Definitions

V F Corporation

V.F.D.

For other uses of these initials, see VFD.

V.F.D. is a fictional secret organization within the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket dedicated to keeping the world quiet and extinguished. V.F.D. is commonly used as an acronym to various related terms used by the organization, which helps to increase the reader's confusion of what the initials actually stand for. The Baudelaires excepted, the meanings are perfectly clear to the organization's members.

History in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Series''

V.F.D. was first mentioned in The Austere Academy when Duncan and Isadora Quagmire were kidnapped by the villainous Count Olaf. The Baudelaires heard the Quagmires scream "V.F.D!" , however the Quagmires were taken away before they could say anything further. There are mentions of V.F.D. in every book in the series following The Austere Academy. The theme becomes increasingly prominent in subsequent volumes as the Baudelaire orphans investigate the initials' true meaning, and it appears to figure centrally in their parents' deaths and the schemes of their enemy, Count Olaf. It eventually transpires that it is the name of a secret organization. The Slippery Slope suggests that V.F.D. stands for 'Volunteer Fire Department', among other things; in The End Lemony Snicket's narration confirms that 'Volunteer Fire Department' is the correct meaning of the initials. In The Grim Grotto, it is revealed that while this was the origin of the organization, its members had many other interests.

While the name "Volunteer Fire Department" connotes a group that actively puts out fires (metaphorically as well as literally, according to Kit Snicket), it can be read to mean a group that actively starts fires, which indeed happens when the group is split because of a schism. One group of schismatics puts out fires and the other group sets fires. When the schism occurred and exactly why it occurred is unknown, except that it was in the childhood of Kit Snicket and Dewey Denouement and that it appears that a line has been drawn between those who stop fires and those who start them. The members of the former are called "volunteers" and the members of the latter are called "villains". The "volunteers" often appear to be desperate, in that their situation seems to be one of dire straits. It is openly stated that the "villains" are growing more powerful and the "volunteers" weaker; however, the epilogue of the thirteenth and final book suggests that after the events there of, the "volunteer" half of the organization seems to have survived or recovered, while the "villain" half has returned to its former power.

The protagonists of the series (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire) discover that their parents were members of this secret organization, as were many of the guardians they were placed with after their parents' death, along with various other people they encounter throughout the books.

Codes

The organization makes use of many codes, most notably the Sebald Code. Other codes used include:

  • Mozart's 14th Symphony, whistled;
  • Verse Fluctuation Declaration, where coded of poems are replaced and the correct substitutions convey the coded message;
  • Verbal Fridge Dialogue, using the contents of a refrigerator to encode documents;
  • Various coded phrases, including "The world is quiet here" (a reference to the poem "The Garden of Proserpine" by Algernon Charles Swinburne), "I didn't realize this was a sad occasion", "Well, young lady, have you been good to your mother?/The question is, has she been good to me?", and "If there's nothing out there, then what was that noise?";
  • The Sebald Code is a code in which during any type of communication-- be it a movie, a lecture, a song, a speech, or normal dialogue-- the first word and every tenth word afterwards form the plaintext of the coded message. The start of the code is signified by the ringing of bells, or the word "ring" in written texts. Character Gustav Sebald includes the Sebald Code in all of his plays and productions.

The Sugar Bowl

A mysterious sugar bowl is of value to members on both sides of the schism, of which it is stated to be the cause and serves as a MacGuffin to drive the story in later books. Despite it and its contents being pursued by volunteers, villains, and the Baudelaires, its significance is never revealed and it does not appear in the final book of the series. The one hint to its true meaning is the remark, "it isn't the sugar bowl that's important, it's what's inside it". The sugar bowl is known to have belonged to Esmé Squalor, who thinks that Beatrice stole it from her (this instigates her hatred toward the Baudelaires). However, Snicket admits to have stolen it and states that he later ponders whether it was right to do so or not.

The Baudelaires' discoveries

  1. V.F.D. is first mentioned by Duncan Quagmire in The Austere Academy, when he tries to tell Klaus something terrible about Count Olaf's past, but can only manage to yell the organization's initials before he's taken away.
  2. Next, in The Ersatz Elevator, the Baudelaires discover a tunnel from 667 Dark Avenue (the home of Esmé and Jerome Squalor) to the Baudelaire mansion. Esmé is part of the V.F.D.'s fire-starting side, whereas Jerome became a part of the firefighting side sometime after the events in The Ersatz Elevator. Also, in the 'In Auction' the Baudelaires buy 'V.F.D.' but find out that it only stood for 'Very Fancy Doilies' and that this was not the V.F.D. they were looking to find (doilies are very briefly mentioned also in the twelfth book, when the author makes a vague reference to a family that has been scouring the globe for a terribly important doily).
  3. In The Vile Village, the Baudelaires are offered a home in a village known only as "V.F.D.". Thinking this may be related to the aforementioned secret, they arrive only to find it stands for Village of Fowl Devotees. The two V.F.D.s are apparently unrelated. Also, they meet a man named Jacques who appears to be a member of V.F.D.. Jacques says his job is being a "Volunteer-" but is cut off by Esmé. Later, Duncan yells the word "Volunteer" while being lifted off by Hector's self-sustaining hot-air mobile home.
  4. In The Hostile Hospital, the Baudelaires meet a group of people who call themselves the Volunteers Fighting Disease, also probably unrelated to the secret organization. The trio later discover that one of their parents may be alive, as suggested by a sentence written on the 13th page of the Snicket File: "Because of the evidence discussed on page nine, experts now suspect that there may, in fact, be one survivor of the fire", which was accompanied by a photograph of the Baudelaire parents, Jacques Snicket, and a person whose face is turned against the camera (most likely Lemony Snicket). This fire survivor could be Beatrice, though she is stated in numerous places to be dead. In book 10, Quigley Quagmire states his belief that he was the survivor mentioned.
  5. In The Carnivorous Carnival the Baudelaires learn about the disguise kit and are introduced to the eye.
  6. In The Slippery Slope, it is suggested that the initials actually stand for Volunteer Fire Department, which ties in with a number of other clues in the novels. Also, it is said that volunteers have passageways built underneath their houses so they can escape to safe places during fires.
  7. In The Grim Grotto, Captain Widdershins tells the Baudelaires that V.F.D. started out as a fire department, but eventually expanded to have planes and ships and included many areas of undercover studies.
  8. In The Penultimate Peril, the Baudelaires find a person named Dewey Denouement, who was the only one who knew where the sugar bowl is. When he died, the secret supposedly died with him, although the narrative implies that the bowl was removed by a taxi driver, who is suggested to be Lemony Snicket himself.
  9. In The End, it is revealed that the initials stand for Volunteer Fire Department, although it is hinted that the same initials stand for a variety of things, as does the organization to which the initials belong.

Snicket's hints

In Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, many occurrences of V.F.D. are seen; more importantly, it reveals much more about the nature of V.F.D. as an organization:

  • Many members have belonged to V.F.D. since they were children. (page 38)
  • Children were stolen from their parents - albeit with permission page 38 - and were raised to become volunteers (pages 12-20). The children were selected for having exceptional observational and note-taking skills (page 39). The children were then isolated from their families.
  • The goal of V.F.D. is to ensure that the world remains "quiet"; the pledge of the secret society is "The world is quiet here". This is an allusion to the first lines of Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem, The Garden of Proserpine. (pages 36 and 39)
  • Count Olaf was a member of V.F.D. (page 45).
  • Because of its enemies, V.F.D. is forced to change its headquarters often. (page 51)
  • Members of V.F.D. do not get paid. (page 19)
  • Since the schism, V.F.D. has realized that it is unwise to permanently mark oneself with a symbol when the meaning of the symbol may change at any moment, so people who now join V.F.D. do not receive a tattoo anymore. (page 191)
  • Headquarters of V.F.D. have been constructed by Lucky Smells Lumbermill using special "emerald lumber". (page 170)

Locations with V.F.D. activity

The following is a list of locations with V.F.D. activity.

  • Count Olaf's House (The Bad Beginning): The eye symbol appears all over the house; Count Olaf was a V.F.D. member, and later figured prominently as a leading "villain".
  • Uncle Monty's House (The Reptile Room): Home to the famed Reptile Room, which housed V.F.D.'s supply of reptiles, some of which were trained to sense arson activity. It also contains a library of V.F.D. and reptile books. The reptiles were removed by the Herpetological Society; in The Slippery Slope, it was revealed that Olaf cheated a man (Bruce) out of the reptile collection, so they are now in Olaf's ownership ("except for one", which escapes Olaf's clutches and is possibly the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which appeared in The End). The reptiles' whereabouts are unknown, and the house was burned down. It had a secret passage to the Quagmire mansion. It was located in the countryside, on or near Lousy Lane.
  • Aunt Josephine's House (The Wide Window): Before being destroyed during Hurricane Herman, it was located by the shores of Lake Lachrymose. In Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, it says that important documents are located in Ivan Lachrymose: Lake Explorer under someone's bed. A copy of this book is located under Aunt Josephine's bed.
  • Lucky Smells Lumbermill (The Miserable Mill): The archives for the Daily Punctilio were kept nearby the lumbermill, although they were eventually destroyed. The lumbermill itself provided lumber for a number of buildings connected to V.F.D.
  • Dr. Orwell's Office (The Miserable Mill): The office is shaped like an eye.
  • Prufrock Preparatory School (The Austere Academy) Ms. K., who was Kit Snicket in disguise, taught at the school and recruited two children there upon being fired.
  • 667 Dark Avenue (The Ersatz Elevator): It contains a secret passage which leads to the Baudelaire mansion. Jacques Snicket begged Jerome Squalor to purchase the apartment, most likely to protect the passageway. Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography states that there is a floor above the penthouse apartment. The book also implies that this location is important.
  • Heimlich Hospital (The Hostile Hospital): The hospital's Library of Records is shown both in the text and in illustrations to contain documents pertinent to V.F.D.
  • Caligari Carnival (The Carnivorous Carnival): The carnival is the home of Madame Lulu, who owns a V.F.D. disguise kit and an archival library containing numerous V.F.D.-related documents. It was mentioned that crucial evidence was hidden inside a figurine sold there.
  • Mortmain Mountains (The Slippery Slope): The Valley of Four Drafts in the Mortmain Mountains was home of the V.F.D. Headquarters before it was burnt down. The sugar bowl was there at one point, although it was tossed out the window when the fire began. Several activities were conducted, including training, stargazing, and others. A cave in the mountains is home to a Vertical Flame Diversion, where one can climb to and from the headquarters, and for security, a Vernacularly Fastened Door, which only opens on certain conditions. Several caves were home to Volunteer Feline Detectives, which were lions trained to smell smoke.
  • Anwhistle Aquatics (The Grim Grotto): Anwhistle Aquatics was a marine research and rhetorical advice center run by a volunteer, Gregor Anwhistle, and built on top of a grotto where volunteers met. The sugar bowl floated there, but was collected by an unknown individual. When the center was destroyed before the series began, the Medusoid Mycelium was released into the Grotto. Was burnt down by Fernald, or Hook Handed Man after he joined V.F.D
  • Hotel Denouement (The Penultimate Peril): The hotel was V.F.D.'s "last safe place". There is a catalog of every villain, related objects, characters and incidents that is hidden in a secret building beneath the pond. It was home to Dewey Denouement and his brothers.
  • Baudelaire Mansion: The home of Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire was burned down. The mansion has a passageway which connects it to 667 Dark Avenue. It was also made of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill's emerald lumber.
  • Vineyard of Fragrant Drapes (Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography): The vineyard is a garden where marriages are held. Sometimes disguises itself as the Vineyard of Fragrant Grapes. Communications using V.F.D. codes have been sent from there.
  • Daedalus Dock (Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography): The Prospero is a ship for V.F.D. transport.
  • Valorous Farms Dairy (Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography): A dairy where Lemony Snicket's birth took place.
  • Café Salmonella (The Ersatz Elevator) and Anxious Clown (The Wide Window): Both restaurants employ waiters who may be part of V.F.D.. It is suggested in The Grim Grotto that Café Salmonella waiters are traitors, who destroyed V.F.D.'s fleet of smoke-sniffing salmon.
  • Opportune Odors Horseradish Factory (The Grim Grotto): The factory prouduced horseradish, the antidote to Medusoid Mycelium, and was built by Lucky Smells Lumbermill.
  • "Olaf-Land" (The End): It is situated in the global currents, which cause it to collect various debris, including survivors of shipwrecks. Members of V.F.D., including the Baudelaire parents, attempted to create a safe utopian society on its soil, but were prevented. There were once plans to build a tunnel from there to Anwhistle Aquatics.

Other instances of V.F.D. in the series

V.F.D. animals

Members

The following is a table depicting all of the known members of V.F.D. and the role of each member in the plot. As some characters' V.F.D. membership is only assumed or implied in the books, this list may not be absolutely accurate.

Volunteers

Name Description/occupation Plot Status
Lemony Snicket Author of the books Mysterious researcher who records and publishes the unfortunate events of the Baudelaire lives. Has an unknown role in the fire-stopping side of V.F.D. Possibly co-researcher with Dewey Denouement. Alive (whereabouts unknown)
Jacques Snicket Lemony and Kit Snicket's brother Was framed for being Count Olaf (due to their similar appearance) and to be burned at the stake in the Village of Fowl Devotees, but was instead murdered by the real Count Olaf, who then blamed it on the three Baudelaire children. Dead (see left)
Kit Snicket Lemony and Jacques Snicket's sister and previously Mrs. K at Prufrock Preparatory School. Mentioned a few times in the Grim Grotto, and takes the Baudelaires away in a taxi at the end of the book. Dead (died of the Medusoid Mycelium while giving birth to her child Beatrice)
Ike and Josephine Anwhistle Third guardian of Baudelaire orphans Both were apparently devoured by the Lachrymose leeches on separate occasions, although it is possible that Aunt Josephine did not die, as Lemony Snicket has never directly stated that she died. Ike died before the Baudelaires were put into their care, but Josephine was tossed out of a boat by Count Olaf. Most Likely Dead (Lachrymose leeches)
Dr. Gustav Sebald film director & Dr. Montgomery's former assistant Uses the Sebald code in his films to pass on coded messages to volunteers. Uncle Monty's old assistant. Dead (murdered by Count Olaf)
Sally Sebald Sister of Dr. Gustav Sebald Heir to the Sebald estate. Claimed to be, in a letter to Lemony Snicket, the "Executrix of the Sebald Estate." Unknown
Hector Previous resident of the Village of Fowl Devotees and the seventh Baudelaire guardian. Escaped with Isadora and Duncan Quagmire in the Self-Sustaining Hot-Air Mobile Home at the end of The Vile Village Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)
Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire Most likely members of V.F.D. Parents of the Baudelaire orphans, presumed to have been killed in a mansion fire (although it is suggested that there was a survivor). In The Penultimate Peril, it is implied that the Baudelaire parents were involved in the murder of Olaf's parents by poison darts. Probably dead (fire)
Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire Orphaned triplets and heirs to the Quagmire Sapphires The Baudelaires met and befriended Duncan (an aspiring journalist) and Isadora (a poet) at Prufrock Preparatory School. Quigley was thought to have perished in the fire that killed the Quagmire parents, but is discovered alive in The Slippery Slope. He is a cartographer. Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)
Captain Widdershins Submarine captain Stepfather of Fiona and Fernald (the hook-handed man). His personal philosophy is "He who hesitates is lost" Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)
Dr. Montgomery Montgomery Herpetologist Second and most beloved guardian of the Baudelaires. Actual involvement is debatable; he never learnt the Sebald code, but has V.F.D. books in his library, his collection of snakes was used by V.F.D. and he intended to travel on the "Prospero". Dead (injected with snake venom by Count Olaf)
Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire Unknown Parents of Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire. Died in the fire that destroyed their home. Mother hid Quigley in a secret passage leading to Montgomery Montgomery's house. Dead (fire)
Ishmael The facilitator of an island of castaways Ishmael was one of the first castaways, and he knew the Baudelaire parents. Also, Count Olaf reveals that Ishmael has a V.F.D. tattoo. Probably alive (was exposed to Medusoid Mycelium, but had hybrid apples as antidote)
Larry Waiter at the Anxious Clown restaurant Suspected member of V.F.D, he uses the phrase "I didn't realize this was a sad occasion" and works at the Anxious Clown restaurant suspected to have V.F.D. members disguised as waiters. Unknown
Frank Denouement Hotel Manager at the Hotel Denouement One of the identical Denouement triplets Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)
Dewey Denouement Sub-Sub Librarian One of the identical Denouement triplets. Implied that he is the father of Kit Snicket's baby. Dead (Count Olaf hurriedly pushes the harpoon gun into the Baudelaires' hands, presumably to act "innocent," and the harpoon gun falls and accidentally goes off. It impales Dewey in the chest and he utters a "pained, choking gasp" before stumbling backward into the pond. His last word was "Kit" for Kit Snicket and he sinks into the pond and dies, still clutching the harpoon at his chest. The children finally tell Kit that Dewey is dead in The End)

Villains

Name Occupation Plot Status
Count Olaf Impresario The Baudelaires' first guardian, intent (often irrationally) on acquiring both the Baudelaire and Quagmire fortunes. Previous member of V.F.D. before the schism. Implied, like Dewey Denouement, to have been the father of Kit Snicket's child. Dead (died from Harpoon wound )
Esmé Squalor Financial advisor Sixth guardian of the Baudelaires. Olaf's girlfriend for books 7-12 (they broke up at the end of The Penultimate Peril). Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)
Geraldine Julienne Reporter Reported the Baudelaire case inaccurately, and locked her editor in the basement on Esmé Squalor's orders; she seems otherwise clueless of V.F.D. activity. Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)
The man with a beard, but no hair High Court judge Probably one of the lead villains, considered above even Count Olaf. Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)
The woman with hair, but no beard High Court judge Probably one of the lead villains, considered above even Count Olaf. Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)
Dr. Georgina Orwell Hypnotist/Eye Doctor Conspired with Olaf to steal the orphan's fortune. While there is no solid evidence that she is a V.F.D. member, she does possess a jeweled cane that transforms into a sword, which is mentioned in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography as part of the 'optometrist' disguise. Dead (she was killed when she stepped backward into a log cutter)
Ernest Denouement Hotel Manager at the Hotel Denouement One of the identical Denouement triplets. Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)

Unknown loyalties

Name Occupation Plot Status
Olivia Caliban/Madame Lulu Fortune teller at Caligari Carnival Helped Olaf locate the Baudelaires, and later "fell" into a pit of lions. Could be Friday's (The End) aunt, as it is mentioned that a postcard from Kit Snicket to Olivia Caliban washes up on the shores of the island. Dead (eaten by lions)

Has changed sides

Name Occupation Plot Status
Fiona Mycologist Stepdaughter of Captain Widdershins. She joined Count Olaf in The Grim Grotto to be close to her brother Fernald, however, in The Penultimate Peril, Count Olaf states that she and her brother took off on a search for their stepfather, Captain Widdershins. Kit Snicket claims that the pair found their stepfather at the end of The End. Unknown (said by Kit to have been taken by the Great Unknown)
Fernald, the "hook-handed man" Actor Stepson of Captain Widdershins and brother to Fiona. Didn't get along with his stepfather and subsequently joined V.F.D. as one of Count Olaf's henchmen. He later left Olaf on a mission to find his stepfather with his sister, Fiona. Kit Snicket claims that the pair found their stepfather at the end of The End. Unknown (said by Kit to have been taken by the Great Unknown)

Other possible members

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