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See V.F.D. (disambiguation) for other uses.

V.F.D., or Volunteer Fire Department, is a secret society in A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions, which Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire become increasingly more aware of and involved with after their first encounter with evil villain Count Olaf.

The insignia of the organization appears to be an eye, but looking closer, you see it is made up of the letters 'V', 'F', and 'D'. V.F.D is the main international organization within the "A Series Of Unfortunate Events" books, where most of the recurring characters are members.

History and activities

We believe in an aristocracy. Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank or wealth, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Our members are found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between us when we meet. We represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory over cruelty and chaos. We're an invincible army, but not a victorious one. We've had different names throughout history, but all the words that describe us are false, and all attempts to organize us fail. Right now we're called V.F.D., but all our schisms and arguments might cause us to disappear. It won't matter. People like us always slip through the net. Our true home is the imagination, and our kingdom is the wide-open world.
 
— Lemony Snicket in Shouldn't You Be in School?, paraphrasing E. M. Forster
Much of V.F.D.'s origins are unknown, such as why and when the organization began. In Shouldn't You Be in School?, Lemony says it's existed for a very long time and that V.F.D. is simply its current incarnation. 

Exactly what V.F.D. does is never made clear, and the organization goes to great lengths to conceal all traces of its activities through the use of complex disguises and codes. Lemony Snicket revealed that they primarily put out fires, but they also carry out other humanitarian acts. 

In The Penultimate Peril, Kit Snicket explains that "V.F.D. was once a united group of volunteers, trying to extinguish fires - both literally and figuratively. But now, there are two groups of bitter enemies."

The Schism

Main article: The Schism
Firesketch

Possibly a sketch of the Quagmire Fire by Brett Helquist.

Little is known about VFD's past before the split; Kit believes that it was a wonderful time of learning, though it is apparent that some Volunteers apparently had child servants before the schism, implying that it may not have been as wonderful as it was claimed to be.[2]

The schism is an incident that occurred within VFD that broke up the members into two sides: The Fire-Starting Side, and the Fire-Fighting side. As stated by Kit Snicket, those sides are literal and figurative. For example, the Fire-Starting Side not only commits arson on certain occasions but generally causes panic and mayhem wherever they go, while the fire-fighting side not only works as a fire department literally, putting out fires, but also figuratively, by calming people down and making the world a quieter place. The way the schism was fought out is not known, but it's possible it was fought using various animals (including reptiles, birds, fish and large carnivorous mammals), fire, water, and miscellaneous weaponry of sorts such as harpoon guns.

It is noted that the schism began when Kit Snicket was four and the Denouement triplets were almost five,[4] though it seems to have worsened as they grew older,[1] as there is barely mention of a separation during Lemony's apprenticeship, but it has become a nearly insurmountable obstacle when the Baudelaires are orphaned. 

Recruitment

Volunteers are recruited by V.F.D. at a very young age if they are seen by other volunteers to be observant,[1] even those currently at apprenticeship.[5] Neophytes, or young trainees of V.F.D., are carried away by their ankles in the middle of the night.

From "Infrequently asked questions about V.F.D.", a Q and A seen in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, it states:

On the day you officially join the organization, you will hear a noise outside your home. It may sound like the howling of a wolf, the cawing of a crow (names many different sounds), or the turning of a page. The noise will come in the middle of the night, the middle of the morning, or, in very rare cases, late in the afternoon. Ask your parents what the noise was. If they reply "nothing," they are replying in code, because there is never "nothing" outside one's home. If you are interested in volunteering, answer your parents with the following question: 'if there's nothing out there, what was that noise?' We will be listening, and will know it is safe to act.
Neophytej

Letter to J about a possible recruit.

Children will be dragged out the window by the ankle, into a long, black car. Recruitment has also been known to occur when a taxi driver attempts to show his passenger a photograph of you as a baby, something that notably happened in The Reptile Room. It is also mentioned that children without a parent or guardian will be contacted in a more direct way.[1]

While it is claimed that the children are taken with parents' permission, there are some clues that may lead some to believe this a false statement; neophytes seem to rarely, if ever, see their parents after recruitment, and The Unauthorized Autobiography includes photos of a boy in a park, taken secretly, in hopes of recruiting the child. It is also mentioned that both E. Snicket (and presumably Jacob) was unaware of when her children would be taken,[1] and the Denouement parents seem to have been not expecting their children's taking, as they were preparing for the triplets' birthday, and their house suspiciously burnt down after the boys were recruited by the Volunteers.[4] 

Following their kidnapping, children are isolated from people they know and scattered across the globe, assigned to strangers to perform perplexing errands. Once "their ankles have healed", the organization knows they can be trusted, and people have stopped searching for them, they are taken to headquarters.[1] 

Training

Seeheragain

Presumably a V.F.D. class.

Neophytes go to the V.F.D. Headquarters where each is given a commonplace book and trained throughout childhood and into adulthood in a particular topic that interested them. According to Captain Widdershins, "VFD isn't just a fire department. Aye–it started that way. But the volunteers were interested in every such thing!"

Before the schism, Volunteers were required to get a tattoo of the VFD insignia on their left ankles, but afterward, they found it hard to know who was who while in disguises, because if they had a tattoo, they could be on either side, and because the insignia was only shown off by the fire-starters after the schism, the tattoo was associated with that side of VFD, causing problems.

The "fire-fighting" side of VFD has a great importance placed upon it. It is stated that a neophyte cannot become an apprentice, or even study for an apprenticeship, without knowing what arson is. Lemony Snicket mentions he was taught the original Latin term from which the word "arson" was derived- ardere, a verb meaning to burn. Snicket also references having seen several, various types of buildings burn, as part of his training, and as being trained to respond quickly to calls of a fire and attempt to put it out. Upon hearing the call, he recites, "Help has arrived, where is the fire?"[6]

While many of VFD's training techniques are kept secret, the following classes are known:

  • Coding[7] - taught by a flat-footed instructor, who mutters about writing business letters.
  • Eavesdropping[5]
  • History Class (of some kind)[6] - neophytes are taught how to hide things in plain sight.
  • Fencing[7]
  • Sneaking[6] - final exam involves the instructor entering a small cabin, with a floor covered in glass figurines, in the middle of a leafy woods and sitting blindfolded in a chair. To pass, the class has to sneak up on him by midnight.
  • Theatrics[7] - involves learning how to convey coded messages in melodramatic dialogue.

Other known incidents from training:

  • The definition of "Sabotage" is taught in Kindergarten.[6]
  • Children are taken into the woods to spend several nights.[8]
  • Children are "forced to endure" multiple fire drills.[7]
  • Mountain-Climbing and/or Cave-Exploration Training[7]
  • Learning to read hidden codes on maps.[9]
  • The definition of "epistemology" is taught.[6]
  • How to make a grappling hook.[6]

Some lessons are mentioned in the TV Series but not in the books, throwing slight doubt onto their canonicity. They are:

  • Archery Training of some kind - involved learning to hit an olive with a bow and arrow.[10]
  • Dancing - specifically the waltz is mentioned.[10]
  • Some kind of Poison Recognition Training - described as learning how to determine if a poison had been added to cheese fondue without tasting it.[10]

When a volunteer graduates, they are to choose their chaperone and become an apprentice to them. Apprenticeship should involve learning from their chaperone in an area of interest. Potential apprentices can choose their chaperones from a list of chaperones, ranked by their success in their various endeavors.[5] It is unknown how long apprenticeship lasts or how it ends. After apprenticeship, Volunteers are expected to take jobs or go into the field.[1]

V.F.D. Codes

Main article: V.F.D. Codes

The V.F.D. utilizes several codes for communication between Volunteers. After the schism, however, both sides continued to use the same codes, so it is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell if the member using the code is on the Fire-Fighting or the Fire-Starting side.

Several books are required reading for apprentices, which contain codes and clues hidden inside.[1]

V.F.D. Disguise Training

Main article: V.F.D. Disguise Training

The Fire-Fighting Side

Members of the Fire-Fighting Side are known as Volunteers. This faction of the organization prizes various values, such as being well-read, arriving early, and drinking bitter tea. The majority of adult members of this side have been murdered by Count Olaf.

53151302-7b10-4266-b1c2-2e0038711183

A photograph of the Paltryville Volunteer Fire Department in the TV series: (L-R) Georgina Orwell, Montgomery Montgomery, Mr. Quagmire, Mrs. Quagmire, Bertrand Baudelaire, Beatrice Baudelaire, Ike Anwhistle, Josephine Anwhistle, Larry the Waiter and Lemony Snicket.

Known Volunteers

Known Volunteers (TV Series)

The Fire-Starting Side

This faction is home to those V.F.D. Volunteers who favor arson, hoard money, and commit murder as they please. Since the schism, they appear to have more resources than the other half of V.F.D and to have more associates throughout the public (e.g. the police and the press). The majority of the members of this side have either been killed or have left the organization.

Known members 

Unknown Side

  • Bruce - it is unknown if he is truly related to Carmelita, but as a possible relative of hers, he is likely on the Fire-Starting side, judging by Carmelita's behavior. However, he did not seem to know much about VFD or Count Olaf's plans.
  • Hal - he was most likely recruited by Kit and he uses the "sad occasion" phrase, implying he has become involved with V.F.D. If he is with V.F.D., he is likely on the Fire-Fighting side.
  • Sir - His lumbermill used to build headquarters for the Volunteers.[1]
  • It is speculated that Vice Principal Nero may be a part of V.F.D., presumably on the Fire-Starting side.
  • Gifford and Ghede are V.F.D. chaperones, although it is unknown what side they are on after the schism.

TV Series

These names are seen in a VFD tunnel in the TV series, implying their connection to the organization:

  • Remora - he defends the Baudelaires during their trial, so he is likely on the Fire-Fighting side.
  • Julienne - she is a fan of Esmé and slanders the Baudelaires in her articles, so she is likely on the Fire-Starting side.

Ray Hardwood, who was only mentioned in a very brief flash of a book in the TV series, might be part of V.F.D. If so, then he is presumably on the Fire-Starting side, because he was suspected of starting the Lucky Smells Lumbermill fire.

Motto

Prosperoticket2

The Prospero ticket, with the final verse of "The Little Snicket Lad" around the edges.

"The world is quiet here" is the motto of V.F.D.[1] It functions as a password[11] and marks a letter or item as connected to V.F.D. It is also the phrase volunteers use to mark their allegiance in the field.

The phrase, in-universe, can be heard in the song "The Little Snicket Lad", which was written about Lemony Snicket's recruitment.[1]

"When we grab you by the ankles,
Where our mark is to be made,
You'll soon be doing noble work,
Although you won't be paid.
When we drive away in secret,
You'll be a volunteer,
So don't scream when we take you:
The world is quiet here."

The phrase is taken from the first line of the poem The Garden of Proserpine by Algernon Charles Swinburne. The first stanza goes as follows:

Here, where the world is quiet;
Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds' and spent waves' riot
In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing,
A sleepy world of streams.

The last four lines of the eleventh stanza are also used as a code in order to communicate the Last Safe Place.[2]

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Safe places

A VFD safe place, as quoted by Kit Snicket, is where volunteers can safely gather "to exchange information, discuss plans to defeat our enemies and return books we borrowed from one another." Before the schism, there were an innumerous number of safe places across the globe, such as bookstores, banks, restaurants, stationery stores, cafés, laundromats, opium dens, geodesic domes, etc.

Here is a list of known safe places:

The Eye

The V.F.D. Insignia (seen above) is an eye made from the letters 'V,' 'F,' and 'D.' Any member of V.F.D. who joined before the schism has a tattoo on their left ankle of the eye. After the schism, the practice of tattooing members desisted. 

2004 Film Divergent Canon

Sunnydropapple I am NOT a MONKEY!

The following article or section concerns information that is considered even less canonical than the chance of a happy ending. Any information following should not be used as a source for the canon of the book series.

Vfdeyemovie square

The V.F.D. eye in the film; no acronym is present.

The VFD Spyglass is introduced in this adaptation and carried on into the later Netflix series, in which all members of the organization carry a personalized spyglass.

While not much is known about VFD in the canon of the film, it is stated that Beatrice and Bertrand Baudelaire were the leaders of the group. It is also heavily implied by Monty that there is a Volunteer sanctuary in Peru, and heavily implied by Josephine that Olaf murdered the Baudelaire Parents because they knew too much.

The eye symbol (rather infamously) does not have the acronym hidden inside.

TV Series Divergent Canon

Netflixvfdeye square

The Netflix V.F.D. eye.

In the canon of the TV series, it is revealed that Ishmael founded the organization to make the world a quieter, less evil and safer place, hence their motto, "The world is quiet here." Kidnapping-based recruitment is not mentioned; instead, Ishmael claims that he would recruit children from Prufrock Preparatory School who seemed interested in learning.[3]

The Volunteers have several underground tunnels,[24] with signs pointing out exits, as well as a book on all their activities- The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations.[25][26] If you look closely at the Sugar Bowl page,[27] it says, "...the truth is that these differences have been churning under the surface of V.F.D. for some time, even going back to the organization's very name." This could possibly hint that the members who would start the fire-starting side didn't like the "Fire Department" part of the name because they had grown bored of fighting fires.

In this canon, the schism occurred after Beatrice and Lemony caused the death of Olaf's father and stole the Sugar Bowl from an enraged Esmé Squalor, which caused both of them to turn to more dangerous activities; specifically, for Olaf, he fell under the influence of the Woman With Hair But No Beard and the Man With a Beard but No Hair.[28]

It is mentioned that VFD has disintegrated by the time Beatrice Baudelaire II finds Lemony Snicket.[3]

Behind the scenes

  • In France, V.F.D. is instead called V.D.C. due to French translation. It even has a slightly modified version of the eye symbol to fit the letters. In Italy, V.F.D. is called V.F., although the eye symbol was not altered from the original illustrations.
  • Translating every instance of V.F.D. into different languages is one of the difficulties the translators go through, as terms such as "Volunteer Fire Department", "Very Fancy Doilies", etc, don't have the same initials in every language.
  • Most of the Baudelaires guardians were/have been volunteers of V.F.D. This includes Count Olaf, Montgomery Montgomery, Josephine Anwhistle, Charles (newly), Jerome (newly), Esmé Squalor, Hector, Olivia Caliban, Captain Widdershins, Kit Snicket, and Ishmael.
  • In the movie, along with the spyglass is a case with V.F.D. on it.

Appearances



Gallery

Books

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

2004 Film

TV Series

Sources

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