The allusions to real-world literature and events within Snicket's works can be found here, sorted by book and then listed under one of four categories. (The more broad and series-wide allusions can be found under the Series heading.) Name Allusions refer to the sources of characters' names; Setting Allusions refer to the sources of names of locations within the series; Plot Allusions refer to real-world people who are mentioned within the series and events that occur within the series that are related to those in literature and the real world; and Sunny's Allusions refer to the possible origins of the words Sunny uses when she speaks.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Snicket's dedications to Beatrice Baudelaire are presumably a reference to Dante Alighieri and his unrequited love, Beatrice.
- Snicket has stated that he was influenced by Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey, and Zilpha Keatley Snyder, as well as Dino Buzzati's The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily.
The Bad Beginning
- The name "Baudelaire" is a nod to Charles Baudelaire, a poet whose most famous work is The Flowers of Evil, "a cycle of poems that discusses dreadful circumstances and finds beauty in them."
- Beatrice's name likely came from Charles Baudelaire's poem La Béatrice, and as a reference to Dante Alighieri's unrequited love, Beatrice.
- Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire share their names with Claus and Sunny von Bülow, who were involved in a famous court case of the 1980s; the district attorney who defended Claus was named Violet.
- According to Snicket, "There are all sorts of antecedents for those names that people have picked up on, but I also thought it would be interesting to devise a setting for the book that is somewhat ambiguous. Violet is a fairly British name; Klaus is a fairly German name; Sunny is a fairly American name, and Olaf is a fairly Scandinavian name, and that creates a certain amount of confusion."
- Violet Baudelaire is also possibly a reference to a famous crime; she shares her given name with Violet Sharpe, a suspect of the Lindbergh kidnapping.
- Arthur Poe's name is a reference to American author Edgar Allan Poe and his only completed novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
- Edgar and Albert Poe may be a reference to American poet Edgar Albert Guest. 'Edgar' is also likely to be a second reference to Edgar Allan Poe.
- The name for Doldrum Drive is a reference to the Doldrums in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. The Doldrums is a land inhabited by lazy, grey creatures called Lethargarians that spend their days wasting time and sleeping. It is forbidden to think and laugh in the Doldrums.
- Briny Beach takes its name from the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll.
- Puttanesca comes from the Italian word “puttana,” which is usually translated as "prostitute." When Violet tells Count Olaf dinner is ready, she says, “Dinner is served. Puttanesca.” He replies with, “What did you call me?” This is likely because he thought she was calling him a prostitute.
The Reptile Room
- Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, the herpetologist, may be a reference to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- One of the snakes in Dr. Montgomery's collection, the Virginian Wolfsnake, takes the name of the novelist Virginia Woolf. Uncle Monty warns the Baudelaire children never to allow the snake near a typewriter.
- Both the name of the boat to Peru, "The Prospero," and Count Olaf's alias, "Stephano," are allusions to William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
- When planning how to prove that Stephano murdered Uncle Monty, Sunny is asked to watch the door and bite anyone that tries to enter the Reptile Room. Sunny replies, "Ackroid!," which probably meant something like "Roger!" and is a likely reference to Agatha Christie's 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
- At one time in the book Sunny says "vodka" which probably meant something like absolut, a reference to the vodka brand Absolut Vodka. (Swedish version)
The Wide Window
- Snicket's endnote in The Reptile Room mentions the Café Kafka, a reference to the Austrian-Hungarian author, Franz Kafka. One of Kafka's short stories, "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk," features Josephine, the only mouse that can sing. The Baudelaires' Aunt Josephine is rather mouse-like as she is "timid as a mouse." In Kafka's story, Josephine's music sounds like whistling if heard from the wrong angle, which may be a reference to Isaac Anwhistle's ability to whistle with crackers in his mouth. When his nickname, "Ike,"is combined with his last name, "Anwistle," the result sounds like the statement "I can whistle."
- The names Ike and Josephine may also refer to Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Josephine.
- The name of the storm featured in the book is "Hurricane Herman," which may be a reference to Herman Melville.
- The name for Damocles Dock presumably alludes to the legendary Greek figure Damocles, who had a sword dangling over his head. Note that in the picture in the front of The Wide Window, it shows the Baudelaire children can be seen standing on Damocles dock. In the archway at the entrance to the dock is a sword dangling over their heads.
- Lachrymose (Lake Lachrymose) means "given to or causing tears."
- The Baudelaire orphans' allergies to peppermints may be a nod to their tendencies to misfortune. In the Victorian art of flower arranging, peppermint symbolizes "cordiality, warmth of feeling." Thus, their allergy to peppermints could represent the absence of "cordiality" and "warmth of feeling" in their lives.
The Miserable Mill
- The names Charles and Phil are also names of two members of the British Royal Family. This may be a reference to the fact that the Industrial Revolution began in England, or it could be just a coincidence.
- There are many similarities between Charles and a character in The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen also named Charles, who seems to be the link between Capitalism and Socialism. The plot for The Last Town on Earth" takes place in a lumber mill completely opposite of Lucky Smells.
- "Sir" is reminiscent of "Mr. Sir" from the book Holes by Louis Sachar.
- Dr. Georgina Orwell's name is a reference to English author George Orwell, who wrote the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which notoriously featured Big Brother (see below)
- Emma Montana McElroy was a girl whose poem contained the line: "That's the end of that." Coincidently, her poem talked about an orphaned boy who later died in a fire.
- The name of the Ahab Memorial Hospital where Phil is taken to recover from his leg injury may be a reference to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, who is known to have lost a leg.
- Dr. Orwell's Office is designed to resemble an eye, which, in addition to referencing V.F.D., is likely another allusion to Nineteen Eighty-Four's Big Brother, who is proverbially "watching" at all times.
- When Lemony Snicket refers to his having a fight with a TV repairman, he may be referencing The Cable Guy, which contains a scene in which the characters played by Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick go to a restaurant named "Medieval Times" and are chosen to fight with swords. Coincidentally, Jim Carrey plays Count Olaf in the film.
- Orwell's hypnotizing Klaus could be yet another reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the Thought Police tried to control the citizens' thoughts.
- The final illustration shows a sign shaped like a pair of eyes looking through eyeglasses, suspended above the door to Dr. Orwell's office. This sign is reminiscent of the billboard of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.
The Austere Academy
- Vice Principal Nero is likely a reference to Emperor Nero, a Roman Emperor whose reign is often associated with tyranny and greed. Emperor Nero allegedly "fiddled while Rome burned." Nero was also famous for forcing many of his subjects to sit through extended theatrical pieces created and performed by himself, which is reflected in Vice Principal Nero's awful violin recitals.
- Isadora and Duncan Quagmire's names are a reference to Isadora Duncan, inventor of American modern dance.
- Mrs. Bass and Mr. Remora share their names with types of fish, as did the former gym teacher Ms. Tench.
- Coach Genghis shares his name with Genghis Khan, an infamously brutal Mongolian chieftain.
- Prufrock Prep is a reference to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," a poem by T. S. Eliot. The school's motto, "Remember You Will Die" reflects the awareness of death, one of the poem's major themes.
- The book's cover is a reference to the classic novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
- When Isadora mentions that she writes poetry, Sunny shrieks "Sappho," which is the name of a female Greek poet.
The Ersatz Elevator
- Esmé Gigi Genevive Squalor's name is a reference to J.D. Salinger's short story "For Esmé - With Love and Squalor." Esmé's middle names may be references as well. Gigi may be a reference to the novella Gigi by French writer Colette, whose story follows a young Parisian girl, in training to be a courtesan, who later marries a wealthy man. Genevive may refer to American politician Coya Knutson.
- Jerome Squalor shares the forename "Jerome" with author J.D. Salinger. Jerome Squalor conveniently has the initials J.S., a recurring acronym in the series.
- Gunther, Olaf's disguise, may refer to the ancient King of Burgundy, Gunther.
- The Café Salmonella is a reference to salmon and to the virus of the same name.
- The Verne Invention Museum, said to be located in town, is a reference to Jules Verne, a science-fiction author.
- Akhmatova Book Store, also located in town, is a reference to Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.
- Pincus Hospital, where Sunny was born, is an ironic reference to Gregory Goodwin Pincus, inventor of the contraceptive pill.
- There are 1,849 windows in 667 Dark Avenue. 1849 is the year in which Edgar Allan Poe died, and The Ersatz Elevator is the last book in the series in which Arthur Poe maintains management of the Baudelaires all the way through.
- 667 Dark Avenue is one number away from 666, a number often associated with evil. In an English joke, 667 is "The Neighbour of the Beast." Also, there are 66 floors in the building and this is the sixth book, two more references to the number six.
- Veblen Hall, the site of the auction of mostly useless goods, may be a reference to Thorstein Veblen, a sociologist who coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption."
- The opening discussion of nervous versus anxious is reminiscent of The Giver written by Lois Lowry.
- When the Baudelaires first climb the stairs to the penthouse, they overhear a woman say, "Let them eat cake," a quote apocryphally attributed to Marie Antoinette.
- Jerome Squalor, when discussing xenophobia, mentions Galileo and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.
- Scylla and Charybdis of Homer's The Oddysey were mentioned by Klaus. However, he incorrectly claims that Heracles, rather than Odysseus, encountered them and escaped "by turning them both into whirlpools."
- Lot 49 of the In Auction, a set of rare stamps, is a reference to the novel The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which features underground postal services as a principal theme, as well as the existence of a secret society.
- 'Red Herring' is a phrase used for a detail that distracts from something of importance. Lot #50, described as "V.F.D," was a figurative red herring, while the literal red herring decoration actually contained the Quagmire triplets.
- One of the books in the Squalor library, entitled Boots Were In in 1812, may be a reference to one of the Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales, "The Boots of Buffalo Leather," which was supposedly written in 1812.
- While holding an armful of Jerome's neckties, Sunny utters, "Armani," a reference to Armani, an Italian fashion house.
- After Klaus describes the aforementioned greek tale, Sunny says "Glaucus", a Greek sea god who came to the rescue of sailors trapped in storms.
The Vile Village
- At the start of the novel Mr. Poe receives a phone call from Mr. Fagin, a character from Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist. Fagin tells Poe that he won't accept the children because they are troublemakers, which is ironic because, in Oliver Twist, Fagin runs a gang of pickpockets.
- Mr. Lesko, a town resident, has the same last name as author Matthew Lesko, who offered to teach his audience how to get free things. In The Vile Village, Mr. Lesko says that he is fine with receiving free labor from the Baudelaire children as they do his chores, so long as he does not have to parent the children.
- The name "Detective Dupin" is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin.
- "Officer Luciana," Esmé's disguised name, is probably a reference to a character in Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller, who tears up an address and can never find it again, just as Esmé tears the Quagmire notebooks and they are never fully reassembled.
- Nevermore Tree is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," in which a raven repeats the word "Nevermore."
- One of the towns on the "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" brochure is named Ophelia, perhaps referencing Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Mr. Poe dislikes the bank in this town, perhaps because Ophelia's father is the originator of the saying, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."
- Ogden Nash, a poet who wrote couplets, is mentioned.
- The initial unnerving nature of the crows in the city may be a nod to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
- When Hector quotes "one of the Baudelaires' favorite books" by saying, "Curiouser and curiouser," he is quoting Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
- Five of Sunny's utterances, "Pipit," "Grebe," "Merganser," "Towhee," and "Vireo," are the names of birds.
- When her siblings agree that they must wait until morning to search the Nevermore Tree, Sunny shouts "Contraire!", which is part of the well-known French expression meaning "on the contrary".
- Sunny uses the word "Scylla" to explain that it would be better to live with regret on the Self-Sustaining Hot Air Mobile Home than to be burned to death at the stake. This is a reference to one of a pair of sea monsters in Homer's The Odyssey. The two monsters live so close together that it is virtually impossible to avoid both, and so Odysseus chose to head towards Scylla (the less dangerous of the two). Interestingly, Scylla and Charybdis were also mentioned in The Ersatz Elevator, although Klaus incorrectly claims that Heracles, rather than Odysseus, encountered them and escaped "by turning them both into whirlpools."
- When the Baudelaires find the first of Isadora's couplets, Sunny says "Blake", which could be a reference to the American poet William Blake, and perhaps his poem "The Birds", which is made up of rhyming couplets and describes the back and forth between two birds in a tree, who have not seen each other for a while and have been reunited.
The Hostile Hospital
- Emma Bovary, a patient with food poisoning, refers to the character of the same name in Gustave Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary.
- Jonah Mapple, who suffers from seasickness, is named after Father Mapple, a preacher known for sermonizing on the Biblical tale of Jonah trapped in a whale in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
- "Clarissa Dalloway" is an allusion to a character of the same name in Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Snicket's character suffers from no visible ailment, but stares sadly out the window, which could refer to both Woolf's struggles with depression and her essay, "A Room of One's Own."
- Cynthia Vane, a patient with a toothache, is named after a character in Vladimir Nabokov's short story, "The Vane Sisters."
- "Charley Anderson" comes from John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy.
- Dr. Bernard Rieux, whose ailment is a terrible cough, likely came from Albert Camus's La Peste ("The Plague").
- Two patients share names with actual authors: Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer and translator, and Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian novelist and playwright.
- Heimlich Hospital is a reference to Henry Heimlich, an American physician best known for the Heimlich Maneuver.
- In an illustration, one of the Volunteers Fighting Disease plays a guitar with the inscription "This Volunteer fights disease." This is an allusion to Woody Guthrie, American singer-songwriter and folk musician, who inscribed "This machine kills fascists" on his guitar.
- In an aside, Snicket refers to his friend, Mr. Sirin, a lepidopterist. "Sirin" was an early pseudonym of Vladimir Nabokov, a famous Russian-American author and noted lepidopterist.
- At one point, Sunny uses the word "Dragnet" to refer to the police. "Dragnet" is the name of an old radio and television crime-drama.
- Sunny uses the word "Orlando" to describe Olaf's associate that looks like neither a man nor a woman. Orlando is a reference to a Virginia Woolf novel in which the titular character changes gender throughout the book.
The Carnivorous Carnival
- The name "Colette" is a reference to French writer Colette.
- Hugo and his hunchback condition are an allusion to Victor Hugo and his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- "Elliot" and "Beverly", the aliases Violet and Klaus use when disguised as a two-headed freak are those of twin brothers in the David Cronenberg film Dead Ringers.
- Caligari Carnival is a nod to the 1920 German expressionist film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.
- "Plath Pass" on the map of the Mortmain Mountains may allude to American poet Sylvia Plath.
- Klaus refers to Joseph Merrick (incorrectly naming him "John Merrick"), an English man with severe deformities, while discussing the cruelty of freak shows.
- Sunny utters the word "Godot," whose literal translation, provided by Snicket, is "We don't know where to go, and we don't know how to get there." This is much like the central plot in Samuel Becket's play Waiting for Godot, in which the characters are unaware of the time that Godot will arrive.
The Slippery Slope
- V.F.D.'s mechanical instructor C. M. Kornbluth is named after science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth.
- The Mortmain Mountains may be a reference to the Statutes of Mortmain.
- Violet uses a knot she invented called the "Sumac Knot," and states that she named the knot after a singer she likes. This is likely a reference to Peruvian singer Yma Sumac.
- As Violet, Klaus, and Quigley are climbing up the Vertical Flame Diversion, Snicket mentions that the pipes once found there were removed by a man he knew in order to build a submarine. This may be a reference to the next book in the series The Grim Grotto, in which the children reside in a submarine described as being made of different pipes.
- When Violet, Klaus and Quigley search the refrigerator at the V.F.D. Headquarters for anything important, Snicket says that a fridge would be holding a bunch of strawberries would be important if a man approached someone and said, "If you don't give me a bunch of strawberries right now, I'm going to attack you with this large pointed stick." This is a reference to the "Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which John Cleese tells his class how to defend themselves from someone armed with a "piece of fresh fruit." Throughout the sketch, a student requests to learn how to defend himself from someone armed with a "pointed stick."
- When the Baudelaires and Quigley Quagmire are trying to find a way to escape from the top of Mount Fraught, Sunny offers "Rosebud," prompting them to use the toboggan. This is a reference to the movie Citizen Kane. "Rosebud" is the first and last word in the movie, as well as the name of a sled that Kane owned when he was a child.
- On several occasions, Sunny uses the term "Matahari" to refer to her spying on Count Olaf and his troupe. Mata Hari was a Dutch spy during World War I.
- At one point, Sunny uses the word "Babganoush," which literally means, "I concocted an escape plan with the eggplant that turned out to be even handier than I thought." This is a reference to the Arabic dish Baba Ghanoush, in which eggplant is the principal ingredient.
- When commanded by Count Olaf to make a warm breakfast for him and his troupe, Sunny says, "Plakna," which translates to "How am I supposed to cook breakfast on the top of a freezing mountain?" This is possibly a reference to Max Planck, a German physicist who discovered quantum physics.
- While insulting Count Olaf, she says, "Brummel," which means "In my opinion, you desperately need a bath, and your clothing is a shambles." This is a reference to Beau Brummell, an Englishman who felt that fashion was of high importance.
- Continuing with her insults, she says "Busheney," which means "You're an evil man with no concern whatsoever for other people." This utterance is a combination of "Bush" and "Cheney," apparently a political comment by Snicket.
- When Sunny presents her breakfast, she says "Caffefredde, sorbet, toast tartar," which means "Cold coffee, frozen orange juice shavings, raw toast." "Caffefredde" is a derivation of "cafe freddo," meaning "iced coffee;" "sorbet" is a "frozen dessert made of water sweetened with fruit," and the frozen orange juice shavings could be described as a sorbet; "tartar" is a derivation of "tartare" meaning "raw" and generally used in reference to fish or meat.
The Grim Grotto
- The Gulag Archipelago is a reference to The Gulag Archipelago, a book about Soviet prison camps by the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
- The Gorgonian Grotto is a reference to Greek mythology. A Gorgon is a dreadful female creature. While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld it to stone.
- A portrait of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, can be found on the front of the Queequeg Crew's uniforms.
- Captain Widdershins's short monologue, which is as follows, is a reference to Plato's The Allegory of the Cave: "That screen is nothing. It's just a piece of equipment, aye? There was a philosopher who said that all of life is just shadows. He said that people were just sitting in a cave, watching shadows on the cave wall. Aye–shadows of something much bigger and grander than themselves. Well, that sonar detector is like our cave wall, showing us the shape of things much more powerful and terrifying."
- Captain Widdershins continues on to say, "There used to be volunteers with P.G. Wodehouse on their uniforms, and Carl Van Vechten. There were Comyns and Cleary and Archy and Mehitabel. But now volunteers are scarce!" Here, he references P.G. Wodehouse, an English humorist; Carl Van Vechten, an American writer and photographer; William Comyns Beaumont, an English journalist, author, and lecturer; Barbara Comyns Carr, an English author and artist; Beverly Cleary, an American author; and Archy and Mehitabel, a series of newspaper columns written by Don Marquis.
- While the Baudelaires and Fiona are in the Gorgonian Grotto, they discuss their "Hobson's choice." A Hobson's choice is something that's not a choice at all and refers to Thomas Hobson, who lived in Britain in the 17th century. According to legend, Hobson was in charge of a stable and always told his customers they had a choice: they could take the horse closest to the door, or no horse at all. Apparently, Beatrice Baudelaire often gave all three of her children Hobson's choices: Violet could clean her room or her mother would stand in the doorway and sing her least favorite song over and over; Klaus's could do the dishes or read the poetry of Edgar Guest; and Sunny could take a bath or wear a pink dress.
- Snicket takes a jab at Edgar Guest during the Hobson choice discussion, when Klaus refers to Guest as his least favorite poet.
- While the children are searching through the rubble in the Grotto, Violet finds "an odd, square stone with messages carved in three languages," which sounds much like a description of the Rosetta Stone.
- The poem "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning is discussed as Klaus relates his findings from the book he found, Versed Furtive Disclosure.
- One of Olaf's villainous laughs, "Ha ha Hepplewhite," preceded by the statement that "V.F.D. will be reduced to ashes forever," refers to George Hepplewhite, a cabinetmaker.
- Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Simic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Franz Wright, and Daphne Gottlieb, all poets, are mentioned. Books of their poetry were found in the top cabinet of the sideboard in the Main Hall of the Queequeg.
- Snicket takes another jab at Edgar Guest, when Klaus notices his portrait on the uniforms of The Carmelita's crew. Apparently, "every noble reader in the world agrees" that he was "a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics."
- Sunny uses the word "Procto" to say "The other end." Proctology is the branch of medicine concerned with the anus and rectum.
- When Sunny asks about how the children would be able to see their way through the Gorgonian Grotto, she utters the word, "Hewenkella," which is likely a reference to Helen Keller.
- Sunny says, "Mamasan," when referring to her mother. A "mama-san", or "mamasan" is usually a woman in a position of authority, especially one in charge of a geisha house or bar in Japan and East Asia.
- Sunny's final word in the novel (saying goodbye to Mr. Poe) is 'Sayonara'. Sayonara, as previously used by Vice Principal Nero in The Austere Academy, is Japanese for 'goodbye'.
The Penultimate Peril
- Frank, Ernest, and Dewey's surname, Denouement, is a reference to the literary term dénouement, which refers to the action that takes place between the falling action and the resolution of a plot.
- Dewey's name is a reference to the Dewey Decimal System, which is how the entire hotel is organized.
- Frank has an evil brother named Ernest, which may be a reference to The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
- The names of Frank and Ernest are synonyms for truthful or honest and refer to the phrase "You be frank, and I'll be earnest."
- Hotel Denouement's name is a reference to the literary term dénouement.
- Hotel Denouement is modeled after the Library Hotel in New York City.
- It is mentioned that author Richard Wright asks the question "Who knows when some slight shock, disturbing the delicate balance between social order and thirsty aspiration, shall send the skyscrapers in our cities toppling?" This refers to the novel Native Son by the aforementioned author.
- There are several quotes from the Italian opera La Forza del Destino, and it's mentioned that Baudelaires' parents attended the show.
- Kit Snicket tells the children tea should be "bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword," a reference to the Biblical verse Proverbs 5:4.
- Odious Lusting After Finance, the book written by Jerome Squalor against injustice, is a backronym of "OLAF."
- Sunny uses the word "Henribergson" as a reply to Mr. Poe, refers to Henri Bergson, referencing Henri Bergson, an influential French philosopher of the 1900s.
- Sunny says "Scalia," meaning "The literal interpretation makes no sense!" This is a reference to United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, infamous for making a very literal interpretation of the law.
- Sunny says the word "efcharisto" to Dewey. This translates to "thank you" in Greek.
- Dewey said that his favorite section in the Dewey Decimal System was "020," which is About The Dewey Decimal system and Science.
- The name Ishmael is a reference to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and his insistence of "Call me Ish" is a play on the famous first line of Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael."
- All of the people in the colony take their names from more or less famous castaways from both literature and the real world. Robinson and Friday originate from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. There are also the more obvious names from Shakespeare's The Tempest, including Mrs. Miranda Caliban, Alonso, Ferdinand, and Ariel. Calypso was an island goddess-nymph from Homer's The Odyssey. Rabbi Bligh is named after Captain William Bligh, who was set adrift after the famous mutiny on the Bounty.
- The castaways, who dress in white and whose consumption of the coconut cordial keeps them docile, are an allusion to the Lotus Eaters encountered in Homer's The Odyssey. The sheep strapped together are also a possible allusion to The Odyssey, wherein Odysseus escapes the cylops's cave by hiding his men under sheep that are strapped together.
- The sheep used as a mode of transportation is likely a reference to El Dorado as described in Candide, a novel by Voltaire.
- In the New Testament, Jesus often uses sheep as symbols to represent his followers. The sheep in The End do Ishmael's bidding and sleep in his tent, presumably indicating Ishmael's status as a false messiah to the castaways of the island.
- The coconut cordial is described as "the opiate of the people," a reference to the passage written by Karl Marx: "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
- The poem Olaf recites at the end of The End is the last stanza of "This Be The Verse" by Philip Larkin.
- Snicket discusses the Cimmerians, a people who once inhabited what are now Ukraine and Russia; they are perhaps better known now as the people of the fictional hero Conan.
- At the beginning of Chapter Thirteen, there is a mention of "...the heroine of a book much more suitable to read than this one [who] spends an entire afternoon eating the first bite of a bushel of apples." This is a reference to the character Ramona Quimby from the book Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. In the scene in question, Ramona takes one bite out of each apple in a bunch before putting it back, because to her, the first bite tastes best.
- Multiple times throughout the book, the author mentions that "history is indeed little more than the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." This is taken from Edward Gibbon, who presumably took it from Voltaire.
- The tree that the islanders are forbidden to eat from is a reference to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Bible. Ink offers the Baudelaires an apple from the Island's forbidden tree, a reference to how Eve was tempted, by a serpent, into eating a fruit from the Tree.
- Kit Snicket recites the poem "The Night has a Thousand Eyes" by Francis William Bourdillon in Chapter 13.
- On the copyright page of Chapter Fourteen, the first verse of the eighth part of Charles Baudelaire's poem "Le Voyage" from Les Fleurs du Mal can be found. It reads, "Ô mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps! levons l'ancre! / Ce pays nous ennuie, Ô mort! Appareillons! / Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l'encre. / Nos cœurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons!" This translates to: "O Death, old captain, it is time! Let us lift the anchor! / This country wearies us, O Death! Let us set sail! / Though the sea and the sky are black as ink, / Our hearts which you know well are filled with rays of light!"
- When Sunny asks "Why are you telling us about this ring?" the word she uses is "Neiklot," or "Tolkien" spelt backwards. This is a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings.
- Sunny calls the coconut cordial "Lethe," a reference to the Lethe River, whose waters cause forgetfulness in Greek mythology.
- In Chapter Six, when Sunny tries to say "What exactly are you accusing us of?" the word she uses is "Dreyfuss." This is a reference to French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus, who was wrongly accused of treason in the late 19th century and who was also held on an island. Dreyfus's case caused a major schism in French society, somewhat similar to that between V.F.D. and the Island's colonists.
- In Chapter Seven, when Sunny uses the word "Yomhashoah" to say "never again." This is a reference to the Jewish holiday Yom HaShoah, the day set aside for remembering the Jews who died in the Holocaust.
- Sunny says "Boswell" meaning "your life doesn't interest me." James Boswell was a very famous 18th century biographer.
- When Sunny agrees that eating the apples will dilute the poison, she uses the word "Gentreefive," referring to Genesis 3:5 in the Bible, which says: "For God knows that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
- Eleanora Poe's name is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe and his short story "Eleanora".
- The tune of The Little Snicket Lad is described as "a well-known hymn of naval disaster," and when one plays the notes written in the sheet music, he will find that it has the same tune as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". Coincidentally or not, Violet's least favorite song is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".
- In a letter written by Snicket, the following postscript appears: "P.P.S. I don't think I can be of any help as to the other ballad you mentioned... I don't remember anybody named 'Old MacDonald' at the Valorous Farms Dairy, and I don't think 'E.I.E.I.O.' refers to a secret organization of any kind." This is a reference to the song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm".
- Mr. Poe says he will not die from his cough, the same words Edgar Allan Poe's character said in "The Cask of Amontillado".
- In the book, there are several references to an old man saying, "Well young lady, have you been good to your mother?" In chapter 10, it is revealed this is from Ramona Quimby, Age 8. The book was also mentioned in chapter 8 as one of the books Ms. K (possible Kit Snicket) was planning to have students read at Prufrock Preparatory School.
The Beatrice Letters
- Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin is mentioned.
- A jab is taken at poet Edgar Guest.
- Snicket indirectly praises children's author Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
- A quote from author Aldous Huxley's Collected Essays appears.
From which many of these references were found. A generous thank you to these authors:
- quidditch.com – an incomplete guide to references in Snicket's work
- eNotes – SparkNotes on Lemony Snicket and ASOUE