|This article relies on references to primary sources. (July 2009)|
|A Series of Unfortunate Events character|
|First appearance||The Bad Beginning|
|Last appearance||The End|
|Created by||Lemony Snicket|
|Portrayed by||Jim Carrey|
Count Olaf is a fictional character in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. In the series, Olaf is an eccentric actor and is known to have committed many crimes as a member of the fire-starting side of V.F.D., a Volunteer Fire Department that eventually branched into a massive secret organization, prior to the events of the first book in the series. Olaf is repeatedly described as extremely tall and thin and having a unibrow, a wheezy voice, and gleaming eyes. He is often distinguished by the V.F.D. insignia tattooed on his left ankle (as with most V.F.D. members).
Following the death of Bertrand and Beatrice, the Baudelaire orphans are placed under his care, and he proves to be a horrible guardian, only interested in the fortune left behind by their parents. After Olaf loses his guardianship over the children, he begins a series of attempts to steal the fortune by wearing various disguises and murdering Gustav Sebald, Monty Montgomery, Josephine Anwhistle, and Jacques Snicket, among scores of other related and unrelated victims, as well as attempting to murder Charles and countless others. While the Baudelaire children are always able to see through his disguises and intentions, the adults around them remain completely oblivious to the villain and fail to aid the children, forcing the Baudelaires to unmask Count Olaf and his various schemes numerous times throughout the series.
With the death of Jacques, who is mistakenly identified as the count by The Daily Punctilio, the target of the police manhunt for Olaf shifts to the Baudelaires, who are framed for the murder of Jacques. Olaf uses his newfound immunity to burn down Heimlich Hospital and Caligari Carnival without repercussions. When he and the Baudelaires burn the Hotel Denouement down, however, they are forced to flee the authorities by escaping to sea, where they shipwreck on the island on the coastal shelf. In an attempt to take control of the island, Olaf threatens to release the airborne pathogens of Medusoid Mycelium on the colonists, but is harpooned by Ishmael. Olaf lives long enough to help Kit Snicket safely deliver her child, an event the Baudelaires refer to as the "one good thing" in his life.
Fictional character biography
Count Olaf's criminal youth is referenced several times over the course of the series, most obviously in The Unauthorized Autobiography, in which 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 Count Omar (a name that many confuse with Olaf throughout the series).
In The Carnivorous Carnival 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) watches the film in theater with the Baudelaires and Dr. Montgomery. This presumably started Olaf's career in acting as V.F.D., the secret organization of which Olaf and Sebald were both a part of, often placed their members within occupations that suited their interests as they collected evidence of wrongdoings and prevented fires and crime from occurring. Gustav himself would end up becoming one of Count Olaf's countless victims years later as part of one of his schemes to obtain the Baudelaire fortune. At the end of the same book, when he notices a map of the Mortmain Mountains in Madame Lulu's tent, Olaf makes 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. This book also reveals that Olaf at one point was also after the Snicket fortune, though it is unknown if he succeeded or not, but either way, Madame Lulu did not receive any money, as promised by Olaf.
In an interview on the UK show, " The Entertainment Show", Daniel Handler mentions that Count Olaf's evil is really a product of him being taught and encouraged to act in such a way. While not truly evil as a child initially, Olaf was mauled into a villain throughout his years at V.F.D. training school by an external party, most likely his parents, who have been hinted to being villains as well. This indicates that Olaf, who has shown admiration towards his parents, was taught to commit crimes and horrible acts on their behalf and eventually became consumed with his own greed and lust for vengeance against the organization that stood against his parents, holding a particular vendetta to those who killed them and anyone connected to the assassins.
In The Beatrice Letters, a young Snicket writes to Beatrice about someone he only identifies as 'O'; "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' (thought to be an anagram of 'preemptive war', although this is never confirmed) 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." and "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."
The Beatrice Letters further reveal that Olaf was inducted into V.F.D. (Volunteer Fire Department) as a child and given the insignia tattoo (an eye that cleverly hid the initials of the organization) on his left ankle along with Lemony Snicket, the Baudelaire parents, and many other characters from the series where he was trained in various skills such as secret coding and disguising, these skills eventually serving his criminal career well. While initially starting out as a simple fire department, the vast amount of interests the members (many of whom were wealthy) had expanded the organization into a worldwide secret society with the use of all the members' powerful and lucrative ties and connections. Eventually, the organization became dedicated to not only stopping arson, particulalry a group of arsonists that were targeting wealthy families for their inheritances, but other crimes as well to keep the world safe, quiet, and educated. To this end, the organization operated in absolute secrecy, using codes, disguises, and hidden headquarters to conduct their business and trained animals, such as lions, salmon, and eagles to locate fires while others, such as snakes, crows, and crickets, were trained to communicate with V.F.D. members to warn them of potential danger.
Members were often inducted as children, if they were observed as having good observational and note-taking skills, and were taken from their homes by their ankles after the organization received permission from their parents, who were also members more often than not. The children would then go an apprenticeship program until their ankles were healed and they could be trusted, at which point they were given the eye tattoo, then fully trained at a headquarters, and reintroduced into society as an undercover agent within an occupation that suited their interests to collect evidence and convey it back to other members. 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. Through his years with the organization, Olaf presumably received his occupation as an actor and playwright to be stationed as an undercover agent within society and aid in the organization's mission of keeping the world safe and quiet, but eventually used this position for his own purposes as a front for his crimes once it is learned that he betrayed the organization and began to actively start countless fires. It is implied that during this period of time, Olaf met Esme as an actress who joined his troupe, as she refers to him as her acting teacher, and enlisted her in his schemes as another one of his followers and, eventually, his girlfriend.
Beatrice herself, the mother of the Baudelaire children, was once a member of Olaf's troupe, but was eventually replaced with Esme, who was initially her co-star at the time, an action that was grilled by Lemony Snicket in one of his theatrical reviews of Olaf's plays in the theater section of the Daily Punctilio as part of an undercover assignment. While V.F.D. was known as a noble organization initiated to prevent fires, specifically as a result of arson and other crimes, it eventually became rifled with corruption as numerous villains and enemies to the organization infiltrated its ranks easily as anyone could join the volunteer society before they made membership much more secure after the schism. Olaf's parents, who were hinted to being grand arsonists themselves and part of the group V.F.D. seek to bring to justice, were among these infiltrations and used their son as well to aid them in destroying the organization from the inside out once he became a member so their schemes to embezzle fortunes through arson, abduction, and murder would continue unhindered. During the course of this infiltration, Olaf started a relationship with Kit Snicket and, regardless if his reasons for the relationship were to get closer to her family's inheritance, Olaf developed genuine romantic feelings towards her. This relationship came to an end however, when Kit learned of Olaf's involvement with the schism and affiliation to the arsonists, but not before Olaf promised her that he would kiss her again one day in the future.
To this end, it is said throughout the series that Olaf had something to do with the schism that separated V.F.D. into two opposing sides of volunteers and villains, causing many deaths over the years. The schism itself has been hinted to being the result of massive mistrust being spread throughout the organization by the leaders of the schism and the differing, philosophical viewpoints on how the organization should be run amongst its members. Olaf's involvement with the schism movement is hinted the most in The Unauthorized Autobiography in a letter Jacques Snicket wrote to Jerome Squalor where he explained that a member which he only referred to as O was acting in such a violent manner that his actions have caused the entire 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.
Another mysterious reference to Count Olaf's childhood, which explains his particular hatred of the Baudelaire family, is mentioned in The Penultimate Peril. In Chapter 1, Kit mentions 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 is confronting the Baudelaires and Dewey Denouement, he dares the Baudelaires to ask Dewey what happened that night at the theatre, implying that the Baudelaire parents, Dewey, and the Snickets were there for some sort of sinister purpose. Finally, in Chapter 12, Olaf reveals that poison darts were the reason he became an orphan himself, implying that the Baudelaire parents may have aided the Snickets and Dewey in murdering Olaf's own parents with the poison darts at the opera. This was presumably done as Olaf's parents were enemies to V.F.D. and were killed to prevent more treachery from them, explaining Olaf's personal fixation and hatred for the Baudelaires and the Snickets and his desire to murder them and embezzle their fortune.
Along with his associates, Olaf would set fire to countless V.F.D. headquarters and members' homes over the years, murdering a majority of the individuals within the buildings and often abducting a survivor from a particular family to use to embezzle the massive inheritance left behind, as most of the members of the organization came from extremely wealthy and powerful stock. While never directly stated, it is hinted in the last two volumes that Olaf had a very troubling past and this may be the reason for his bitterness at the world. Olaf's past exploits to obtain the Snicket fortune, though whether he succeeded or not is not revealed, implicate that he may have been responsible for the Snicket fires as well and the death of most of family with the exception of Kit, Jaques, and Lemony Snicket. While Olaf never directly targeted Kit due to still having feelings for her, he never ceased to hunt down both Lemony and Jaques. Several instances of other fires and crimes he committed throughout his life are stated throughout the series:
In The Slippery Slope, the powdered white face women hints 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.
In The Grim Grotto, Count Olaf mentions that he saw Fiona when she was an infant, which would mean that he saw her fifteen years ago. He goes on to say that he was attempting to throw thumbtacks in her cradle when he saw her. This book also reveals that when Fernald, the name of the Hook-Handed man and one of Olaf's most loyal and longest serving associates, first joined the villain, he started his first fire to the Anwhistle Aquatics. The fire consumed the life of Gregor Anwhistle, a V.F.D. member who was researching ways to use a deadly fungus to infect the organization's enemies when their situation became increasingly dire until Kit Snicket instructed him to stop through a written letter and devised a cure for the poison. This implies that Olaf was the one who handed down the order to Fernald to burn the area down, using a stolen V.F.D. submarine, which would be used years later in their plans, to infiltrate the area; it is implied that Fernald lost both his hands when starting the blaze.
In The Penultimate Peril, Olaf hints that he burned down the childhood home of Dewey Denouement and murdered almost his entire family.
In The Austere Academy, Duncan and Isadora Quagmire mention that a man with similar traits as Olaf strangled a bishop and escaped prison in just ten minutes and another article reports of a man throwing a wealthy widow off a cliff. The Baudelaire children agree that it sounds like Olaf and believe him to be the man mentioned in the articles.
Olaf also began to leak information and secrets about the organization to the Daily Punctilio, a notoriously inaccurate newspaper that is fed faulty information from unreliable sources or simply fabricates news stories for higher interest purposes, and informed them that the organization was a criminal society that committed crimes throughout the world. The paper began publishing inaccurate articles about the organization, revealing their locations and effectively framing the secret society for crimes Olaf and his associates were actually guilty of. Many members, such as Lemony Snicket, were framed through this method and were forced to hide and go on the run in order to elude capture for crimes perpetrated by Olaf. This would lead to many within the organization to doubt the innocence of their own members as Lemony was forced to be smuggled out of the country to evade the authorities and was forbidden to contact his fiancé, Beatrice, for fear that Olaf, who has since gone on the hunt for all volunteers, would locate and kill them both. With Olaf having associates in not only the media, but in the courts and police and fire departments as well, Olaf was virtually impossible to pin any crime on as his associates did well to cover his acts while Olaf was notorious for always escaping before being arrested.
For a time, Beatrice believed the false stories about Lemony, mainly due to Captain Widdershins showing her the newspaper articles, and cancelled her engagement with him out of fear that he was working with the organization's enemies. By the time she learned the truth and was contacted by Lemony, she was seeing and in love with Bertrand Baudelaire, and sent him back his engagement ring along with a book, detailing why marrying him was no longer possible. Olaf would further manipulate the newspaper by giving them information that would change his arsonist attacks and gruesome murders to simple accidents while his girlfriend, Esme Squaler, would become good friends with the paper's star reporter, Geraldine Julienne, who would give her information on individuals, such as Jerome Squalor, to aid in their plans. Geraldine came to her current position from a string of events that occurred following the death of a Royal Duchess, yet another V.F.D. member, in an arsonist attack that destroyed her entire home, implying that one of the motives for the attack was to ensure that Geraldine became the new reporter as she could be easily manipulated and fooled into believing false stories that covered up crimes and framed others. Olaf would go as far as to turn the paper into a weapon against V.F.D. by having articles published that led to undesirable consequences to the secret organization, including telephone poles being knocked down and telegrams being ignored, in order to block communications between members, leading to dire consequences later on in the series.
Using the information obtained from Geraldine, Esme met and married Jerome, in order to gain access to a particular penthouse that contained a hidden passageway that led directly to the Baudelaire mansion, allowing an easy access point for Olaf. This passageway was one of many that were constructed by the organization members over the years in most of their headquarters and homes since the schism. The purpose of these passages were to provide the members with a clear exit in case of an emergency, with the most probable occurrence being that of an arson attack from the organization's numerous enemies and traitors. Jaques Snicket, brother to Kit and Lemony Snicket, a long time member of V.F.D., and a good friend to Jerome and the Baudelaire parents, urged Jerome, while disguised as a detective, to purchase the penthouse to secure the passageway for the Baudelaire family should anything happen to their mansion. However, all this changed when Esme married Jerome through deception and under the orders of Count Olaf, her true romantic interest, so that they would have control over the passageway.
When Jaques heard about this news after receiving an invitation to their speedy wedding, actually a trap by Olaf and Esme to finally locate and kill him, Jaques refused to participate and sent Jerome a letter, warning him not to marry Esme for the same reason he asked him to buy the penthouse; to keep it safe and out of evil hands. However, Jerome never received this letter due to the meddling of one of Olaf's henchmen, disguised as the doorman for the penthouse apartment building, and married Esme as planned. Not long afterwards, the Baudelaire mansion was completely burned to the ground, killing Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire and possibly many others, and leaving their children as orphans and targets for Olaf's amoral plans. All this implies that Olaf had wanted entry to the penthouse and the passageway to gain entry into the Baudelaire mansion easily and set it on fire when the time was right, implying by extension that Count Olaf was indeed the one responsible for the Baudelaire mansion's fire and the death of the parents.
On the day the Baudelaire mansion burned down, it is hinted by the author that the Baudelaire children were encouraged to go to the beach that morning by their parents, Bertrand and Beatrice, as they were hosting a V.F.D. meeting to discuss the organization's plans with their fellow volunteers when the fire occurred, killing everyone inside except for the arsonists, who used the passageway to interrupt the meeting and then escape. Several items were also revealed to have been stolen from the mansion, including the Baudelaire parents' credit card and a large coat previously worn by Beatrice with her first letter sewn into the fabric, which was later worn by Esme in The Slippery Slope. Using the stolen credit card, Olaf bribed the proprietor of the Royal Gardens for several plants, one of which was peppermint scented one (a known allergy of the Baudelaire children), before torching the area and completely burning the gardens to the ground. While Jacques Snicket initially proves the fire to be the work of arson in the paper, Olaf's agents within the Daily Punctilio would alter the article to make it seem as if it was a simple accident. It is implied that Olaf had wanted the plant as a contingency plan to kill the children if his schemes did not go as designed; not long after this event, Olaf called Mr. Poe and offered to adopt the orphans.
Guardian of the Baudelaires
In the beginning of the series, the Baudelaire orphans were sent to live with Count Olaf, their geographically closest living relative, after a mysterious fire destroyed their home and killed their parents. Olaf's involvement in the fire was heavily implied throughout the series and long suspected by the Baudelaires. When they finally confronted him and accused him of starting the fire, 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.
Olaf was an actor and playwright and had an entire group of similarly evil associates who he refers to as his "theatre troupe", most of whom were also connected to V.F.D. and joined Olaf as a result of their lack of trust with the secret organization and were unaware of how much damage Olaf did to their families in the past. He wrote his own plays, under the pseudonym "Al Funcoot" (an anagram of "Count Olaf") and frequently used them as a front for his own plans and designs, even using the titles of the plays to threaten his enemies on the volunteer side of the schism.
During the time the Baudelaires lived with him, the children immediately recognized Olaf as a short tempered and violent man. Olaf provided them with one filthy room and forced them to do difficult chores (such as painting the back porch, repairing the house windows, preparing a meal for himself and nine additional others, and chopping extensive amounts of wood) as he schemed to seize control over their fortune. The author hints within the Bad Beginning: Special Edition that Olaf's purpose behind the children chopping wood was far more insidious and concerned orphaned classmates of the Baudelaire children at a boarding school (The Quagmires). This greatly implies that Olaf used the wood as kindling for the fire that consumed the Quagmire mansion and killed the parents of the triplets, allowing Olaf another set of children to abduct to gain control over another inheritance to embezzle. Olaf even went as far as to violently hit Klaus hard enough to leave a large bruise on his face for several days for talking back to him, and picked up and dangled Sunny for saying No! No! No! in response to his demand for roast beef instead of the puttanesca sauce they made.
It soon became obvious that Olaf only ever agreed to become the Baudelaires' guardian in the hopes of getting their vast inheritance. When it transpired that this would not occur, Olaf had the children participate in a play 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 insure that the children cooperate with the plan, Olaf kidnapped Sunny and had her tied up, put in a cage, and hung outside his tower window, threatening to murder her if the children refused to cooperate.
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 with his theater troupe when the lights suddenly went out, 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. The children were sent to a different relative, with Olaf following in pursuit.
Olaf's plans became more dangerous and murderous in nature as the books progressed. Many of them included the murder of the children's guardians, such as Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine, along with many other victims. His plans were often complicated and many of the earlier ones involved him attempting to get the orphans legally into his care, after which he would presumably attempt a similar scam to that in The Bad Beginning to obtain their inheritance. In later books, he simply planned to abduct one child, murder the other two, and use the kidnapped one to blackmail Mr. Poe into giving over the fortune. Regardless of his tactics, Olaf's plans were always aimed at the goal of abducting the children through elaborate methods and, despite his schemes always failing and his disguises eventually uncovered for the adults to see, Olaf is always able to escape at the last minute with his accompanying associates.
As the series continues, Olaf's schemes threaten not just the Baudelaire children, but also the lives of the Quagmires, after Olaf abducts them from Prufroct Preparatory School after they aided the Baudelaires in foiling Olaf's plan to expel and abduct them. The children are later put under the care of Esme, still married to Jerome and living in the penthouse, only to reveal herself as another one of Olaf's associates, aiding him in yet another scheme to obtain their fortune, along with the Quagmires', though this scheme is foiled at the last minute as well. Esme then reveals her loyalty to Olaf to the public and denounces her manipulative and deceitful marriage to Jerome and escapes with Olaf and the hook-handed man, who was disguised as the penthouse's doorman, with the Quagmires being smuggled out of the city with them in a statue.
Count Olaf's Disguises
In each of the seven books occurring after the initial volume, Olaf wears a disguise from his kit that was given to him during his time in the V.F.D. organization. His disguises often mimic the occupation of someone who previously worked under the guardians or near the surrounding area, usually murdering the person who had the occupation previously. Despite his disguises being considerably transparent, they usually end up fooling everyone, as long as his one eyebrow and eye tattoo are covered up, except for the Baudelaire children themselves. One or two of his henchmen, also disguised, usually accompany him and aid him in executing his schemes. The following is a list his primary disguises with IPA and AHD pronunciations given.
- Al Funcoot - Al Funcoot is an anagram of "Count Olaf". He uses it as his nom de plume when writing The Marvelous Marriage, in addition to The Most Handsome Man in the World, its sequel, Why, I Believe I've Become Even More Handsome!, and One Last Warning to Those Who Try to Stand in My Way, as referenced in The Unauthorized Autobiography.
- Captain Julio Sham - A sailor with an eye-patch and a wooden leg (the real Julio Sham is captain of the Prospero).
- Shirley T. Sinoit-Pécer - An optometrist's feminine receptionist - T.Sinoit-Pécer is "receptionist" spelled backwards.
- Coach Genghis - A sweatsuit-wearing gym teacher with a turban, covering his one eyebrow, and expensive looking running shoes, covering his ankle's eye tattoo.
- Gunther (/ˈɡuːntər/, gōōn′·tər) - A pinstripe suit-wearing auctioneer. He pretends to come from a foreign country so that people will believe that he doesn't speak fluent English. Olaf constantly says "please" after and in the middle of every sentence in this disguise. This is also done by Madame Lulu in "The Carnivorous Carnival". He wears horse riding boots to cover up his tattoo, and a monocle to distort his eyebrow.
- Detective Dupin - A "famous" detective obsessed with what's cool, including ridiculous sunglasses which cover up his eyebrow and green plastic shoes with yellow lightning bolts on them to cover his tattoo. The alias name is a reference to C. Auguste Dupin.
- Mattathias // - Heimlich Hospital's new Human Resources director. The only sign of his presence is his voice over the hospital intercom.
By the end of the seventh book, The Vile Village 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 as he also had one eyebrow and the V.F.D eye tattooed on his ankle. The Daily Punctilio published articles prior to this event that established (wrongly) that the man who committed numerous crimes was Count Omar and not Olaf. Jacques, a volunteer in V.F.D., was an old enemy of Count Olaf who, along with his two siblings, Kit and Lemony, the author of the series who has dedicated his life to chronicling the lives of the children of his deceased love, Beatrice, was gathering evidence to be compiled in a document known as the 'Snicket File'. For this reason, along with his physical similarities to Olaf, the villain abducted and brought him to a village where the Baudelaire children were currently residing, where he was quickly arrested by Esme, disguised as a police officer after Olaf murdered the previous one by forcing him to ingest a box of thumbtacks. Olaf then murdered Jacques while he was imprisoned to fake his own death and to hinder the completion of the Snicket File, which Olaf had been attempting to locate and destroy. Disguising himself as a detective and planting false evidence, Olaf then framed the Baudelaire children for the murder and imprisoned them in the town's jail as part of another plan to embezzle their fortune. This relieved Olaf of the need to disguise himself and use an alias as everyone believed Omar was the villain's name.
Olaf plotted to allow two of the children to be burned at the stake as per the rules at the village and abduct the third one under the guise that they escaped and would live with him until the fortune would be his. However, Olaf's scheme is once again spoiled at the last minute when the children escape the jail and finally ensure the safety of the Quagmires (having been smuggled into the village in a statue constructed by Olaf's associates and then installed in the center of town to keep an eye on them), who escaped in a self sustaining air device made by Hector, the children's guardian in the village and another remember of V.F.D. Despite his plans ruined, Olaf escapes once again with Esme as the police manhunt shifts away from Olaf and to the Baudelaire children, culminating in the climax of the series. Even though his need for disguises is minimal, he does so one last time in the Hostile Hospital as the head of human resources after murdering the previous occupant, Babs, to gain entry into the area. This volume also starts Olaf's open obsession with fire, as he burns down Heimlich Hospital after a failed attempt to saw Violet's head off under the guise of it being a medical operation 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.
While in the earlier books Olaf only showed that he wanted the children's fortune, it is later revealed that he also desired the Quagmire sapphires, the Snicket file, and the Sugar bowl, which was stolen from Esme by Lemony during a tea party gathering to hold something vital and is hinted to contain a secret document about the nature of V.F.D. and could effectively clear the organization and all the volunteers of the crimes Olaf and his associates framed them for. Esme has since assumed Beatrice was the one who stole the sugar bowl from her and it is greatly implied that one of the reasons for Beatrice and Bertrand's death was the theft of this item, along with the murder of Olaf's parents, and their affiliation with the noble side of the V.F.D. organization. Due to this, Lemony feels guilt stricken over Beatrice's death and further amplifies his dedication to researching the remains of their family to ensure the truth is told to the general public. While Olaf eventually obtains the Snicket file and removes it as a hindrance to his grander plans, he is repeatedly shown to have a greater interest in the Baudelaire fortune than in any of these other treasures.
During the events of The Carnivorous Carnival, it is revealed that Olaf has primarily located the children with the aid of a supposed fortune teller and proprietor of a carnival known as "Caligara" named Madam Lulu, though her real name was Olivia who simply pretended to be a fortune teller and used an extensive amount of research and documents to find the answers her clients craved. Olivia was also a V.F.D. member who once used her carnival to aid in the organization's mission to keep the world safe, but since the schism, began to help both volunteers and villains in confusion and desperation of keeping herself safe. Additionally, Olaf manages to capture a trio of V.F.D. lions (volunteer feline detectives) from a cave in the Mortmain Mountains and abuses them to transform them into vicious beasts in a scheme to feed carnival freaks to them to help Olivia's business in exchange for her continued assistance in locating the Baudelaire children. This was yet another scheme targeted at the Baudelaires, who were disguised as carnival freaks, to kill two of them and leave a third to be abducted. Olaf's plans ultimately fail as Olivia and bald headed man were devoured instead and Olaf sets fire to the carnival, no longer serving any further purpose with Olivia dead, to eliminate any evidence of his presence there.
By the events of The Slippery Slope, Olaf, with the aid of a pair of villains of such notorious repute that the author refuses to even divulge their names (the relationship between them and Olaf however, suggests that they may be his siblings), also develops plans to gain control of numerous other fortunes from children whose parents are V.F.D. members by burning down their homes and murdering their entire families. After embezzling their inheritances, Olaf plans to recruit the children as new "associates" or more appropriately, prisoners, and help him destroy what's left of V.F.D. Olaf's other main goal is to destroy V.F.D in order to eliminate the last evidence of his plans so that he may execute any other scheme he wants to without the worry of the authorities. The tenth book also starts the pattern of Olaf no longer using complicated methods to obtain the children's fortune and just intends on capturing them to get the fortune. His plans were from then on usually aimed at the goal of destroying V.F.D., although his obsession with the fortune is still to him, "the greater good."
Olaf also begins to gradually lose his followers throughout the books as the massive man or woman perishes in the fire that destroyed Heimlich Hospital, the bald man is devoured by lions, the two powder face women begin to suspect Olaf's role in the demise of their own family and leave, and the hook handed man also betrays him and leaves with his stepsister, Fiona, taking with them a V.F.D. submarine that Olaf stole along with all the children he abducted, ruining his plans and any chances of embezzling their inheritances.
In The Penultimate Peril, Olaf begins luring many of the Baudelaires' former guardians to "Hotel Denoucement" and instructs them to bring all their valuables with them, implying that the villain intends to steal all their lucre and then murder them in yet another fire, which would also destroy the last of V.F.D. However, Olaf finally shows signs of hesitation at committing crimes and murder. In this volume, he was about to kill one of the Denouement triplets 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 purely violent and evil, but feels obligated to continue his deeds as he has already gone too far from being noble. This volume also reveals that the sinister pair of villains previously aiding Olaf were actually judges of the high court, presumably placed their during their time in V.F.D. and using the corresponding disguise from the organization's kit, with Justice Strauss, who they manipulated into learning more information on the Baudelaires to be passed off to Olaf.
After breaking up with Esme, having had enough of her interests in what's seen as in and fashionable, and realizing that someone else was able to obtain the sugar bowl before him (heavily implied to be Lemony Snicket himself to use to clear his name and V.F.D. with the contained evidence), Olaf sets fire to Hotel Denouement at the suggestion of Sunny, who hoped the smoke would be seen by Kit and would cancel the V.F.D. meeting, saving a great deal of volunteers in the process, but also endangering some in the hotel. Unaware of Sunny's true motives, Olaf then plans to poison everyone in the lobby, including his own allies, with the Medusoid Mycelium (a poisonous fungus whose spores cause death within the hour of exposure) he obtained while at sea, but is thwarted by the efforts of the children who try to warn everyone of the fire with Olaf countering them by telling everyone they are lying and should stay, including Esme. He is able to flee the burning hotel by boarding the boat (then called the Carmelita) with the three Baudelaires, with whom he sees value in due to their unique abilities and gains a respect for their intelligence.
In The End, Olaf was rejected (due to his unkind behavior) by Friday, one of the inhabitants of a remote island, which he'd named "Olaf-land" after himself, where he was marooned with the Baudelaire orphans after a vicious storm. After a pregnant Kit Snicket was also stranded in another storm, Olaf attempts to disguise himself as her, using a round diving helmet filled with Medusoid Mycelium to make his stomach bulge as though he were pregnant. In an ironic twist for the series, Olaf's disguise fools nobody for the first time and he is quickly seen as a violent and amoral villain by the rest of the islanders who have put their trust and faith in the three Baudelaire children instead. The island's leader Ishmael, who also has a personal history with V.F.D. and Olaf, has the villain locked up inside a bird cage to be left on the coastal shelf to drown when the tide comes in and floods the area. True to their prior history of misfortune however, the Baudelaires are also cast out by the islanders, albeit reluctantly due to Ishmael's own deceptive persuasion, and are left with Count Olaf on the shelf because of their refusal to leave Kit Snicket behind as well, who washed ashore on the shelf on a makeshift raft of books.
Olaf's personality is significantly different in the final book as he is portrayed as considerably more timid and depressed due to the fact that all of his past methods and tricks fail to work on the islanders, who initially sided with the children almost immediately. Therefore, Olaf realizes that there is no room for him on the island as he is finally forced into the same situation he has put the children in so many times throughout the series where there is no one who trusts or believes him, let alone anyone to help him carry out his schemes. Olaf is also shown to sympathize with the children, telling them that life is unfair and a miserable place, cryptically referring to his own rough upbringing. He seems to have gained a reluctant respect for them, calling them his new henchmen and even attempting to convince them to escape with him since they are all finally in the same boat of being wanted by the authorities and being outcast.
Olaf is eventually able to escape his imprisonment by bribing some of the islanders with empty offers of helping them overthrow Ishmael, but is truly planning one last, horrific killing spree to gain revenge on everyone residing on the island. Ishmael, vengeful towards Olaf for his participation in the fires that took the lives of his own family (though Olaf denies starting that particular fire), fires a harpoon at Olaf, who intentionally provoked him to do so. The harpoon hit the encased Mycelium against Olaf's stomach, breaking it open and releasing its deadly spores into the air, contaminating all of the islanders as well as Olaf himself. The harpoon also partially impales Olaf in the process. Olaf starts laughing, stating that Ishmael has murdered everyone on the island as he has just released a deadly fungus into the air.
Too depressed to go on living once he realizes that all his plans have gone up in smoke, has lost all his followers, and has no chance of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune, Olaf initially refuses to take a specially produced apple (which is a cross with horseradish, the cure for the Mycelium), saying that he has "lost too much to go on". The children finally confront Olaf on a secret they have silently known shortly after the villain appeared in their lives, his participation in the arson attack on their home that took the lives of their parents, though Olaf assures them that there is much more to the story than they believe and that everyone must perform treachery to survive the brutality and unfairness of life. However, upon finding out that Kit Snicket is going into labor, he immediately eats the healing apple and gently 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).
Despite being cured of the lethal Mycelium fungus, Olaf is revealed to have been fatally injured by the harpoon. Count Olaf states that he has not apologized for anything that he has done in the past, but looks at his old girlfriend and then the children in sadness and pain. Lying down on the beach without medical assistance from the Baudelaires who are helping Kit to give birth, Count Olaf's last words quote Philip Larkin's short poem "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." (Hinting that Olaf was a well read person himself at one point before being consumed completely with greed). After quoting the poet, Count Olaf laughs and finally dies. He is buried on the island along with Kit. Olaf's grave is occasionally visited by the Baudelaires, who are unsure whether they should pity the man who caused them so much grief and misfortune.
Olaf is described as a tall, thin, unkempt and often dirty man. Lemony makes frequent reference to Olaf's poor hygiene. In The Slippery Slope, Olaf mentions that he often goes ten days without a shower. His lack of personal hygiene worsens as the books progress, although in The Slippery Slope Sunny Baudelaire is shocked to see that Olaf has bathed and changed into a new suit for False Spring.
When not in disguise, Olaf's distinguishing features include shiny eyes and a wheezy voice that frighten the Baudelaires, pale skin, a unibrow, and a tattoo of an eye on his left ankle. In his numerous disguises, Olaf attempts to hide his most distinctive features, but the Baudelaire children are never fooled; however, most of the other characters remain utterly oblivious.
Count Olaf was portrayed by actor Jim Carrey in the film adaptation of the books, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Handler states in the DVD commentary that Jim Carrey's physical appearance of Olaf was spot-on.
The darkest areas of Olaf's personality were toned down considerably for the film, in which most of the more violent and disturbing sequences of his character were often shared with comedic outbursts. Despite this, the character was still portrayed as an amoral schemer and murderer.
In the film there was a strong implication that Olaf had direct responsibility for the Baudelaire fire. At the climax of the film, a giant lens in the shape of an eye possessed by Count Olaf is pointed at the smoking ruins of the Baudelaire mansion, presumably through which it was set alight, thus implicating that the Baudelaires' parents were actually murdered by Olaf, rather than dying in an unexplained freak accident. Also, when Snicket listed some of the orphans' triumphs he states "solving the mystery of the Baudelaire fire", though there is no direct proof in the books that the mystery fire was set by Count Olaf.
- p. 313, The End
- p. 158, The Austere Academy
- p. 158, The End
- p. 9, The Austere Academy
- p. 41, The Reptile Room
- p. 68, The Austere Academy
- p. 303, The Penultimate Peril
- When the newspapers make the mistake at the beginning of The Vile Village
- Olaf:"I used to love fresh [raspberries] as a child"
- p. 32, The Carnivorous Carnival
- 267The Carnivorous Carnival, p. 267.
- In The Bad Beginning
- US dict: stĕf′·ə·nō
- US dict: măt′·ə·thī′·əs