|“||I'll get my hands on your fortune if it's the last thing I do. And when I have it, I'll kill you and your siblings with my own two hands.||”|
— Olaf whispering into Violet's ear when the lights are off in The Marvelous Marriage
He is identified by his unibrow, as well as his tattoo of the V.F.D. eye on his left ankle, although he is not the only one bearing these traits. He usually attempts to hide them in his disguises.
Count Olaf is said to be a distant relative of the Baudelaires (their third cousin four times removed or their fourth cousin three times removed, though it is not revealed as to whether he is related through Bertrand or Beatrice). It is most likely, however, that this relation is a lie he fabricated so that he could adopt the Baudelaire orphans in order to get their fortune.
In The Bad Beginning, in order to obtain the Baudelaire fortune, he becomes the adoptive father of the Baudelaire orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny after their parents' death in a mysterious fire which he may or may not have been involved in.
After he loses custody of the children when his "Marvelous Marriage" play failed, he begins to stalk and follow them everywhere, plotting complicated schemes to obtain the fortune, even if it means bribing and murdering them, their guardians and people nearby.
As Olaf had gained notoriety for numerous counts of arson, the Baudelaire orphans believed he may have caused the fire that killed their parents, but he neither confirmed nor denied it when confronted by the Baudelaires in The End. Olaf did not seem surprised by the accusation but asked them "Is that what you think?" Whether this is a denial of involvement in the event or means something else is unknown.
|“||I may be a terrible man, but I have been able to concoct a foolproof way of getting your fortune, which is more than you've been able to do. Remember that, orphans. You may have read more books than I have, but it didn't help you gain the upper hand in this situation. Now, give me that book which gave you such grand ideas, and do the chores assigned to you.||”|
— Olaf after being told he's a terrible man by Klaus
Later, it is revealed that Olaf was also an orphan, and his misfortunes throughout his life have shaped him into something grotesque. At the end of "The Carnivorous Carnival: Part Two", Olaf comments that he knows what "a great deal of suffering and pain and then a long fall to rock bottom" feels like. He often acts like an extremely cynical and jaded realist who has come to accept that life is unfair. Olaf's behavior and mentality is likely the result of someone who has felt he has been "wronged" multiple times. For example, he was expelled from school because he did not do well in gym class, greatly hurting his dream of becoming a famous actor, as well as future job prospects and opportunities. While the books imply his parents were murdered, the TV series clarify he lost his mother first in a fire, and later, his father was killed by Beatrice.
He may be a misanthrope who has stopped caring about human society, which could explain why he is unhygienic as he seems to have stopped caring about what other people think of him or appealing to the standards of society. This contrasts him to Esmé Squalor who cares too much about what other people think of her. He claims he's not the only one in the world who runs around with their secrets and their schemes in an effort to outwit others and that "everyone" else is guilty of it, implying he views humanity constantly trying to control and manipulate others for their own desires.
He called himself a "rebel" in school, likely due to his annoyance at all the rules set by those in power in society, and the often ridiculous pedantic following of them society does seen throughout the series. This makes him different than the many other adults in the series such as Mr. Poe and Justice Strauss who feel the constant need to follow the law, even to the point of absurdity.
Olaf is rather intelligent. He employs his acting skills and is a master of disguise, using various disguises in his plots. He is shown to be talented doing accents. His disguises usually do little besides cover his eyebrow and tattoo, which is sufficient to fool most. The Baudelaires are able to recognize his other characteristics, such as his wheezy voice and shiny eyes, but others don't notice these marks, and very few of them believe the Baudelaires' claims to recognize him.
As the main villain of the series, Olaf can be perceived as violent, terrifying and scary. Olaf is both a psychopath and a sociopath involved with murder, kidnapping and arson. Apart from trying to kill the Baudelaires numerous times, he also once threatened to cut off one of Sunny's toes in The Reptile Room: Part One, teases that two of the Baudelaires will burned to death at the stake in The Vile Village, and demands that Sunny be thrown off a mountain in The Slippery Slope. His eyes tend to become shiny the angrier he becomes and he is prone to rage when he loses his temper.
He is psychologically manipulative and often plays the victim card, and he views the Baudelaires as spoiled rich kids who never had to work hard in their lives -- even when the Baudelaires defend themselves by saying they often help around the house, Olaf simply doesn't care, probably because he thinks mere house chores do not compare to his life struggles and hardships. He says he chose to offer his heart to the Baudelaires and they won't even serve him roast beef, and he blames them, despite that he never asked for it. However, this could just be his excuse to slap Klaus, as it seems that it was not the roast beef that set him off, but rather, Klaus reminding him that the Baudelaire fortune is not to be used until Violet is of age.
He has used child abuse, for example, he refers to the Baudelaires as "orphans" and "brats", gives them a pile of rocks as toys, he slapped Klaus' face for not serving him roast beef, locks the children in their bedroom where they sleep on one bed, treats them like slaves, forces them to do an endless list of chores, once trapped Sunny in a birdcage and hung her in a tower and threatened to drop it, and has threatened death and murder on the orphans, their relatives and their friends, following them like a shadow relentlessly. In The Reptile Room, while having dinner, under the table, he gently rubs the blade of his knife against Violet's knee for their entire meal, just to make her feel scared and terrible, and perhaps indulge in the feeling he has power over her. Klaus called him a "terrible man" while Violet called him a "monster".
In the film and TV series, Count Olaf is portrayed somewhat differently compared to the books. He is much more dumbed down as opposed to intelligent; for example, in the book, Count Olaf tells Klaus he knows what "nuptial" means, while in the TV series, he apparently thinks "knowledge" begins with an "n". Live action Count Olaf has a more comedic tone instead of the sinister and serious tone Olaf has in the novels. He is also much more animated with body language in these adaptations. Despite this, his murderous intent and relentless greed for the Baudelaire fortune still remains true to the source material, killing countless people over the course of the series.
In the TV series' second season, Olaf begins to gradually become much more dark and violent, due to his plans repeatedly failing, and lusts to murder the children in the most horrific way as retribution for their success over his schemes. This can be seen as following more closely to the source material.
Considering Olaf as a whole, Olaf could be perceived as somewhat mentally unstable and/or unbalanced. Apart from psychopathy, he is also very narcissistic, frequently praising and congratulating himself, and is the self-proclaimed "world's greatest actor." This may mean he has some narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps to cope with feelings of worthlessness.
Depending on reader interpretation, Olaf may not be past the point of redemption. One could imagine he has a better side. Two examples of this are when he hesitated killing Dewey, replying, "What else can I do?" (or "It's all I know how to do in the TV series). It is also implied he had a compassionate side with Kit Snicket and his other love interests.
Not much about Count Olaf's childhood is known. Olaf said that when he was a child he loved raspberries. In The Wide Window, it is revealed that as a child, Count Olaf would torture and kill ants with a magnifying glass, as he would set them on fire. This shows early signs of Count Olaf's psychopathy and arson. The video game apparently has a portrait of this in his house.
When he noticed a map of the Mortmain Mountains in Madame Lulu's tent, Olaf made a reference to a coded stain spilt on the Valley of Four Drafts, stating that he was taught to use such stains to mark secret locations when he was a young boy.
A letter written from Sally Sebald contains a picture of the young boy who was to play Young Rölf in Zombies in the Snow, a film directed by her brother Gustav Sebald. She says that she thinks his name might be Omar (a name that many confuse with Olaf).
Count Olaf went to Prufrock Preparatory School with Lemony Snicket, as revealed in the TV series. Both of them were also part of their school's drama club. The school principal Ishmael made Olaf think poetry, books and learning would keep him safe, but it did not.
Olaf claimed he was a rebel and girls were falling for him, and not just because he enjoyed tripping them. He was expelled from Prufrock because he flunked his physical education class, since gym teacher evaluations are worth 51% of a student's grade.
At an unknown point in time, he became associated with the organization V.F.D.
Olaf may have also gone to Wade Academy, as there is graffiti on the tower that bears his name which says he loves Guess Who, a board game about identifying people. This could mean that he may have transferred, but the details are uncertain.
At some point in time, he met Kit Snicket and fell in love with her. After a poison dart showdown at the opera called La Forza del Destino about the Sugar Bowl, his father steps out and is killed leaving him an orphan. This event leaves Olaf and Esmé Squalor wanting vengeance.
Olaf says that his acting career began when he was approached by Gustav Sebald (then a "young director") because he was the "most handsome fellow at school", which would make it a very old movie, since Count Olaf himself (disguised as Stephano) watched the film in theater with the Baudelaires and Dr. Montgomery.
At some point in time, Olaf became the acting teacher of Esmé Squalor.
Duncan and Isadora Quagmire mentioned that a man with similar traits as Olaf strangled a bishop and escaped prison in just ten minutes and another report of him throwing a wealthy widow off a cliff. The Baudelaire children agreed that it sounds like Olaf and believed him to be the man mentioned in the articles.
Olaf at one point was also after the Snicket fortune.
The White-Faced Women hinted that Olaf may have been responsible for the fire that consumed their home and took the life of one of their siblings and perhaps the lives of their parents.
Count Olaf mentioned that he saw Fiona when she was an infant and that he tried to throw thumbtacks in her cradle.
It is strongly hinted and almost outright stated by Olaf that he burned down the childhood home of Dewey Denouement and murdered almost his entire family.
In The End, Ishmael says that Olaf set fire to his home, murdered his parents, and that he locked him in a bird cage (which Ishmael also does to him) though Olaf said that he did not set that fire to his home.
In The Penultimate Peril, Kit mentioned that she was able to smuggle a box of poison darts to the Baudelaire parents before Esmé Squalor caught her. Through a few subtle hints, it becomes apparent that Lemony Snicket was present as well. Later in the book, when Olaf was confronting the Baudelaires and Dewey Denouement, he dared the Baudelaires to ask Dewey what happened that night at the theater, implying that the Baudelaire parents, Dewey, and the Snickets were there for some sort of sinister purpose. Olaf revealed that poison darts were the reason he became an orphan himself, implying that the Baudelaire parents may have murdered his own parents and possibly explaining his hatred for the Baudelaires.
In The Beatrice Letters, a young Snicket writes to Beatrice about someone he only identifies as 'O'. "A wet viper perm" is thought to be an anagram of 'Preemptive War' and 'My Silence Knot' is an anagram of Lemony Snicket, although this is never confirmed.
- "The only other student in [Code Class] that I know is O., who is nothing but an annoyance. As I write this he is filling his notebook with anagrams of obscene words. I'm tempted to tell him there is no such thing as 'a wet viper perm' but after the incident with the bottle of ink and the root beer float, I think its better to spend my time inside 'My Silence Knot' whenever that nitwit raises his ugly, one-eyebrowed head."
- "The brightest star cannot shine through a cloud of dark smoke, and O is the darkest of clouds I have seen in our skies. One day the world will know of his treachery and deceit, of his crimes and hygiene, but that's far too late for us."
Olaf had something to do with the schism that separated V.F.D.. This is hinted the most in a letter Jacques Snicket wrote to Jerome Squalor. The letter explained that a member which he only referred to as O was acting in such a violent manner that his actions have caused the organization to split in two. As the members of the organization often use the first letter of their names to talk about one and another, it is generally assumed O stands for Olaf. Many members of V.F.D., such as Widdershins, often use Olaf's name immediately when talking about the treachery of the fire starting side of the schism. This hints that Olaf has done a great deal of harm to V.F.D. more than most of the other villains involved have, furthering the concept of him being one of the leaders of the schism.
Olaf was involved with the organization for many years and knows many, if not all, of the secrets surrounding the organization that the Baudelaire children seek to know. He is also responsible for numerous fires and deaths of V.F.D., as mentioned by Lemony Snicket himself, and plans on gaining control of all the fortunes of the members in thirst of revenge and greed.
Olaf had a very troubling past and this may be the reason for his bitterness at the world. Olaf had once loved Kit Snicket, Lemony Snicket's sister, and had told her he would kiss her one last time before his and her death.
Guardian of the Baudelaires (The Bad Beginning)
|“||In agreeing to adopt you, I have become your father, and as your father I am not someone to be trifled with. I demand that you serve roast beef to myself and my guests.||”|
— Count Olaf before slapping Klaus
The Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, were sent to live with Count Olaf, their closest geographically living relative, after a mysterious fire destroyed their home and killed their parents which was possibly set by Count Olaf. Olaf was an actor and had an entire group of similarly evil associates who he refers to as his "theatre troupe". He wrote his own plays, under the pseudonym "Al Funcoot" (an anagram of "Count Olaf"). His house was covered with weird paintings of eyes that made the Baudelaires feel they were always being watched.
During the time the Baudelaires lived with him, the children immediately saw Olaf as a short tempered and violent man who was interested in obtaining their inherited fortune. He calls the Baudelaires "orphans", provided them with one filthy room with only one bed, a pile of rocks, and a cardboard box for clothes, and forced them to do difficult chores such as making them chop wood solely for his own entertainment.
When Count Olaf asked the Baudelaires to prepare dinner, the Baudelaires prepared pasta puttanesca. Count Olaf asked where the roast beef was and when the Baudelaires replied he never asked for it, Count Olaf demanded they make roast beef now. Sunny said No! No! No! and Count Olaf picked her up and dangled her in the air. After saying all they made was disgusting sauce, he let Sunny go and ordered the children to go to their beds. Klaus replied that only had one bed, prompting Olaf to reply that they could use their fortune to buy another. Klaus reminded Olaf that they can't use it until Violet is of age. Olaf then struck Klaus' face for backtalking, slapping him hard enough that he fell to the floor and a bruise remained the next day. The children complained to Mr. Poe, calling Olaf a madman, but Poe did not care and dismissed their complaints.
One morning, Olaf revealed Mr. Poe blabbed to him about their visit. Olaf apologized for being "standoffish" and gave the children oatmeal with raspberries. Violet and Klaus suspected the raspberries may be poison berries, so Olaf ate one to prove it is safe. While the children ate the breakfast, Olaf asked them participate in a play called "The Marvelous Marriage" in which Violet plays a woman who gets married to a character played by Olaf. The children learned that Olaf was using the play to disguise the fact that the marriage will be legally binding and that he will have control over the fortune once the wedding ceremony is complete.
To ensure that the children cooperate with the plan, Olaf kidnapped Sunny and had her tied up, mouth taped, put in a birdcage, and hung outside his tower window, threatening to murder her if the children refused to cooperate. Violet constructed a makeshift grappling hook and used it to climb up the tower. She found the hook-handed man (a member of Olaf's theatre troupe) waiting to capture her. Klaus was brought up to the tower and they were locked together in the room until the play began.
The plan to marry Violet Baudelaire to gain the inheritance went awry. Violet managed to thwart Olaf's plan by signing the marriage with her left hand instead of her right, which as she was right-handed, was the required one to make it legally binding. Olaf was exposed as a criminal and fled, but not before promising to Violet that he would get his hands on her fortune no matter what and then murder her and her siblings with his bare hands, making her emit a cry of terror. The children were sent to different relatives, with Olaf following in pursuit.
The Reptile Room
Olaf disguises himself as Stephano, pretending to be a member of the Herpetological Society. He murders Montgomery Montgomery and frames his death as a snake bite, when in actuality, he used injected venom to mimic one. The Baudelaires discover evidence of his lies, and he flees.
The Wide Window
When he and her are alone, he orders Josephine to write a suicide note putting the Baudelaires in his care, and orders her to kill herself. However, while Josephine writes the note, she includes a secret message in it which will give the Baudelaires her location, then fakes her death.
The Baudelaires rescue Josephine but they become swarmed by the Lachrymose Leeches. Olaf rescues them and is angered at Josephine for faking her death. He almost considers sparing her life after she promises to go into hiding and give him the Baudelaire fortune. However, after she corrects his grammar, he shoves her off the boat, and it is heavily implied she either drowns or is eaten by the leeches.
Back in the town, Olaf and the Baudelaires are found by Mr. Poe. Sunny bites his peg leg, revealing his identity, and he flees.
The Miserable Mill
Count Olaf disguises himself as a female receptionist named Shirley close to Lucky Smells Lumbermill in Paltryville. He works for his associate Dr. Georgina Orwell and helps her mind control Klaus through hypnotism. Violet helps Klaus break free of his mind control. Orwell accidentally dies and Olaf flees.
The Austere Academy
Count Olaf disguises himself as Coach Genghis. He becomes the school's gym teacher and forces to Baudelaires to run laps called S.O.R.E. He does this in order to tire them out so they can not pay attention and fail their classes, hoping they will become suspended through cheating, and offering to take them in. He refuses to remove his turban for religious reasons, and his shoes because he claims his feet always smells.
After almost failing into Olaf's trap, the Baudelaires reveal his identity by removing his turban. Olaf gets away, also kidnapping two friends of the Baudelaires, Isadora Quagmire and Duncan Quagmire.
The Ersatz Elevator
Count Olaf disguises himself as Gunther, an auctioneer. He secretly collaborates with Esmé Squalor to steal the Quagmire Sapphires. After the Baudelaires realize who Esmé is, the both of them flee with the Quagmires in a Red Herring.
The Vile Village
Count Olaf disguises himself as Detective Dupin. He is assisted by a mysterious officer, Officer Luciana. He frames the Baudelaires of murdering Jacques Snicket, when he killed Jacques himself. Detective Dupin even shows the Baudelaires an article from the The Daily Punctilio stating that the Baudelaires killed "Count Omar." The Baudelaires flee from the angry villagers after rescuing the Quagmires and putting them in the care of Hector on his mobile home. During that time, one of the villagers sees Dupin without his sunglasses where they noticed his one eyebrow leading to Count Olaf being exposed when some of the Council of Elders managed to remove one of his shoes and exposed the ankle tattoo. Count Olaf escapes from the villagers after Esmé in the alias of Officer Luciana accidentally injured a crow.
The Hostile Hospital
Count Olaf disguises himself as Mattathias at Heimlich Hospital, speaking through the intercom system. Then he tries to a Cranio-ectomy on Violet. He sets the hospital on fire and blames the "Baudelaire murderers" for doing so. He flees with his troupe in a car, not knowing the Baudelaires are in his trunk.
The Carnivorous Carnival
Count Olaf does not don a disguise in this book. He visits Olivia Caliban (Madame Lulu) at Caligari Carnival, asking her if one of the Baudelaire parents are still alive. She claims one of them is hiding in the Mortmain Mountains. He gives Olivia lions as a gift, and convinces her to sacrifice one of the Caligari carnival freaks to boost the carnival's popularity.
During the lion show, Olivia dies when she and the Bald Man fall into the lion pit. After gaining the allegiance of Hugo the Hunchback, Colette the Contortionist, and Kevin the Ambidextrous Man, Olaf sets the carnival on fire and takes the Baudelaires (disguised as freaks) to the mountains, although he has seen through their disguise. He abducts Sunny while sending Violet and Klaus to their doom in a runaway caravan.
The Slippery Slope
Count Olaf has abducted Sunny. He and his troupe rest on top of the Mortmain Mountains, and bark outrageous orders at her, such as to make dinner. Olaf meets up with the Man with a Beard but No Hair and the Woman with Hair but No Beard who are both so villainous that they even frighten Olaf. The two people give Olaf the rest of the Snicket File.
Violet, Klaus and Quigley Quagmire arrange a deal with Esmé, meeting up with Olaf, saying they can give them the sugar bowl in exchange for Sunny. Olaf is unconvinced but Esmé is. Olaf orders the white-faced women to throw Sunny off a mountain as means of forcing the Baudelaires to give them the sugar bowl, but the women become disgusted and leave claiming that Count Olaf killed their third sibling. The Snow Scouts, including Carmelita Spats and Bruce arrive. Olaf and Esmé adopt Carmelita after Esmé promises Carmelita a fabulous and stylish life. The Baudelaires and Quigley then escape with Sunny.
The Grim Grotto
Count Olaf and his troupe somehow obtain an octopus submarine called the Carmelita, and use children abducted from Prufrock and the Snow Scouts to power it. They approach the Baudelaires, Captain Widdershins, Fiona and Phil in the Queequeg. Fortunately, a mysterious object shaped like a question mark scares off Olaf's vessel.
However, Olaf's submarine returns and engulfs the Queequeg in its "jaw". Olaf comes down to the children and tells them that he has been at the Hotel Denouement preparing for his final scheme, but had to return to search for the sugar bowl himself, which is the only thing he needs to complete his nefarious plans. He is overjoyed to find he has also captured Fiona, and shows little concern for Sunny's condition. He is also working on perfecting a villainous laugh. As he leads the children through to the brig, he marvels at the octopus submarine, which he stole, which can apparently be used to destroy all of V.F.D.'s armies.
Eventually, Olaf announces triumphantly that they are just minutes from the Hotel Denouement and, even worse, Fiona has joined their team. Olaf captures a sample of the Medusoid Mycelium in a helmet, which is a poisonous fungus whose spores cause death within the hour of exposure. Olaf is happy with the prospect of using it as a biological weapon. The mysterious question mark appears again, and during the commotion of trying to avoid it, Fiona secretly lets the Baudelaires onto the Queequeg to escape.
The Penultimate Peril
Olaf and his troupe arrive at Hotel Denouement. He finally showed signs of hesitation at committing crimes and murder. In this volume, he was about to kill Dewey Denouement when the Baudelaires begged him to stop and be a noble person. Olaf whispered, "What else can I do?" This gave rise to speculation that Olaf was not entirely evil, but felt obligated to continue his deeds as he has already gone too far from being noble. He was able to flee the burning Hotel Denouement by boarding a boat (then called the Carmelita) with the three Baudelaires.
The Baudelaires and Count Olaf are trapped on a boat heading away from the Hotel Denouement and to the sea. The Baudelaires were forced to listen to Count Olaf brag about how he had triumphed and how successful he was. He mentioned he intended to purchase a car with their fortune and ordered them to take him to the nearest luxury car dealership, despite that they were stranded in the middle of an ocean.
Olaf was marooned with the Baudelaire orphans after a vicious storm on a remote island. He thought he "discovered" it himself and named it "Olaf-Land" after himself. Despite that Violet pointed out there were already people living on it, he wanted to be treated as their royal king anyway. However, Olaf was immediately rejected due to his unkind behavior by Friday Caliban, one of the island's inhabitants.
After a pregnant Kit Snicket was also stranded in another storm, Olaf attempted to disguise himself as her, using a round diving helmet filled with Medusoid Mycelium to make his stomach bulge as though he were pregnant, although this disguise did not fool anyone.
Olaf is soon forced to enter a bird cage as the prisoner of the islanders, which is ironic after what he once did to Sunny. Olaf's personality becomes significantly different as he is seen as more timid, desperate and depressed. This is probably due to the fact that none of his past methods and tactics work on the islanders and that there is truly no place for him on the island. Olaf is also shown to sympathize with the children, telling them that life is unfair and a miserable place. He seemed to have gained a reluctant respect for them, calling them his new henchmen and even attempting to convince them to escape with him.
The Baudelaires accused Count Olaf of making them orphans, a suspicion that all three siblings had kept in their hearts for as long as they can remember. Count Olaf, however, upon asking the Baudelaires if that's what they really think and receiving Sunny's cold answer, "We know it," retorts that the orphans "know nothing," thus making it uncertain if he was really the one responsible for that particular fire.
Later, the island's leader, Ishmael, fired a harpoon at Olaf (as Olaf planned) only for it to hit the encased Mycelium against his stomach and causing it to burst so that its deadly spores are released into the air, contaminating all of the islanders as well as Olaf himself. Olaf started laughing, stating that Ishmael has murdered everyone on the island as he has just released a deadly fungus into the air.
Olaf realized that he has nothing left to live for, having lost all his henchmen, his parents, his girlfriend, his true love, all his plans ruined, and no chance of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune or any other one for that matter. Too depressed to go on living, Olaf at first refused to take a specially produced apple (which is mixed with horseradish, the cure for the Mycelium), saying that he has lost everything important to him. However, upon finding out that Kit Snicket is going into labor, he eats the healing apple and carries her to where she can better-perform childbirth, thus performing what Violet calls the one good deed in his life (during which he surprisingly kisses Kit on the lips, hinting at a past relationship between the two).
Although Count Olaf was cured from the Medusoid Mycelium, he was still dying from the harpoon wound. He looked at the Baudelaire orphans in pain and helped them bring Kit on to the beach who seems to be dying from the fungus. The Baudelaires helped Kit give birth when she recited the poem "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" by Francis William Bourdillion which is answered by Olaf reciting the final stanza of Philip Larkins's "This Be the Verse".
|“||Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can. And don't have any kids yourself.||”|
— Count Olaf's final words
Afterwards, Olaf laughed and finally died. The Baudelaires buried Count Olaf along with Kit. Lemony Snicket mentions that, despite all the cruel things he did to the Baudelaires, they would sometimes still visit Count Olaf's grave and merely stand silent for a few moments.
Olaf's role is mainly the same as the books. However, the children are taken out of Olaf's care after he nearly hits them with a train (he parked on the train tracks and left them there, locked in the car), and Mr. Poe takes them out of his care because Olaf "let Sunny drive".
When Count Olaf saves the children from the leeches they are placed back in his care and then are forced to participate in the play, The Marvelous Marriage, instead of how they left Olaf's care in the first place.
It is heavily implied Olaf burned down the Baudelaire mansion with a magnifying glass which can set fire at a distance using sunlight. In the books this is something left ambiguous to the reader.
After Count Olaf's scheme is exposed, Mr. Poe, Polly Poe, and the crowd converge on Count Olaf who is then handcuffed by the Constable. Lemony Snicket stated that the judge's decree had Count Olaf suffering every hardship he has put the Baudelaires in before he can serve a life sentence. Prior to Mr. Poe letting the Baudelaires visit the ruins of their mansion, Lemony stated that Count Olaf vanished after a jury of his peers overturned his sentence.
Olaf's role is mainly the same as the books. However, there are more details to his backstory, and he also uses more disguises than the books.
In "The Vile Village: Part One", just before Jacques Snicket and Olivia Caliban break into the saloon where Count Olaf is hiding himself, Olaf looks at a heart carved into counter with three female names: Georgina Orwell, Josephine (possibly Aunt Josephine) and Kit. It implies he visited the village saloon with all three of them, and shows the chronological order of his relationships. Why Josephine never mentions a previous relationship with Olaf is unknown.
In "The Slippery Slope: Part One," it is revealed the Man and Woman are his adoptive parents and mentors. The Woman alludes to having kept Olaf as a servant when he was a child, prior to the Schism; but a flashback reveals they recruited Olaf to the fire-starting side of the V.F.D. when he was a young man, shortly after the murder of his parents.
In "The Penultimate Peril: Part One," Count Olaf, Esmé, and Carmelita pose as the Normal Happy Family again when they check into Hotel Denouement. In addition, Count Olaf poses as Jacques Snicket when he meets with Mr. Poe in the hotel's Indian restaurant.
In "The Penultimate Peril: Part Two", it is revealed in a flashback that Beatrice accidentally murdered Olaf's father during the play with a dart meant for Esmé, while Lemony took the blame for it, causing Olaf to develop a hatred for Lemony.
|“||I wouldn't mind harpooning you either, orphans. When it comes to slaughtering people, I'm very flexible! Ha!||”|
— Count Olaf in The Penultimate Peril
Confirmed murders include:
- Montgomery Montgomery
- Captain Sam (in the film, possible in books/TV series)
- Gustav Sebald
- Jacques Snicket
- Olivia Caliban (in the TV series, ambiguous in the books)
- Larry the Waiter (in the TV series)
- Dewey Denouement (indirectly; Olaf tried to get the Baudelaires to kill Dewey with a harpoon gun, but they accidentally drop it and it kills Dewey)
Possible victims include:
- Josephine Anwhistle (unknown if deceased, but heavily implied she drowned or was eaten by leeches due to Olaf shoving her into the lake)
- Third Sibling of the White-Faced Women
- Beatrice and Bertrand Baudelaire (implied in the movie, although set in its own canon)
- Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire (although the TV series implied Esmé Squalor did it, she is his accomplice)
- Denouement parents
- Foreman Firstein
- Ms. Tench (in the books, Vice Principal Nero claims she accidentally fell out of a third-story window a few days ago. In the TV series, Nero says she mysterious vanished.)
- "Chief of Police" of the Village of Fowl Devotees (Officer Luciana claims he has a sore throat after accidentally swallowing a box of thumbtacks)
- Babs (in the books, Olaf claims she resigned from the hospital because she decided to pursue a career as a stuntwoman and has begun throwing herself off buildings immediately. In the TV series, he does not murder her.)
- Esmé Squalor (in the TV series, he truthfully warns her and Carmelita about the hotel fire, but does it in such a way to make them think he's lying, so if they died in the fire, he would be responsible for their deaths.)
- Carmelita Spats (see above)
It is also notable that Count Olaf burned down locations such as Heimlich Hospital, Caligari Carnival, and Hotel Denouement. His victim count could be in the hundreds, and he probably burned many people to death.
Olaf is described as very tall and very thin with bony hands and pale skin. His angular face is unshaven as he has a goatee beard and large sideburns. He has a long unibrow and gray-white receding hair. He has a prominent hooked nose. He has a little chest hair, as shown by one of the illustrations for The Vile Village.
His eyes have a tendency to gleam and shine when he asks serious questions, frightening the Baudelaires. His features could be interpreted as unusual, as if animalistic or demonic. Violet remarks that she cannot picture Olaf as a child — all his features seem to be those of an adult.
He has a tattoo of an eye on his left ankle which is a mark for members of VFD, the organization to which Olaf belonged before becoming what he describes as "an individual practitioner."
Clothing-wise, he meets the Baudelaires dressed in a gray suit with many dark stains on it.
He is often described as unkempt and often dirty. Olaf's poor hygiene is frequent and Olaf mentions that he often goes ten days without a shower. His lack of personal hygiene worsens although Sunny is shocked to see that Olaf has bathed and changed into a new suit.
Olaf wears a new disguise and alias of someone who works under the guardians or works near the area, usually murdering the person who had the occupation previously, that usually fools everyone but the Baudelaires. One or two of his henchmen, also usually disguised, accompany him and aid him in executing his schemes. The following is a list his primary disguises.
- Yessica Haircut - Count Olaf used this improvisational disguise to convince Mr. Poe (whom incidentally had a haircut scheduled), that the Baudelaire children should be given to him before the events of The Bad Beginning (it is exclusive to the Netflix TV series).
- Al Funcoot - An anagram for and used by Count Olaf (the playwright of The Marvelous Marriage).
- Stephano - Dr. Montgomery's assistant herpetologist with a long beard, no hair, and no eyebrows. He had powder covering his ankle tattoo.
- Captain Julio Sham - A sailor with an eyepatch to hide his one eyebrow and a wooden leg to hide his left foot. The real Julio Sham is captain of the Prospero.
- Rabbi - Only mentioned in the book The Wide Window, Count Olaf disguised himself as a rabbi in order to board a train in order to flee Lake Lacrymose's proximity.
- Shirley T. Sinoit-Pécer/St. Ives - Dr. Orwell's receptionist (T. Sinoit-Pécer is receptionist backwards) who wears stockings with eyes on them to cover up the ankle tattoo.
- Coach Genghis - A "renowned" gym teacher working at Prufrock Preparatory School who wears a turban to cover his one eyebrow, and expensive looking running shoes to cover his tattoo of an eye on his ankle. He is reluctant to remove his turban for "religious reasons."
- Gunther - A pinstripe-suit wearing auctioneer. He pretends to come from another country so people believe that he doesn't speak fluent English. Olaf constantly says "please" after and in the middle of every sentence. This is also done by Madame Lulu. He wears horse riding boots to cover up his tattoo, and a monocle to distort his eyebrow.
- Lonely Old Bartender - This disguise only appears in the beginning of The Vile Village in the TV series. Mr. Poe is the lone person to be fooled by it.
- Detective Dupin - A 'famous' detective obsessed with what's cool, including ridiculous sunglasses which cover up his one eyebrow and green plastic shoes with yellow lightning bolts on them that hide the tattoo of an eye on his ankle. He seemingly murdered the real police chief of the Village of Fowl Devotees.
- Mattathias - Heimlich Hospital's new Human Resources director. In the books, his presence is only known from a voice over the intercom, while the previous HR director's fate is unknown. However, it is presumed that she was pushed off a building. In the TV series, Mattathias' role is expanded as a doctor named Mattathias Medicalschool so that he has more visual presence.
- Ringleader - Although there is no mention of Olaf disguising himself at the carnival in the book, he dons a ringmaster disguise in the TV series.
- Dad - Exclusive to the TV series, Count Olaf disguises himself as a tourist with his family he dons this disguise during '"The Grim Grotto" and "The Penultimate Peril"' episodes.
- Jacques Snicket - Exclusive to the TV series, Count Olaf disguises himself as Jacques Snicket during The Penultimate Peril episodes.
- Kit Snicket - Count Olaf disguises himself as a pregnant Kit Snicket and uses the helmet containing the Medusoid Mycelium as his false baby (this is his only disguise that doesn't fool a single person).
It is no longer necessary for Olaf to use any disguises as he murders a man, Jacques Snicket, who was believed to be Count Olaf/Omar at the time. The Daily Punctilio published articles prior to this event that entailed that the man who committed numerous crimes was Count Omar and not Olaf. This allowed Olaf to no longer disguise himself and even use his own name as everyone believed Omar was the villain's name. Even though his need for disguises was minimum, he does so one last time in The Hostile Hospital to gain entry into the area. The eighth book also starts Olaf's open obsession with fire, as he burns down Heimlich Hospital in that book and then Caligari Carnival in the ninth book. Numerous mentions of other fires he started and others he plans to do strengthen the theory that he was the one who burnt the Baudelaire Mansion down and murdered the parents.
Behind the scenes
- In the film, Count Olaf is portrayed by Jim Carrey.
- In the video game, he is voiced by Jim Carrey.
- In the TV series, he is portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris.
Count is a title in European countries for a noble of varying status. It is unknown why he is "Count" Olaf. "Count" may be a self-proclaimed title he gave himself, as he is a very narcissistic character. People thought of as "royalty" have also tended to be very wealthy throughout history, although Olaf is implied to live in near poverty, so "Count" may also be a parody of his financial wealth, or technically speaking, lack of.
Olaf is a Scandinavian name, meaning "ancestor", though whether Handler picked the name for its meaning is unknown. Handler has stated that part of the reason he picked the name was to keep the location of ASOUE unknown, as the name of the Baudelaire children are from other locations.
Count Olaf likely is named after Count Olaf Labinski from Theophile Gautier's short story Avatar. Count Olaf in ASOUE has almost no resemblance to this potential literary namesake. Gautier and the real life Charles Baudelaire were contemporaries and friends, and the Baudelaire family in ASOUE was named after Charles Baudelaire.
- "Why in the world would I want to actually marry your sister? It is true she is very pretty, but a man like myself can acquire any number of beautiful women."
- "You’re not looking in the right place. For children who read so much, you two are remarkably unintelligent." (about Sunny's location)
- Klaus: "You could say 'I don't' instead of 'I do' but I'm afraid Count Olaf would order Sunny dropped off the tower.” (to Violet)
Olaf: "I certainly would." (sneaking up on the Baudelaires from behind, making them jump)
- "I am so tired of having to explain everything to you. You're supposed to be so very smart, and yet you always seem to forget about this! This is my knife. It is very sharp and very eager to hurt you, almost as eager as I am. If you don't do what I say, you will suffer bodily harm. Is that clear enough for you? Now, get in the damn jeep." (as Stephano)
- "BLASTED FURNACES OF HELL!" (as Stephano)
- "Well, at first it seemed like I'd kicked a big hole in the baby, which seemed lucky, because Sunny was a terrible athlete and it would have been a blessing to put her out of her misery." (as Coach Genghis)
- "It was worth it. Sometimes a few people need to die in fires or get eaten by lions, if it's all for the greater good."
- "There's no reason to use dental floss, unless you're trying to strangle someone with a very weak neck."
- "Nothing is going right for me today! I'm beginning to think that washing my face was a complete waste of time!"
- "So you're a real person! I always thought you were a legendary figure, like unicorns or Giuseppe Verdi." (to Dewey Denouement)
- "I think the first thing I'll buy for myself is a shiny new car! Something with a powerful engine, so I can drive faster than the legal limit, and an extra-thick bumper, so I can ram into people without getting all scratched up! I'll name the car Count Olaf, after myself, and whenever people hear the squeal of brakes they'll say, 'Here comes Count Olaf!' Orphans, head for the nearest luxury car dealership!" (while stranded on a boat)
- "I'm not a man. I'm a lady with a baby inside her." (disguised as Kit Snicket)
- "The world is a wicked place."
- Violet: "You're trying to trick us."
Olaf: "Of course I'm trying to trick you! That's the way of the world, Baudelaires. Everybody runs around with their secrets and their schemes, trying to outwit everyone else. Ishmael outwitted me, and put me in this cage. But I know how to outwit him and all his islander friends. If you let me out, I can be king of Olaf-Land, and you three can be my new henchfolk."
Klaus: "We don't want to be your henchfolk. We just want to be safe."
Olaf: "Nowhere in the world is safe."
- "I've lost too much to go on— my parents, my true love, my henchfolk, an enormous amount of money I didn't earn, even the boat with my name on it."
- "I've done lots of good things in my life. I once took in three orphans, and I've been considered for several prestigious theatrical awards."
- "You don't know anything. You three children are the same as when I first laid eyes on you. You think you can triumph in this world with nothing more than a keen mind, a pile of books, and the occasional gourmet meal. You're just like your parents."
- "I've been hurt before." (when Klaus notices he's bleeding)
- "I told you I'd do that one last time." (after kissing Kit)
- Olaf: "I must say, you're a gloomy looking bunch. Why so glum?"
Klaus: "...Our parents just died."
Olaf: "Ah, yes, of course. How very, very awful."
- "I'm sorry, I don't speak monkey." (to Sunny)
- "You know, there's a big world out there, filled with desperate orphans who would gladly swim across an ocean of thumbtacks just to be eclipsed by the long shadow cast by my accomplishments. But I don't care about them. I chose to open my heart to you two luvverly children... and your hideous primate! All I ask in return is that you do each and every thing that pops into my head, while I enjoy the enormous fortune your parents left behind."
- "May I have a moment alone with the children? Goodbye, kids. It's been fun. I'm going to get you. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I'll find you! Oh, you are so deceased! Take them, Mr. Poe... before I lose it, big time!"
- "Ah, well, children are strange and foreign to me. I never really was one. I know that they are an important part of the ecosystem."
- "Do you have a hall pass? ...I didn't think so."
- "Damn it... This was such a good character." (when his disguise as Stephano is foiled)
- "And then I'll be arrested and sent to jail and you'll live happily ever after with a friendly guardian, spending your time inventing things and reading books and sharpening your little monkey teeth, and bravery and nobility will prevail at last, and this wicked world will slowly but surely become a place of cheerful harmony, and everybody will be singing and dancing and giggling like the Littlest Elf! A happy ending! Is that what you had in mind? Because I hardly think anyone is going to believe a dead woman."
- "Hot potato!" (giving Sunny to Violet)
- "Quiet, child. The adults are talking." (to Violet)
- "Everybody be cool!" (when Mr. Poe approaches in a boat)
- Klaus: "MR. POE, WE'RE-"
Olaf: "DROWNING." (dunks Klaus' head into the lake)
- "I'm the monster? You're the monster! These children tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen. No one ever listens to children! You think you're innocent?! You're accomplices!" (to Mr. Poe and the audience)
- "I don't have time to learn a second language besides whatever it is I'm speaking right now." (about Sunny's language)
- "You know, some people say that the hardest job in the world is raising a child. But it is nothing compared to conceiving, writing, directing, producing and performing in a theatrical presentation for the purposes of stealing their dead parents' fortune. It's a very difficult job, and I will not have any orphans MUCKING IT UP."
- Klaus: "You'll never touch our fortune!"
Olaf: "Klaus, I'll touch whatever I want." (strokes Violet's shoulder)
- Olaf: "Well, I see you children haven't changed a bit. Violet, you're obviously as stubborn as ever. Klaus, you're still wearing those idiotic glasses from reading too many books. And I can see little Sunny here still has nine toes instead of ten."
Klaus: "What are you talking about? My sister has ten toes, like the vast majority of people."
Olaf: "Really? That's odd. I could have sworn that she lost one of her toes in an accident. I seem to recall a man named Stephano being so confused by being called Count Olaf that he accidentally dropped his knife on one of her little feet and severed one of her toes."
- "If I wanted to harm you, orphan, your blood would be streaming out of this car like a waterfall. No, I am not going to harm a hair on any Baudelaire head. At least, not on purpose. But accidents happen all the time, don't they?"
- "My name is cookie, Shirley? Err... My name is Shirley, cookie?" (posing as Shirley)
- Violet: "Why do you hate us so much?!"
Olaf (as Shirley): "Because it's fun!"
- "Ugh, this marketing is so Season 1. Let's try this my way." (in a trailer for Season 2)
- "Settling down is what losers do. Settling down is what started World War One. Settling down is what happens when you bite your lip and then your lip gets swollen and so you bite your lip again and then you keep doing that thing where you keep biting your lip over and over... I don't want that." (as Coach Genghis)
- Esmé: "Bananas aren't in."
Olaf: "We'll see about that."
- Jacques: "You know what these are?" (holds up handcuffs)
Olaf: "'Bracelet things of justice.' You know, it 's on the tip of my tongue."
- Olivia: "Time's up! They're handcuffs."
Olaf: "Handcuffs! Who knew?"
- "Scram, police! Oh wait... that... that's us. Right..." (when someone shouts "police!" when he and Esmé are disguised as Detective Dupin and Officer Luciana)
- "Sometimes I wonder about you two." (to the white-faced women)
- "Have you ever hunted, Violet? Well, if you had, you'd be familiar with a particular experience. There's a particular moment, at the end of a long hunt, when you have the animal cornered. And the animal looks into your eyes, deep into them, to see if there's any mercy in there. And when it sees that there is not... it gives up. It gives its life to you. Well, I have you cornered, Violet, and I have no mercy. Soon enough, your siblings will fall into my trap. And when they do, I won't be satisfied with just your fortune. This time, I will obliterate you and the entire Baudelaire line in the cruelest way imaginable. Won't that be FUN!?"
- "Attention. This is Dr. Mattathias Medicalschool with some very important news. A terrible fire has broken out in the Heimlich Hospital... Oh, and you might want to evacuate the building. Or move the patients or something. Thank you."
- "Eat the damn corn." (to Violet and Klaus disguised as freaks)
- Olaf: "I want you to light this tent on fire."
Olaf: "Yes, REALLY. You're with us now, freaks. REALLY light this tent on fire. REALLY destroy all these papers and notes and the rest of Madame Lulu's boring clutter, and then REALLY meet me at the car when you're done."
- "I know just how you feel. My first time was hard, too. Let me help you with that." (helping Violet and Klaus set the carnival on fire)
- Part of the depiction of Olaf being such a bad person in the narration of ASOUE seems to be from Lemony Snicket's own personal dislike of Olaf.
- ASOUE is often categorized as "children's literature", albeit a parody of it which adults can also enjoy. In addition to being a serial killer, Olaf does not shy away from using slightly profane language like "damn" and "hell" which makes him unique in the children's literature medium.
- Olaf has also been theorized by many readers to be an ephebophile, due to his interactions with Violet. Kit Snicket also seems considerably younger than he is, supporting he prefers women on the young side. Despite the fortune being his main incentive for the play, it is possible that Olaf actually preferred a marriage with Violet, enjoyed the idea of being her husband and seriously planned on living with his "countess" for the rest of his life. He says, "Now, if all of you will excuse me, my bride and I need to go home for our wedding night." In The Carnivorous Carnival, when the troupe votes on who to keep alive, Olaf says, "...Violet. She's the prettiest." In the TV series, Olaf also goes in for a kiss, although he stops and says "okay" when he sees Violet does not want to.
- In Lemony Snicket's Unauthorized Autobiography, the VFD members are talking about where to find new headquarters. O. (Olaf) and E. (Esmé) interrupt the conversation. O. announces that he wants to be called 'T'. It is implied that his real name starts with a 'T'. However, he could only want to be called, "The Count."
- In The Bad Beginning Special Edition, at the Author's Notes, Lemony Snicket has hinted that the City's official fire department might actually be owned by Olaf, based on the fact there is a large O signage at the fire department.
- His license plate is IH8 ORFNS, shown in an illustration for The Carnivorous Carnival.
- It is possible he was once in a relationship with Olivia Caliban (Madame Lulu), since she said the she remembers when he visit "only for the pleasure of her company."
- He seems to be an avid fan of cake as he stole 27 cakes. He is also shown eating cake in the TV series.
- It's possible that he was loosely based on the character of Count Fosco in the novel The Woman in White, a gothic novel of the "secret society" and "anti-Illuminati" sub-genres. Fosco also plots to steal fortunes and murder those who hold them. Additionally, he is outsmarted by his intended victim and scared off by a member of a secret society. He is described as having glimmering eyes, similar to Olaf's "shiny eyes". See quotes from The Woman in White below:
|The Woman in White|
"He fixed his unfathomable grey eyes on me, with that cold, clear, irresistible glitter in them which always forces me to look at him, and always makes me uneasy while I do look. An unutterable suspicion that his mind is prying into mine overcomes me at these times, and it overcame me now."
"He spoke last of you. His eyes brightened and hardened, and his manner changed to what I remember it in past times—to that mixture of pitiless resolution and mountebank mockery which makes it so impossible to fathom him."'
"Not the shadow of a doubt crossed my mind of the purpose for which the Count had left the theatre. His escape from us, that evening, was beyond all question the preliminary only to his escape from London. The mark of the Brotherhood was on his arm—I felt as certain of it as if he had shown me the brand; and the betrayal of the Brotherhood was on his conscience—I had seen it in his recognition of Pesca."
- Olaf may have knowledge of Italian. When the Baudelaires announce they are serving pasta puttanesca, Olaf replies, "What did you call me?" The name translates to "sauce in the style of the prostitute" or "whore's spaghetti". Italian legend has it that this dish was named as such because it was the everyday prostitutes signature dish, due to the affordability of its ingredients and how 'easy' it is to make. Later, when he is disguised as Stephano, he claims to be an Italian man.
- Olaf's eye tattoo resembles Brett Helquist's earlier illustrations, rather than the V.F.D. insignia seen in later books.
- Olaf attempts to kill the orphans with a train and frame it as an accident, making it seem like it contradicts his motives as Olaf needs at least one of them alive, preferably Violet, to inherit the Baudelaire fortune. However, Olaf has the misconception that he would inherit the fortune if all of them died. His play was originally titled The Marvelous Carriage, and the plot involved the real deaths of the Baudelaire children by being fatally struck by a carriage in an "accident". After finding out from Mr. Poe that the children's death would not deem him eligible for a claim to the Baudelaire fortune, he renamed and completely rewrote the play into The Marvelous Marriage.
- The production company and license used to film the series in Vancouver is called "Olaf II Productions Inc."
- Neil Patrick Harris got a real tattoo on his ankle.
- When Neil Patrick Harris asked Daniel Handler how old Count Olaf was supposed to be, Handler replied, "You know, however old kids think old people are."
- Count Olaf sometimes makes fourth-wall breaks. For example, he says he prefers entertainment from the comfort of his own home, a reference to Netflix. Sometimes he occasionally looks directly into the camera after saying something like, "I hate boring television." During Season 2, he tells the Baudelaires, "If you had the skills to stop me, we wouldn't be having this batch of episodes in your new lives."
- In the movie theater, Olaf insults a movie theatre as a "godforsaken nickelodeon". "Nickelodeon" was in fact a term for a neighborhood movie theatre that took a nickel as the admission fee. However, some fans believe this is Daniel Handler throwing shade at the film which was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, due to the fact that he wasn't allowed to work on it much and had mixed feelings about it.
- A running gag in Season 2 seems to be that Olaf is clumsy.
- The Bad Beginning
- The Reptile Room
- The Wide Window
- The Miserable Mill
- The Austere Academy
- The Ersatz Elevator
- The Vile Village
- The Hostile Hospital
- The Carnivorous Carnival
- The Slippery Slope
- The Grim Grotto
- The Penultimate Peril
- The End
- The Beatrice Letters (Mentioned only)
- Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (Mentioned only)
- Shouldn't You Be in School? (Mentioned only)
- Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? (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)
- ↑ According to a Daily Punctilio seen near the end of The Austere Academy: Part One
- ↑ PROSE: Shouldn't You Be in School?
- ↑ The Jewish Secrets of Lemony Snicket
- ↑ PROSE: The Carnivorous Carnival
- ↑ PROSE: The Penultimate Peril
- ↑ https://mashable.com/2017/03/14/neil-patrick-harris-vfd-tattoo/
- ↑ http://www.slashfilm.com/a-series-of-unfortunate-events-season-2-interview/