the Long Nose, arguing with and receiving insults from him.
Violet has a personal hatred towards him because of his general affiliation with Count Olaf, a level of hatred not even shared by her siblings. Despite his attempts to justify his actions and exemplify their similarities on a moral level, she continues to reject the notion. This spite towards Fernald also poisons her and Klaus' opinion of Fiona as an ally.
Fernald is much more comedic and far less competent than his literary counterpart. He is often a part of gags that involve his hooks, such as people hanging coats off them, getting them stuck on surfaces and accidentally tearing clothes with them. He does not express the morally neutral behavior he has in the books either, behaving more like a simple thug and a henchman for the much more prominent and complex Count Olaf. Though this is justified since the movie had no sequels that could show Fernald’s more good side like in the books.
Fernald is a wild, yet a loyal person. He normally does not think twice about his actions as seen in The Bad Beginning: Part One and The Bad Beginning: Part Two. However, like the books, he tries to redeem himself after reuniting with Fiona.
In The Slippery Slope: Part One, he tells Olaf, "I'm in love with--" but is cut off. In The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations: An Utterly Unreliable Account of Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, it is mentioned that the idea was for Fernald to be in love with Olaf. This would explain why Fernald remains by Olaf's side longer than the rest of the henchpeople. As Daniel Handler helped write the TV series, it is unclear if this also applies to Fernald in the books. Fernald seems closeted and Esmé interrupts Fernald's apparent coming out, and he looks particularly annoyed after.
In The Grim Grotto, Fernald makes a decorated salad for Olaf. Olaf asks Fernald where the beef is, but Fernald replies that it's vegetarian, causing Olaf to become aggressive and violent. This scene is made sadder because of Fernald's feelings for Olaf. Later, Fernald tries to join Olaf, Esmé and Carmelita for dinner, but he is told off by them because they feel a family includes a man, a woman and a child. Fernald replies that families can consist of all sorts of variations, but is ordered to go eat in the brig with rats, and so he is saddened again.
Fernald is described as being a tall man, much like the Bald man with the Long Nose, and has distinctly long arms. His hands are missing and replaced with a pair of metal hooks, though how he lost his hands is unknown.
His voice is described as being croaky and dry, though he is still able to speak smoothly.
Various depictions present him in differing outfits. The Bad Beginning depicts him wearing a brown trench coat, a brown fedora, and golden hook hands. The Carnivorous Carnival shows him wearing a green overcoat with yellow pants and grey hook hands. Despite these varying depictions, his overcoat is described to be greasy.
Fernald has a slender frame, fitting his description in the books, though still differs from the depiction of him from the books. He typically wears a dark brown waistcoat, as opposed to the overcoat from the books, and a blue pair of dress pants. His hooks are shaped hexagonally and are explicitly dark grey, unlike the book counterpart's rounded golden hooks.
This design for the hook-handed man is replicated in the video game adaptations.
Fernald's design in the Netflix series is a radical departure from the book's depictions, even more so than the film's design.
In the series, he is bald with black stubbly facial hair. He wears a black leather coat with a black buttoned undershirt, dark brown pants, and black shoes. His hooks are no longer the traditional hooks and are now modern split hook hands. Each hook hand has a pair of claws capable of opening and closing to apply a grip. His hooks are also made of silver or iron, unlike in the film and books in which his hooks are made of gold.
Behind the scenes
- In the film, he is portrayed by Jamie Harris.
- In the video game, he is voiced by Jay Gordon.
- In the TV series, he is portrayed by Usman Ally.
- "People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict. Look at yourselves, Baudelaires. Do you really think we're so different? When those eagles carried me away from the mountains in that net, I saw the ruins of that fire in the hinterlands – a fire we started together. You've burned things down, and so have I. You joined the crew of the Queequeg, and I joined the crew of the Carmelita. Our captains are both volatile people, and we're both trying to get to the Hotel Denouement before Thursday. The only difference between us is the portraits on our uniforms."
- "You're asking why a grown man would knowingly engage in morally questionable behavior? You'll understand when you're older." (to Sunny)
- Fernald is the final boss of the console version of the video game, if one does not consider The Marvelous Marriage segment as the proper final boss.
- A Daily Punctilio article written by Jacques Snicket claims his name is Fernald Widdershins, although Fernald claims Widdershins is not his surname and claims that Captain Widdershins is not his father.
- He is the longest lasting member of Count Olaf's troupe, having been a part of it since the first book and being the last of the original members to eventually leave.
- Mentioned in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, in a play by Al Funcoot, previously by V.F.D before being edited by Olaf, the part of the little Sebald lad is taken by a sinister-looking man far too old for the part. This may have been Fernald, seeing as the photo is of a suit-and-fedora-wearing man with a creepy smile.
|Captain Widdershins||Mrs. Widdershins †||Unknown|
|A Series of Unfortunate Events (Books)|
|1. The Bad Beginning (1999):||Debut||7. The Vile Village (2001):||Absent|
|2. The Reptile Room (1999):||Appears||8. The Hostile Hospital (2001):||Appears|
|3. The Wide Window (2000):||Absent||9. The Carnivorous Carnival (2002):||Appears|
|4. The Miserable Mill (2000):||Absent||10. The Slippery Slope (2003):||Appears|
|5. The Austere Academy (2000):||Absent||11. The Grim Grotto (2004):||Appears|
|6. The Ersatz Elevator (2001):||Appears||12. The Penultimate Peril (2005):||Mentioned|
|13. The End (2006):||Mentioned|
|All the Wrong Questions|
|Who Could That Be at This Hour? (2012):||Absent||Shouldn't You Be in School? (2014):||Absent|
|When Did You See Her Last? (2013):||Absent||Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? (2015):||Absent|
|File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents (2014):||Absent|
|Other Snicket Books|
|Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002):||Mentioned|
|The Dismal Dinner (2004):||Absent|
|The Beatrice Letters (2006):||Absent|
|The Hero of the Story (2017):||Absent|
- The Bad Beginning
- The Reptile Room
- The Wide Window (Mentioned only)
- The Miserable Mill (Mentioned only)
- The Ersatz Elevator
- The Hostile Hospital
- The Carnivorous Carnival
- The Slippery Slope
- The Grim Grotto
- The Penultimate Peril (Mentioned only)
- The End (Mentioned only)
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (film)
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (video game)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV series)