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Orphaned when their parents die in a fire, the Baudlaires now have to escape the greedy hands of Count Olaf...and on their way, they uncover a massive conspiracy.
- Badass Adorable: All three. Especially Sunny, who's badass even though she's a baby.
- Badass Bookworms
- The Beautiful Elite
- Break The Cuties: Not quite, but it comes pretty damn close at times.
- Brother Sisters Team
- Butt Monkeys
- The Cassandra
- Cassandra Truth: No one believes the Baudelaires whenever they see Count Olaf.
- Common Sense
- Cinderella Circumstances: With Count Olaf.
- Clark Kenting: The group does this a few times.
- Conveniently Three Orphans
- He Who Fights Monsters: The Baudelaires fear this and even do some morally questionable things later on - it's actually quoted in the tenth book.
- Power Trio
- Properly Paranoid: They aren't just seeing things; Count Olaf IS always there.
- Only Sane People
- Orphan's Ordeal
- Seekers: Eventually.
- Weirdness Magnet
- The Woobies: Very much so.
The oldest of the Baudelaire Trio, Violet is an intelligent 14-15 year old inventor and responsible older sister.
- Cool Big Sis
- Character Tics: Violet always ties her hair back when she's thinking hard - usually about inventing.
- Gadgeteer Genius
- Lethal Chef: Violet burns everything she cooks, even toast.
- Ms. Fixit
- Promotion to Parent: Violet takes the vow she made to look after her younger siblings very seriously.
- Wrench Wench
- Tall, Dark and Bishoujo
The middle Baudlaire and only boy, Klaus is extremely bookish and prone to using big words. The vast amount of things he's learned from his reading, as well as his research skills, come in handy.
- Adorably Precocious Child
- Bookworm and Badass Bookworm: Though all the siblings qualify as this, Klaus's thing is that he uses books to kick ass.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: In Book the Fourth; he even appears to have Mind Control Eyes on the cover.
- Character Tics: Klaus has a habit of polishing his glasses.
- Running Gag: Adults explaining the definition of words to Klaus that he already knows.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Klaus is fond of big words, much to the annoyance of the villains. He also explains the definitions of words to his siblings often.
- Middle Child Syndrome / Sibling Rivalry: Klaus originally resented Sunny when she was born, but got over it quickly when he got to know her.
The youngest Baudelaire is only a baby and only intelligible to her brother and sister (at least at the beginning). However, she is extremely intelligent, and in addition to having four very sharp teeth as a weapon, she also demonstrates admirable cooking skills later on.
- Baby Talk
- Character Tics: Sunny likes to bare or sharpen her teeth, chews on objects when she's agitated or just for fun and bites people gently in greeting and hard if she doesn't like them.
- Chef of Iron
- Child Prodigy: What she will definitely grow up to be.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: People who know her well understand her.
- And in later books, instead of gibberish, she often says words (or partial words) that relate to her response, or at least the topic being discussed. For example, when describing a sword fight, she says "Flynning", when somebody mentions a train, she says "Esoobac", when talking about going undercover, she says "Dragnet", and when somebody asks her to do something impossible, she exclaims "Unfeasi!"
- Little Miss Badass: She once fought against a sword-wielding hypnotist with her teeth- and won.
The main villain of the series. His goal is to get the Baudelaire fortune, no matter where they go and how many stupid disguises he has to wear. He's revealed to have a connection to the shadowy organization known as VFD.
- Abusive Parents: To the Baudelaires...an abusive foster parent, anyway.
- Alas, Poor Villain: His death.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Assuming he's actually a Count.
- Bald(ing) Of Evil
- Big Bad
- Card-Carrying Villain
- Clark Kenting
- Complete Monster: Toward the start of the series (the first four books or so, before VFD came into play). Afterwards...well, see Villain Decay below.
- Devil in Plain Sight
- Dirty Old Man: He hints he plans to consummate his marriage with Violet.
- Evil Laugh
- Fauxreigner: One of his disguises.
- Hidden Depths: Olaf has a Mysterious Past and is apparently an orphan himself. He also apparently had some sort of relationship with Kit Snicket.
- High-Class Glass: Gunther
- Illegal Guardian: Played utterly straight at first in book one.
- Just a Stupid Accent: From the same disguise.
- Large Ham: Olaf's acting is VERY Narmy and over-the-top. Probably helps the Baudelaires recognize him all the time.
- Lean and Mean
- Manipulative Bastard
- Paper-Thin Disguise
- Pet the Dog: He has a moment with Kit just before his death that qualifies.
- Pyromaniac: It's clear that he has at least burned a hospital, a carnival and a hotel to ground and it's suggested that he also burned the Baudelaires' mansion, but Snicket never confirmed the fact.
- In the final book, the Baudelaires confront Olaf over their suspicions of him burning down their mansion. His initial response is "Is that what you think?" followed by "You know nothing."
- Smug Snake: Is he ever.
- Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: Olaf has VERY poor hygiene.
- Villainous Crossdresser: On two occasions.
- Villain Decay: Olaf gets less and less threatening as the series goes on. A lampshade is even hung on it when the Baudelaires act annoyed rather than scared in his presence, and near the end, he even gets a Pet the Dog moment.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Maybe. It's implied that Beatrice and/or Bertrand Baudelaire and/or Lemony Snicket killed his parents with poison darts during a performance of La Forza del Destino.
Esmé Gigi Genevieve Squalor
One of the Baudelaires' many foster parents turns out to be evil and becomes Count Olaf's girlfriend. She's a wealthy woman ridiculously dedicated to keeping up with every ludicrously inane fad that comes about.
- Cruella to Animals
- Fashion Victim Villain: To an extreme.
- Fur and Loathing: Esmé is said to wear a coat made from the fur of animals that had been killed in extremely nasty ways.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: Her dress that looks like a fire. Lemony describes it as hideous, but really...
- Incoming Ham: Her habit of dramatically announcing her full name to people who already know it.
- Manipulative Bitch
- Pimped-Out Dress
- Rich Bitch
- Villain with Good Publicity: The only reporter we see in the series is in Squalor's fan club.
The mysterious narrator of the series who holds a torch for a deceased woman named Beatrice.
- Alter Ego Acting: Daniel Handler and Lemony Snicket - separate characters in the books themselves.
- Author Appeal: Mild example - Daniel Handler is something of a gourmand, and hence the Lemony Narrator never misses an opportunity to describe some delicious dish, even providing a salad recipe in the midst of an urgent-seeming message to his sister embedded in the tenth book.
- Dogged Nice Guy
- The Eeyore: He is very sad.
- The Faceless: Largely because he's a wanted criminal.
- Greek Chorus: Lemony Snicket provides a running commentary on the events, and often addresses the reader directly.
- Lemony Narrator: Of course.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis
- Plot Based Photograph Obfuscation: Snicket never shows his face in photographs, but there are several possible explanations for why this is, and most such photographs are only seen by the audience in his author bio rather than by the characters.
- This also applies in-universe. A note in the Quagmire diaries indicate that Snicket's face is never seen in a photograph. And indeed, when the Baudelaires find a photo of their parents, there is an unidentified man with his back turned next to them.
- Stalker with a Crush: Inverted - Lemony's a good guy, but he does stalk the children of the woman he loved but couldn't have but should have had.
- The Woobie: Not even counting the things about his past that are revealed outside of the thirteen books, Lemony has been dumped by his fiancee because she read an unreliable newspaper that claimed he was dead, and then a villain, so he went on the run and STILL is. His beloved married someone else and then died in a horrible fire. Lemony's brother Jacques and sister Kit have both died, and he continues to become entangled in terrible situations as he relentlessly tries to gather information about the children of the woman he loves so that the world will know about the treachery that follows them. This guy's life sucks.
The mysterious initials of a shadowy organization that everyone - from Olaf to the Baudelaires' parents - is connected to.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Some members qualify as this.
- The Ghost: Several characters.
- Knights Templar: Gregor Anwhistle, who wanted to use the deadly Medusoid Mycelium on V.F.D.'s enemies.
- Milkman Conspiracy: A secret conspiracy that many characters are involved in in some way, makes liberal use of secret codes, has been going on for centuries and
was subject to a schism long ago... based on the Volunteer Fire Department.
- Mysterious Past
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: V.F.D., and specifically the transcript of the meeting of the vague "Building Committee" in the Unauthorized Autobiography - even the author didn't know some of what was being discussed here, and he was technically in attendance.
- Paranoia Fuel
- Spy Speak
- Theme Initials
The Baudelaires' friends are a identical brother and sister whose brother Quigley died in a fire. Referring to themselves as "triplets" (just because Quigley's dead doesn't mean they were born twins), they help the Baudelaires out and get kidnapped for their trouble. Duncan is a journalist while Isadora is a poet specializing in couplets. Later on, Quigley is revealed to have survived.
- Alliterative Name: Quigley Quagmire.
- Angsty Surviving Triplets: Duncan and Isadora mourn their brother Quigley.
- Brother-Sister Team
- Half-Identical Twins
- Insistent Terminology: They're triplets, not twins.
- Put on a Bus
- Theme Naming: Isadora and Duncan.
- Odd Name Out: Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley.
The bratty girl becomes a hindrance to the Baudelaires in book 5 and is later adopted by Olaf and Esme.
- Alpha Bitch
- Bratty Half-Pint
- Enfante Terrible: She is rude, violent, filthy, but apparently one of the most popular girls in her school, and in her later appearance is to be crowned "False Spring Queen."
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Her "tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian" costume from the eleventh book.
- Tyke Bomb: In her second appearance, Count Olaf and Esmé Squalor adopt Carmelita Spats as a Tyke Bomb, but she's so thoroughly spoilt by Esmé as to be utterly unhelpful, and after demanding lessons on how to spit in exchange for shooting someone with a harpoon she's ditched by Olaf; he later turns his attention to Sunny as a possible replacement.
Count Olaf's Troupe
Olaf has a large variety of henchmen he calls his "acting troupe."
- Ambiguous Gender: The Person of Indeterminate Gender, a.k.a. the enormous person who looked like neither a man or a woman.
- Dirty Old Man: The Hook Handed Man, aka Fernald.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Several members of Olaf's troupe, perhaps because of the Yaoi Fangirls; Fernald, in particular, was much more popular after Book the Eleventh, but then he was never seen again.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The reason that the white faced women Heel Face Turn.
- Heel Face Turn: The white faced women, thanks to Sunny.
- Heel Face Revolving Door: It seems like Fernald's whole life is a chain of Heel Face Turn followed by Face Heel Turn; in the eleventh book, he manages to do both in the space of three chapters.
- Hook Hand: Fernald, a.k.a. "the hook-handed man."
- Killed Off for Real: The bald man with the long nose and the ambiguously-gendered man.
- Punch Clock Villain: Some of Olaf's troupe.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The white-faced women fall victim to this in Book the Tenth, as apparently do Fernald and Fiona in Book the Twelfth (albeit off-screen).
- The Trope Without a Title: The white-faced women, the man with a beard but no hair... pretty much most of the troupe.
- Adults Are Useless
- Apathetic Citizens: Most of society is unwilling and/or unable to fight injustice, and many would prefer to gawk at violence for entertainment than attempt to stop it, unless it actually threatens them.
- Brother Chuck: Phil, despite having just been brought back after an absence of seven books.
- Bus Crash: Let me see...Hector, the Quagmire triplets, Captain Widdershins, Fernald, Fiona. Maybe.
- Dirty Coward: Aunt Josephine descends into this trope at the climax of The Wide Window.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Jerome Squalor and maybe Charles (see below).
- Feet of Clay: Ishmael not only has clay on his feet, he has feet of clay.
- Ho Yay: Sir and Charles - Heterosexual Life Partners until the author started dropping hints.
- To elaborate, in one of Snicket's rambling letters in The Beatrice Letters, there is this gem of a line: "I will love you until C realizes that S is not worthy of his love." The whole letter is about VFD members, and he uses their initials as their codenames, and Charles is very much Sir's Dogged Nice Guy.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Hugo, Colette, and Kevin, the "freaks," are a hunchback, contortionist, and ambidextrous, respectively. Subverted Trope by the fact that most people do indeed think they're disgusting freaks.
- Pollyanna: Phil
- Posthumous Character: Beatrice
- Repetitive Name: Dr. Montgomery Montgomery
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Charles, Jerome and Hector are all good-hearted and well-meaning men whose cowardice causes them to fail the Baudelaires.