|“||I am not your friend. I am not your teacher. I am not a parent or guardian or anyone who will take care of you. I am your chaperone, and you are my apprentice, a word which here means 'person who works under me and does absolutely everything I tell him to do.'||”|
— Theodora, Who Could That Be at This Hour?
S. Theodora Markson is a V.F.D. chaperone. Lemony Snicket is apprenticed to her in All the Wrong Questions, finishing his apprenticeship at the end of Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?.
Ranked last out of 52 V.F.D. chaperones, Theodora is the least successful chaperone available to be apprenticed to. Lemony intentionally chose the last-ranked apprentice in hopes that they would be less attentive of his actions and give him more freedom to do what he really wanted.
Incredibly self-confident, S. Theodora Markson tends to assume that she always has the upper hand in her investigations. Often prone to following false leads and elevating clues that are intended to mislead, Theodora is often the source of Snicket's frustrations, and she regularly reminds her apprentice of his place.
Despite her seemingly arrogant personality, there are certain rare moments that fully showed her as somewhat bearable and could even be considered kind, such as at the end of chapter 12 of the first book, where she offered her hand and removed the probation of Lemony Snicket, which could be seen as an act of gratitude.
She has wild hair that gives brushes nightmares and drives a green roadster that has seen better days.
All the Wrong Questions
Theodora is a member of VFD, and she was given the job of chaperone. On the list of chaperones, she is ranked 52nd of 52, though she believed she was ranked tenth. She is noted to have at least one sibling.
She had an unpleasant boyfriend in the eighth grade who always said mean things about her wild hair. One of her cases for VFD included dealing with two brothers who were arguing over a seashell collection. She believed that the younger brother had poured dust onto the shells to prove they were his.
Before becoming Lemony Snicket's chaperone, her last apprentice was Bertrand Baudelaire. She often compares Lemony to him, saying Bertrand was a much better student. He apparently was never sarcastic with her and never gave her any trouble.
Lemony Snicket picked S. Theodora Markson to be his chaperone due to her closeness to the city, where he planned to rob a museum with his sister, Kit. To prevent this, Theodora was allowed to take a job in Stain'd-by-the-Sea, which was far enough away from the city that Snicket would not be able to help his sister. Because he wouldn't know this until the last minute, and he'd be leaving his suitcase at the train station, Theodora bought clothes for him.
Gifford and Ghede, two Volunteers who want Snicket to succeed in his heist, disguise themselves as his parents and attempt to drug him at the Hemlock Tearoom and Stationary Shop. Theodora enters the shop and drops a message on Snicket's lap, telling him to climb out the bathroom window and meet her in the green roadster in the alley in five minutes.Snicket manages to do this, but she decides not to read his letter of introduction and informs him that due to a complicated change of plans, they will have to hurry away. When Snicket backtalks her, she tells him to get out of her car, and only allows him to stay when he apologies and agrees that he wants her to be his chaperone. She introduces herself, though she does not tell him what the S in her name stands for, and also tells him that her main methods of teaching are "example" and "nagging." She then reveals that she stole his tea, and dumps it out the window to show an eerie cloud of steam rise from it. She tells him that Gifford and Ghede had slipped laudanum into his tea, before driving away.
Theodora drives her apprentice to Stain'd-by-the-Sea, where they have been hired for a case. She explains what she knows of the town's history to Snicket as they drive on a road of seashells. A bell rings from Offshore Island, and Theodora orders Snicket to give her a mask and put one on himself, believing the bell to be a warning against water pressure, which the masks will help them breathe through.
They arrive at the Sallis Mansion at the top of the hill just as the bell rings the all-clear, and Theodora orders Snicket to speak as little as possible and let her do all the work. A butler leads them to the library, where they meet a woman who calls herself Murphy Sallis, who informs them that a priceless statue of the Bombinating Beast had been stolen from her, and Theodora concludes that the thieves must have come through the ceiling and used glue and plaster to cover up the hole. Murphy Sallis says she suspects the Mallahan family, but that she doesn't want any trouble to come to them. She makes Theodora and Snicket promise to return the statue to its rightful owners and to be discreet about her identity.
Theodora next goes to the Mallahan lighthouse and tells Snicket that they will have to use a con to get inside and that he should remain silent. When Mr. Mallahan answers the door, Theodora claims that she and Snicket are a pair of newlyweds who love lighthouses and want to look inside. She then allows Snicket to "play" with his daughter, Moxie, as she talks to Mr. Mallahan over a cup of coffee. He explains that their newspaper folded, and when she asks if there's anything in his house "worth upward of a great deal of money," he only says something about Moxie, so Theodora concludes that he is, indeed, the thief.
When she drives Snicket to their hotel, The Lost Arms, he tells her that Moxie showed him the statue, already upstairs. She concludes that the Mallahans are onto them and they will have to act quickly in order to steal it back, ignoring Snicket's protests that he believes the statue actually belongs to the Mallahans. She then brings him to their room of the hotel, in the Far East Suite, and then tells him to go play while she unpacks and then takes a nap so she can think of a way to break into the lighthouse. Snicket tells her that there is a hawser that runs from the lighthouse to the Sallis mansion.
When Theodora awakens, she calls the butler of the Sallis Mansion to make arrangements for their mission, and then she goes to find Snicket and meets the Officers Harvey and Mimi Mitchum, who believe Snicket may have vandalized a street sign. Though he is innocent, Theodora still expresses her disappointment in him and then explains that Snicket is to break into the lighthouse in order to let her in so they can climb the hawser and deliver the statue to the Sallis family. She warns him that they are being monitored by VFD and that anything he messes up will reflect badly on her.Snicket goes to the lighthouse, where Moxie lets him in, and he then lets in Theodora, who is dressed in all black in an attempt to blend in with the night. She overdramatically sneaks to the statue and then has Lemony carry it as they climb the hawser. She informs Lemony that her new theory is that the Mallahans used the hawser to steal the statue, just before Lemony spots the Officers Mitchum and drops from the hawser. When Theodora reaches the mansion, she is interrogated by the Officers, who had been told that they were burglars, but she was released since she did not have anything on her.
Snicket returns to the Lost Arms that night, where Theodora scolds him for jumping off the hawser. He promises her that the Bombinating Beast statue will arrive by morning.
The next morning, Theodora waits for Snicket in the lobby, saying that she received a call from Mr. Mallahan that he and Moxie had been playing by a well and that they were not allowed to be near each other anymore. Snicket tells her that the call was fake and that he's hidden the statue. Theodora is angry at him for not having it, and that her reputation will suffer if he fails. Snicket informs her that she is already ranked dead last of all the chaperones, and she is about to strike him but is interrupted by Prosper Lost, who has a call for Snicket. Theodora marches off in frustration.
Hangfire then attacks S. Theodora Markson after being unable to find the statue in Snicket's possessions, tying her up and stuffing a handkerchief in her mouth. Snicket cuts her bonds with nail clippers, and she says that Hangfire threatened to kill her if she didn't give him the statue. Snicket explains that they have to return the statue to the Mallahans and that their whole mission was a setup. Angry, Theodora orders him to leave.
Snicket does not return that night, so Theodora has the Officers Mitchum help her look for him. They find him and Ellington Feint, and Snicket informs her that they have the stolen item and will return it to the Mallahans. Finally convinced that he is right because the Mitchums say that the Sallis family left town a while ago, Theodora takes Snicket off probation. She then takes a nap in their room while Snicket meets with Hector.
Theodora makes Snicket breakfast; her form of breakfast is buying groceries, and then warming them up on a heated plate plugged into the wall, and that day's breakfast is a fried egg served on a towel, as she keeps forgetting to buy plates. He leaves to find a better meal, and she finds him in the lobby, telling him that they've been hired to find a missing person.On the drive to their next case, Theodora scolds Snicket for his attraction to Ellington Feint and gives him a missing poster of Cleo Knight, who they've been hired to find. They arrive at Ink Inc., where they are greeted by Zada and Zora, the servants of the family. They are brought inside, where they meet the confused and dazed Knight parents, who are being treated by Dr. Flammarion. In the kitchen, Zada and Zora serve them cinnamon rolls and explain that Cleo disappeared the morning before. Theodora decides that a terrible crime has been committed, and asks to see Cleo's room. While there, she doesn't do much investigating, instead looking through Cleo's wardrobe.
Theodora starts to lecture Snicket about skip-tracing as they drive home, though he doesn't listen. Snicket has her stop the car at a curb, where he finds Cleo Knight's Dilemma parked with a flat tire. They go into the nearby store, Partial Foods, where Polly Partial tells them that she saw Cleo come in to buy cereal and then announce she was running away to join the circus. Theodora considers the case solved, and says she'll write the report herself so she gets full credit. She drives away, as Snicket would rather walk back to the hotel.In the middle of a shampoo, Theodora is contacted by the Officers Mitchum, who are once again looking for Snicket, who told them to investigate the Knight family; however, the Knights had left town just before they arrived. They find Snicket and Ellington in Black Cat Coffee, where Ellington admits that she was the one at Partial Foods. She is arrested for fraud, and Theodora goes with Snicket to drop her off at the police station. When they exit, they run into Moxie, who is mad at Snicket for leaving her earlier. Theodora doesn't recognize her, but Moxie manages to charm her into leaving them alone.
Snicket returns to their room that night to find it covered in confetti, as Theodora threw herself a party to celebrate solving the case. He informs her that Ellington Feint escaped jail but was not the culprit and that he'll write the report in the morning and she can claim the credit.
Theodora and Snicket are having an argument. She asks him what being an apprentice means, but then scolds him for using the phrase "secret organization, saying instead that he should use the phrase "you-know-what." She informs him that being an apprentice means he has to do everything she tells him and asks for two napkins- which they don't have. She had tried to make them breakfast, instead burning the toast while arguing. Prosper Lost arrives and says that someone is in the lobby for Snicket, and Theodora tells him to be quick because he has to go buy napkins.
Snicket briefly suspects that Theodora may be involved in the kidnapping of Jackie's dog, Lysistrata, as the ransom note used one of her favorite words, "sensible," but he knows that isn't much to go on. After she falls asleep, he tells her that he's going out with Jackie to find the kidnapper.
Theodora decides to take a weekend vacation to visit her sister, who lives in a cottage in the country and has a beautiful garden, a darling teacup collection, and no annoying apprentices. She leaves Snicket at home, telling him that if he doesn't make trouble she'll bring him a teacup. He reminds her that it's against the rules of their organization to leave an apprentice unchaperoned, but she doesn't care, and leaves. When she returns on Sunday, he tells her that he did nothing, and she gives him a teacup with an ugly pattern. He leaves it on the floor where he might carelessly step on it.
Theodora is mentioned as being asleep while Snicket sneaks out to meet with the Cozy family. He says that he hopes she dreamed of buying a comb.
Theodora makes Snicket a breakfast of cereal, though they do not have bowls, so he has to eat by dipping each flake into a milk carton. She confuses him with a saying- "a rug feels like a lion, but that doesn't mean you can ride it"- but they are distracted by mail for Snicket. He takes the envelope, and when Theodora demands to see it, he hides in the bathroom with it. After he reads it, he tells Theodora he needs fresh air as she tries to tame her hair with a third hairbrush.
Theodora goes to the library to find her apprentice and calls out that there is a fire in order to locate him. Snicket reminds her that he left a note saying he'd be in the library, but she brushes him off and tells him they have to investigate an arson case at 350 Wayward Way.
Their next client is in a particularly deserted part of town, which Theodora likes, as she can always find a parking spot. She tells him that they are to not say a word about their case or who has hired them, and then takes him into a building marked for the Department of Education. A man leaves the building, asking if they have any fire for his cigarette, and Theodora already spills that she's investigating an arson case before he leaves.Theodora and Snicket are told to wait by the only person in the lobby, Kellar Haines, who is typing. After a long time, Sharon Haines enters and she and Theodora instantly hit it off. Sharon tells them that recently, Birnbaum's Sheep Barn caught fire, and it was determined to be arson. She believes that this will put the schoolchildren in danger- though she doesn't explain why- and tells Theodora that the only witness is Harold Limetta, who lives at 421 Ballpoint Avenue, walking distance from the library. Sharon gives Theodora her number, and on their way out, Theodora shares that she thinks Sharon is their VFD evaluator.
They reach Harold Limetta's house, to find it burnt to the ground. The Officers Mitchum are there to investigate, informing them that Limetta is new in town and studies moths and that Birnbaum's Sheep Barn supplied him wool for his moths to eat. Snicket leaves to get food at Hungry's, while Theodora leaves to meet with Sharon.
She and Sharon discuss the case, and while painting their nails bright yellow, they decide that Dashiell Qwerty, the librarian, is the arsonist, as he is known to hate moths. They inform the police and then go to Hungry's to tell Snicket. She and Sharon then go back to the Far East Suite to celebrate the end of the case, and Theodora makes a point to tell Snicket that he's not invited.When Snicket returns to the Far East Suite, he finds Sharon and Theodora having a party and tells them that the Stain'd Secondary school was burnt. Sharon says that the students have just been transferred to Wade Academy, and Theodora insists that Snicket leave. She once again reminds Snicket that she suspects Sharon is evaluating her, and then tells him to wash off the ash while she and her "gal pal" hit the town.
When they go out, however, Sharon brings Theodora to Hangfire, where they hit her and threaten her into leaving town. She agrees, on the condition that they do not harm her apprentice. Traumatized, she returns to the Far East Suite to clean up and tells Snicket to pack up. He refuses, as the Inhumane Society just kidnapped his friends. She tries to use his sister's imprisonment in the city to convince him to leave with her, which shocks him, as he didn't realize Theodora knew about Kit. He still refuses to go and reminds her that she cannot leave town without him, and when she tells him she will not help him, he calls her incompetent and untrustworthy, before leaving for Wade Academy.
Theodora does stay in town, and the next day, Snicket returns to clean up- he'd just been attacked by Stew Mitchum- and she scolds him from behind the bathroom door. He tells her to go tell the Mitchums to be on alert for a mysterious fire.
Later that night, Theodora witnesses the library almost catch fire, which Stew blames on Ellington. Theodora compliments him and says that the books being ruined by sprinklers seem like Lemony's fault.Dicey's Department Store and then boards The Thistle of the Valley, unaware that her apprentice is following her.
Once on the train, Theodora goes into the prison car, which holds Qwerty and Ellington, and tries to convince Qwerty to don a conductor's uniform and leave with her. He refuses, wanting to deliver information about Hangfire to the city, though all Theodora cares about is getting a good evaluation, which Qwerty refuses to give. At that moment, Stew Mitchum shoots a poison dart through the window, killing Qwerty. Theodora is traumatized into a shocked silence, remaining quiet as the Officers Mitchum accuse her of the crime in order to keep their son safe, and three librarians are threatened into blaming her as well. She is put into the prison cell to await trial.
After the train crashes, Theodora is released, as the Officers Mitchum are now blaming Ellington for the crime, and they tell Theodora to never return to Stain'd-by-the-Sea. She is surprised but agrees to help Gifford and Ghede reset the train. When she tries to order Snicket to help, he refuses and says he is ending his apprenticeship. She tells him to be sensible and proper, and he replies that he's not old enough before leaving her behind.
S. Theodora Markson is very tall and is often described with a great deal of wild, untameable hair. She wears a helmet while driving her Roadster, and is mentioned as having a flowered nightcap for sleeping.
Snicket describes her as looking "pleasant enough," and as appearing to have a great deal to do.
- "You already said you were sorry. Don't repeat yourself. It's not only repetitive, it's redundant, and people have heard it before. It's not proper. It's not sensible." (to Lemony Snicket)
- "Be sensible, Snicket." (to Lemony Snicket)
- "Not sensible, Snicket, not proper." (whenever Lemony Snicket speaks out of turn)
- Theodora is noted to always ring the doorbell six times.
- She is afraid of heights.
- She eats her cinnamon rolls by unraveling them first.
- It is unknown what the S in her name stands for, though Snicket enjoys prying in jest. Whenever Lemony asks her what the 'S' stands for she replies with different words or sentences that start with S. Her first name is never revealed.
- A theory is that the "S" in her name stands for Sunny, and Sunny Baudelaire was named after her. It would make sense, as she was Bertrand's old V.F.D. chaperone. The Baudelaire family has a tradition to name newborns after deceased friends and family, so Theodora may be deceased.
- A theory is that the "S" stands for "Solitude". In the final chapter of Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?, Lemony Snicket writes, "It was a mystery, like what the S stood for in Theodora's name. I kept walking, with nothing but solitude for company. 'Solitude' is a fancy name for being all by yourself. It's not a bad name, I thought." This theory is supported by Daniel Handler saying "it's right there in the text" when asked what the "S" stands for in an interview. "Solitude" is also the name of a jazz song by Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, who are both referenced constantly in the books.
- A theory is that the "S" stands for "Sensible", and her name could be thought of as "the Sensible Theodora Markson". She constantly tells Snicket to be sensible, making it like a catchphrase for her.
- As for the rest of her name, she could be named after the authors Theodora McCormick Du Bois and David Markson.
- In Shouldn't You Be In School?, it is heavily implied that she is romantically interested in Sharon Haines. She takes an immediate liking to Sharon, wanting to be around her at all times. She also calls her a "Gal Pal", which has become slang for two women dating.