- "There are some things we might not know, but that doesn't mean we should give up. We can find out what we need to know. We can find out anything."
- —Klaus Baudelaire, The Carnivorous Carnival
Klaus Baudelaire is the middle Baudelaire child and one of the three protagonists of A Series of Unfortunate Events. He is the younger brother of Violet Baudelaire, older brother of Sunny Baudelaire, and is the only boy in his family.
He is very intelligent and enjoys reading books. However, he is also an extremely unlucky and unfortunate boy.
Despite his research, Lemony Snicket does not know what happened to Klaus after the final novel. There is a possibility that Klaus and his siblings died.
- "This is NOT home. HOME is where your parents put you to bed at night, where they teach you to ride a bike, or where they get choked up on your first day of school. This is NOT home. How could they do this to us?! Mom and Dad. Violet, you're thinking it, too. How could they?! They had no plan for us at all?! ...Do you think anything will ever feel like home again?"
- —Klaus trying to escape Count Olaf's house in the film
Klaus is extremely intelligent for someone a little older than twelve years old (at the beginning of the series). A running gag in the series is someone explaining what a word means, and he replies, "I/We know what ____ means."
Klaus is acknowledged as the reader and researcher of his siblings. He is a bibliophile, and loves nothing more than to read a good book (Fiona is a close second). Having read more books than most people do in a lifetime, Klaus thrives off reading and would want no more than a good book, a comfy chair, and the warm glow of a reading lamp. He is known to have read a good deal of the Baudelaires' private library before it was destroyed in the terrible fire in which the children's parents both perished. He also reads whatever he can anywhere else including the remains of the V.F.D Library, Josephine Anwistle's grammar library, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery's reptile library, Charles' library, etc.
Klaus is always there to help his siblings with most words and phrases they do not understand and has a photographic memory, able to remember many things he reads. This has helped the Baudelaire orphans immensely. Klaus believed all his life that if you read enough books, you could solve any problem, something about which the Baudelaires' friend Quigley Quagmire agrees.
Despite being knowledgeable, Klaus is not a supercomputer, however. For example, in The Bad Beginning, he doesn't know what Molotov cocktails are. In The Ersatz Elevator, he doesn't know what "xenophobe" means, so Jerome Squalor explains it.
It is said that Herman Melville is one of his favorite authors, and that he particularly enjoys "the way Melville dramatizes the plight of overlooked people, such as poor sailors or exploited youngsters, through his strange, often experimental philosophical prose." He also admires Hammurabi. His least favorite poet is Edgar Guest, saying, "he was a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics."
While generally polite and well-mannered like Violet, Klaus has a tendency to correct people when they are wrong, which can make him seem like a rude know-it-all at times. For example, he can't help but correct someone who claims an eagle is a mammal instead of bird. When someone says, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar", Klaus replies, "Actually, you'll catch more flies with manure." (Note: he only says this in the TV series, not the book.) This shows how much Klaus cares about accurate information.
The Bad Beginning
Klaus lived with his parents and two siblings Violet and Sunny until he was twelve years old, at which time the Baudelaire Mansion burned to the ground while he, Sunny, and Violet were at Briny Beach. The Baudelaire children became the Baudelaire orphans. He and his sisters were sent to live with the dreadful Count Olaf.
Count Olaf forced them to do all of his chores and treated them abysmally, a word which here means, "awfully, especially in the field of parenting and trying to get his hands on their enormous fortune". At one point, when Klaus reminded Olaf that they are unable to use their inheritance until Violet is of age, Olaf slaps Klaus so hard that it leaves a bruise the next day.
The count tried to gain control of the massive Baudelaire Fortune by illegally attempting to marry Violet during a play he and his acting troupe wrote. Due to Klaus's excellent researching skills, Olaf's plot was foiled and he was almost arrested before managing to escape with his comrades.
The Reptile Room
The Baudelaires are sent to live with their giddy Uncle Monty. The story may start cheerily at first, with the Baudelaire orphans having a splendid time with their Uncle Monty in the Reptile Room, but when Monty's new assistant Stephano comes to stay, terror shadows the children's lives once more. Stephano is recognised by the children as Count Olaf in disguise the moment they lay eyes on him. Stephano tries acting normally, though he once smashed a brass reading lamp over Monty's head, blaming Klaus. Then, after seeing the movie "Zombies in the Snow", Stephano uses poison from a venomous snake, the Mamba du Mal, to murder Uncle Monty, blaming it on the herpetologist's newest aquisition, the Incredibly Deadly Viper. The Incredibly Deadly Viper's name is a misnomer, because it is in fact completely harmless and friendly. The police and Mr. Poe do not believe the children when they try to explain this, but eventually they are convinced; unfortunately by then, Olaf escapes.
The Wide Window
Klaus and his sisters were transferred to their ever- fearful Aunt Josephine. Klaus' only toy, after trading with Sunny and Violet, was a rattle. Captain Sham (Count Olaf) appears, and pretends to have an affair with Josephine, but eventually he reveals his identity, and threatens Josephine, forcing her to write a note that will leave the children in his care. Josephine faked her suicide. Klaus then decoded a message from Aunt Josephine's suicide note with a swelled tongue via peppermint allergy. The message read "Curdled Cave". They went there and tried to convince Josephine to come back. Josephine was unwillling, so Klaus used his trump card, turning Josephine's fear of realtors against her, by telling her that the cave was for sale, and that there would be realtors coming. Klaus watches helplessly as Aunt Josephine gets thrown to the leeches and calls Olaf a fiend for murdering her.
The Miserable Mill
Klaus, Violet, and Sunny were sent to Lucky Smells Lumbermill, where they were put to work by Sir, for a wage of coupons and gum (which is later revealed to be illegal). After a few days, Klaus is tripped by Foreman Flacutono (who is later revealed to be the bald man with the long nose, one of Olaf's associates) and his glasses are destroyed. Klaus is brought to the optometrist, Georgina Orwell, to get repairs, but she hypnotizes him since she is working with Count Olaf. Klaus is later found by his sisters in a daze in front of the mill, and immediately Violet suspects something is wrong. After being instructed to operate the stamping machine the next day, Klaus is forced to cause an accident when the stamping machine destroys a string machine and falls on Phil's leg, the Baudelaires' optomistic friend. While in a rant, the foreman accidentally says "inordinate", undoing Klaus' hypnosis. However, the foreman trips him again and his glasses break, causing him to be hypnotized once more. Later that night, a hypnotized Klaus is instructed to slice up Charles, Sir's assistant. This would cause the Baudelaires to be fired and put in the hands of Count Olaf, who is under the alias of Shirley. Violet is able to unhypnotize him with the word "inordinate", and while his sisters are overwhelmed, Klaus is able to save Charles using an invention he crafted, despite his field being research l. Dr. Orwell gets into a sword against teeth fight with sunny. Eventually, Sir enters the mill, surprising Orwell so much she stepped backwards, right into the sawing machine, fatally sliced. (In the Netflix series, Dr. Orwell instead stumbles backwards into the furnace when confronted with an angry mob of unhypnotized workers.) Although Klaus is not put into Shirley's care, he is fired by Sir and sent off to boarding school with his siblings.
The Austere Academy
Violet, Klaus and Sunny were sent to Prufrock Preparatory School, a boarding school run by Vice Principal Nero. They were forced to stay in a shack ovverrun by small, toe-pinching crabs, attend dull classes, bullied by Carmelita Spats, and listen to long violin rehearsals by the Vice Principal, who was a terrible violin player. They met two orphaned triplets named Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, who they became quite close with. A friendship developed between Klaus and Isadora, from whom Klaus learned the usefulness of a commonplace book. There were subtle allusions to a romantic relationship between the two.
The Ersatz Elevator
Violet, Sunny, and Klaus are taken in by Esmé and Jerome Squalor, who live at 667 Dark Avenue. Esmé is very "in style" and bases all her decisions off of whether it is "in" or "out". The orphans meet up again with the two Quagmire triplets who are caged in a secret tunnel underneath the apartment building in which Esmé and Jerome reside. They are very close to rescuing them, when the two triplets mysteriously vanish. The Baudelaires are then taken to an auction by the Squalors, which they have discovered is the location that the Quagmire triplets have been moved to. Klaus reads a catalog and states (wrongly) that the Quagmires are inside the VFD (very fancy doilies) lot at the in auction. But they are really hidden in Lot #48, a literal red herring.
The Vile Village
The Baudelaire orphans are brought to live in the Village of Fowl Devotees. Klaus reads about mob psychology and the rules of the village, unfortunately being too late because Jacques Snicket had already been murdered mysteriously by Olaf. He spends his 13th birthday in a jail cell, however he and his siblings manage to escape by dissolving the mortar with spongy bread and water.
The Hostile Hospital
Klaus types a telegram to Arthur Poe about what has been happening to them, which is ignored by Poe under his sister's instructions. Klaus and Sunny also almost killed Violet when disguising themselves as the two White-Faced Women, disguised as nurses, when they were nearly forced to perform a cranioectomy on their sister. He had to stall to keep Violet alive. They find the last page of the Snicket file which is safely kept in his pocket. With Violet's hair ribbon they steal the keys to the Library of Records from Hal.
The Carnivorous Carnival
Klaus, along with Violet, pretend to be a two headed freak along with Sunny who disguises herself as a wolf baby named Chabo in the Caligari Carnival. Klaus' name in disguise is Elliot. At the end, Count Olaf traps Klaus and Violet in a moving caravan and takes Sunny away with him and his troupe.
The Slippery Slope
Klaus helps Violet to stop the rolling caravan and search for poor Sunny. They also meet up with Quigley Quagmire who has a romantic interest in Violet. Klaus starts his own commonplace book after Quigley gives him one. He helped decode using the Verbal Fridge Dialogue saying that the V.F.D. meeting would be on Thursday. They managed to rescue Sunny from Count Olaf's clutches after she signalled them with Esmé's Verdant Flaming Device. They learn of the sugar bowl, which is revealed to be stolen by Lemony Snicket, and Beatrice their mother.
The Grim Grotto
Violet, Klaus and Sunny are under the sea in this book. They meet Captain Widdershins and Fiona, who Klaus has a romantic interest in. Captain Widdershins is the sort of man who takes some getting used to, being very outspoken, confusing, and true to his motto "He (or she) who hesitates is lost". Captain Widdershins shows them a big black question mark on the submarine's radar, called The Great Unknown. Then he sends the children and Fiona out into the sea to the cave where the sugar bowl has been dumped by the sea. The sugar bowl ends up not being there, having been removed by a mysterious swimming woman. Fiona tells Violet, Klaus, and Sunny about the Medusoid Mycelium and how dangerous and poisonous it is. She recites the poem: "A single spore has such grim power/ that you may die within the hour/ Is dilution simple?/ But of course!/ Just one small dose/ of root of horse." Soon after that, Sunny ends up getting sick and starts dying from the Medusoid Mycelium. Klaus, Fiona, and Violet try to find a way to save her. Luckily they find wasabi which is a condiment that is similar to horseradish, and give it to Sunny. She gets better. Fiona later joins Count Olaf and his troupe (to be with her brother Fernald, who is the hook-handed man). Klaus has his first kiss with Fiona before saying good-bye. The Baudelaires go to Briny Beach and meet Kit Snicket, Lemony Snicket's younger sister, in a taxi.
The Penultimate Peril
Klaus and his sisters pretend to be concierges at the Hotel Denouement. Kit tells them that Ernest in on the other side of V.F.D. and Frank is on their side but they are identical, actually being a pair of identical triplets. Klaus realized that the sugar bowl was delivered by a crow. He opens the Vernacularly Fastened Door using three code, and escapes the Hotel Denouement with his sisters as well as Count Olaf.
Violet, Klaus and Sunny wash up with Count Olaf on an island filled with people who have been shipwrecked. They are then deserted on the coastal shelf with Olaf and the pregnant Kit Snicket.
After The End
Despite all his research and hard work, Lemony does not know the current position, location and status of Klaus or his siblings.
- The Hostile Hospital - Klaus disguises himself as one of the White-Faced Women, who were disguised as nurses, Tocuna and Flo. Klaus is Nurse Tocuna.
- The Carnivorous Carnival - Klaus disguises himself (with Violet) as a two-headed freak, named Elliot and Beverly.
- The Slippery Slope - Klaus is disguised as a Snow Scout.
- The Penultimate Peril - Klaus, along with his sisters, is disguised as a concierge employed by the Hotel Denouement.
Klaus, despite being a volunteer and a considered a protagonist, has committed crimes. He:
- Stole a sailboat in The Wide Window - In order to save his aunt, although he wanted to borrow it.
- Hitchhiked without the driver's permission in the TV series.
- Caused serious damage to Phil's leg and helped Georgina Orwell in her murder attempt of Charles, although he was hypnotized.
- Broke many rules of Prufrock Preparatory School and had Duncan Quagmire impersonate him.
- Is falsely accused of murdering Jacques Snicket.
- Broke Rule #1,742 of the Village of Fowl Devotees: "No one is allowed to escape from jail." - Klaus broke out of jail during The Vile Village (though he was wrongfully imprisoned and he would have burned at the stake).
- Impersonated a doctor in The Hostile Hospital.
- Hitchhiked a ride in the trunk of Olaf's car without permission, in order to avoid asphyxiation.
- Aided in burning down Caligari Carnival (in order to travel with Olaf's group).
- Pretended to be a staff member (a concierge) of Hotel Denouement, despite not being legally employed there.
- Burnt down the Hotel Denouement (as a signal to fellow VFD members), likely killing many people inside.
- Is guilty of indirect manslaughter (Count Olaf tossed a harpoon gun into his hands, which Klaus accidentally slips and sets off, killing Dewey Denouement).
- Partially responsible for infecting the islanders with the Medusoid Mycelium poison and potentially killing them, as he knew it was brought to the island and kept it a secret from the islanders.
Behind the scenes
In the film, Klaus is played by actor Liam Aiken. In the film, Klaus does not wear glasses except for in a couple of brief shots where he is shown trying out an invention of Violet's and when he is reading. It is unknown why the filmmakers didn't have Klaus wear glasses as it would have been problematic for adapting The Miserable Mill, although it's possible the directors only planned to adapt the first three books. He is also shown to have a more pessimistic outlook on his and his sisters' situation.
Liam Aiken also voices Klaus in the video game.
In the TV series, he is portrayed by Louis Hynes.
His name Klaus was chosen because it sounded German and Daniel Handler wanted to make the setting of the series ambiguous; Violet is a fairly British name; Klaus is a fairly German name; Sunny is a fairly American name, and Olaf is a fairly Scandinavian name, and that creates a certain amount of confusion.
- "The cranioectomy will be performed with a knife, which is the oldest surgical tool in the world. Early knives have been found in Egyptian tombs and Mayan temples, where they were used for ceremonial purposes, and mostly fashioned out of stone. Gradually bronze and iron became the essential materials in knives, although some cultures fashioned them out of the incisors of slain animals. There are a number of different types of knives, including the pocket- knife, the penknife, and the drawing knife, but the one required for this cranioectomy is a Bowie knife, named after Colonel James Bowie, who lived in Texas."
- "Before I make the first incision, I would like to say a few words concerning rust. Rust is a reddish-brown coating that forms on certain metals when they oxidize, which is a scientific term for a chemical reaction occurring when iron or steel comes into contact with moisture. The oxidation process is integral to a cranioectomy due to the oxidative processes of cellular mitochondria and cosmetic demystification."
- Mr. Poe: "Don't be absurd! I don't know where you've been, or how you got here, or why you're wearing a picture of Santa Claus on your shirts, but–"
Klaus: "It's Herman Melville. Goodbye, Mr. Poe."
- Klaus: "You won't get a cent until Violet turns 18."
Olaf: "Oh really... says who?"
Klaus: "The law. Look it up."
- "Uh, Violet? Now would be a good time to tie up your hair..."
- Count Olaf (Stephano): "Good morning! I am Stephano, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery's new assistant."
Klaus: "It's afternoon. And you're Count Olaf. We will not help you with your luggage and we will not let you in this house."
- His foil from The Luckiest Kids in the World! written by Loney M. Setnick is a boy named Larry Lotsaluck who, in The Pony Party!, is treated to a fun party, a big prize, a pony ride, several kind and sensible adults, and all the cake he can eat.
- Klaus is drawn with a strong resemblance to Harry Potter. There are stories of boys dressing up as Klaus being mistaken for Harry Potter, especially during Halloween. Due to the order of releases, Klaus would have been modeled after illustrations of Harry Potter in the books, not Daniel Radcliffe. When asked about it, neither Daniel Handler or Brett Helquist replied.
- The Harry Potter series came out just before A Series of Unfortunate Events, so Klaus (and ASOUE) could be seen as a homage, satire or parody of Harry Potter. Klaus is forced to rely on his wits, while Harry Potter often uses magic to solve his problems. Harry Potter is also very popular and has many friends and supportive figures at Hogwarts, while Klaus had a far worse time at Prufrock, only having four people for support (his sisters and the Quagmires). Both Harry and Klaus are set to inherit enormous fortunes, while Klaus' fortune becomes a burden due to Count Olaf plotting to murder Klaus for it. Another possibility is that Klaus was modeled after Harry Potter to subconsciously boost ASOUE sales/popularity, as Harry Potter was booming with sales/popularity.
- Daniel Handler once confirmed that Klaus and his siblings are of Jewish descent. It is unknown if he means ethnicity only, religion only, or both. Klaus is never seen practicing any religious rituals relating to Judaism (although naming a baby after a deceased relative is common in Jewish families, hence "Beatrice" in The End.)
- His father used to take him to the Akhmatova Bookstore as a treat. Jerome takes him there in The Ersatz Elevator.
- He is allergic to peppermint, as are both of his sisters. In Klaus's case, his tongue swells up so much no one can understand a word he says.
- He enjoys custard eclairs which he had with his picnic with Kit Snicket.
- In The Bad Beginning and the film adaptation, it is mentioned that Klaus initially disliked Sunny when she was born. The reasons are unknown; it's possible that it was because his parents focused less on him and more on Sunny. However, he grew to love and accept her, and by six weeks, they were "thick as thieves."
- The Dismal Dinner (Mentioned only)
- 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
- 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)