Fauna of A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events mentions numerous forms of wild and domestic fauna. Though many such animals are only described in passing – swans, marmosets, manatees, carrier pigeons, butterflies, and yaks to name a few – a number play central or secondary roles in the plot. The following is a list, including descriptions, of the most notable of these.
Throughout the series it becomes apparent that V.F.D. utilized numerous animals to accomplish their missions. According to the woman with hair but no beard, the crows, eagles, lions, and reptiles are the main animals of V.F.D.
The carrier crows, often referred to as the V.F.D. crows (because they are found in the Village of Fowl Devotees, not because of their affiliation with V.F.D.), are a vast flock (or "murder") of crows native to the eponymous Village of Fowl Devotees (V.F.D.), a tight community with unclear connections to the V.F.D. organization.
Within the Village (whose sole purpose is to accommodate the birds), the crows roost uptown in the morning and downtown in the afternoon. At night they sleep in the Nevermore Tree. The Village has extremely strict rules on the treatment of the birds, including the death penalty for killing one. The carrier crows are used by Isadora Quagmire to carry her encoded couplets to the Baudelaires while she and her brother Duncan are trapped in the Village.
When the Baudelaires reach the Hotel Denouement, Klaus is given the task of capturing the corpses of the crows on enormous bird paper, after they have been harpooned by Carmelita Spats. The Baudelaires soon discover that the crows are delivering the sugar bowl. Although most of the characters believe the sugar bowl falls down a funnel into the laundry room, in actuality it falls into the Hotel Denouement pond, the location of Dewey Denouement's secret library.
The Mortmain Mountain eagles (also referred to as the volunteer eagles) are a fictional variety (and perhaps subspecies) of bald eagle found in the Mortmain Mountains and owned by the firestarting side of V.F.D. They appear primarily in The Slippery Slope, though they are mentioned as early on as The Wide Window.
The Mortmain Mountain eagle is a predatory raptor, preying on the stricken salmon. Snicket describes the variety as enormous in The Wide Window, though they are never given this description again. (They are, however, shown to have prodigious strength.) He also hints that they build their eyries from discarded trash, since Snicket writes:
"Even the litter that was thrown out the window of Olaf's car...was picked up off the road long before my work began. The missing litter is a good sign, as it indicates that certain animals of the Mortmain Mountains have returned to their posts and are rebuilding their nests."
Approximately twenty years before the series takes place, while hiking up to the summit of Mt. Fraught with Lemony Snicket and Jerome Squalor (among others), Beatrice Baudelaire was snatched by one of the Mortmain Mountain eagles and carried away to its eyrie, almost certainly on the orders of the firestarting side of V.F.D. The result of this encounter is unknown, except that Beatrice apparently escaped.
In The Slippery Slope, the eagles were used by the two judges of the High Court to kidnap the Snow Scouts as part of V.F.D.'s child recruiting program, with intentions to burn down the children's houses, murder their families, and embezzle their inheritances.
While the children were put to work operating Count Olaf's stolen submarine (rechristened Carmelita), the eagles were sent to attack Duncan and Isadora Quagmire and Hector in their self-sustaining hot air mobile home.
With the help of Quigley Quagmire, the eagles were secured in a large net. However, while Kit Snicket, Cpt. Widdershins, Fernald, and Fiona navigated their submarine, the Queequeg, toward the self-sustaining hot air mobile home, the eagles tore open the net. When the Queequeg arrived, the aerostatic envelopes had been torn by the eagles, and the airship crashed in the submarine, capsizing its crew. Kit Snicket escaped with the Incredibly Deadly Viper on a raft of jetsam, but Quigley, Isadora, Duncan, Fiona, Fernald, Hector, and Cpt. Widdershins all disappeared into the Great Unknown.
Quigley feared that the eagles would die out because of the lack of stricken salmon (see below), but according to Snicket, the eagles survived and "rebuilt their nests" (which had apparently been destroyed in the burning of the V.F.D. headquarters).
The V.F.D. lions (or volunteer feline detectives) are a pride of highly intelligent and "noble" lions (Panthera leo) which originally lived in the caves of the Mortmain Mountains. They were trained by V.F.D. (including Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire) to detect fires by scent (hence their moniker detectives). In the film, Ike and Josephine Anwhistle are said to have been lion tamers before Ike's death.
Through an unknown series of events (Klaus suggests that the lions are orphaned like himself), Count Olaf comes into possession of the lions. The count donates them (in poor condition) to the Caligari Carnival so that Madame Lulu (Olivia Caliban) can focus more time on fortunetelling and locating the Baudelaires.
The bald man with the long nose starts the Lion Show, which combines "violence and sloppy eating" (in which random carnival freaks are fed to the lions), eventually leading to his and Madame Lulu's death in the lion pit.
The trained reptiles (often referred to as "Uncle Monty's reptile collection") are an extensive collection of reptiles and amphibians accumulated by Dr. Montgomery Montgomery during his work for the Herpetological Society of London, culminating in the discovery of the Incredibly Deadly Viper just prior to his death at the hands of Count Olaf.
While it is mentioned that the reptiles were "trained", the exact nature of this training is never made clear except in the case of the Mamba du Mal (see below). (The viper shows unusual fine motor skills, but there is never any indication that this is the result of training.)
After Montgomery's death, the collection was removed on Arthur Poe's request from the Reptile Room by the Herpetological Society (under the direction of Bruce) to be donated to "scientists, zoos, and retirement homes." Those that were not accepted were to be put to sleep. However, Count Olaf tricked Bruce out of most of the reptile collection through unknown means and for an unknown purpose, simply stating that he "needed them for [his] own use."
While the collection of trained reptiles is extensive, only a handful other than the incredibly deadly viper and the mamba du mal (see below) are named or described:
- androgynous cobra
- Alaskan cow lizard, a long, green lizard which produces potable milk.
- Barbary chewer, a snake which begins to eat itself if it has no other food in its mouth, making it difficult to keep in captivity. While Dr. Montgomery refers to this snake, he never actually states that it can be found in his collection.
- dissonant toad, a toad which can mimic human speech.
- green gimlet toad, a toad which should never be over-hydrated.
- Hungarian sloth snake, a snake whose highest speed is 0.5 inches per hour. While Dr. Montgomery refers to this snake, he never actually states that it can be found in his collection.
- inky newt, a newt which secretes black ink.
- irascible python, an easily irritated python.
- Mongolian meansnake, a snake which smiles evilly before catching its prey.
- Virginian wolfsnake, a snake which should never be kept near a typewriter.
- tree frogs which belonged to Beatrice Baudelaire. While Lemony Snicket suggests that Beatrice may have given them to Dr. Montgomery, he never confirms this.
- a fat, winged toad.
- a two-headed lizard with a yellow-striped underbelly.
- a three-mouthed snake.
- a (seemingly) mouthless snake.
- a lizard which perches and looks like an owl.
- a church-shaped toad with "stained glass eyes".
- a snake whose venom kills before the nervous system can register the bite.
- a snake so large it can swallow several people at once.
- two snakes who have been trained to recklessly and unapologetically drive an automobile.
Incredibly Deadly Viper
The Incredibly Deadly Viper (sometimes referred to as "Ink") is a nonvenomous constrictor discovered by Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Gustav Sebald; in the film, the viper is indigenous to Tanzania. Described as "one of the least dangerous and most friendly creatures in the animal kingdom," Dr. Montgomery christened it as a prank on the Herpetological Society. Throughout The Reptile Room and later in The End, the viper forms a distinct attachment to the Baudelaires and in particular Sunny.
The Incredibly Deadly Viper is described as coal black in color (with green eyes) and thick as a sewer pipe.
When the Baudelaires are placed in the care of Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, he reveals the Incredibly Deadly Viper (which is closely guarded in the Reptile Room). Montgomery plans to present the viper as his newest discovery to the Herpetological Society the following month, after their return form Peru.
After Montgomery's death, Sunny pretends to be attacked by the viper in order to distract Count Olaf (disguised as "Stephano") long enough for Violet to find evidence to implicate Count Olaf in the murder. When the Herpetological Society comes to remove the reptiles, the children try to keep the Incredibly Deadly Viper but are stopped by the Herpetological Society's director of marketing, Bruce.
Although Count Olaf somehow tricks Bruce out of most of the reptile collection, he is unable to attain the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which has gone missing. A couple identified only as the owners of the Prospero (a V.F.D. ship) apparently assisted Lemony Snicket in rescuing the snake.
When Kit Snicket washes ashore on the coastal shelf, she brings with her the Incredibly Deadly Viper. While trapped on the shelf, the viper keeps the Baudelaires company and tries to save the castaways from the poison of the Medusoid Mycelium by offering them bitter apples, an allusion to the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Mamba du Mal
The Mamba du Mal (French: "mamba of evil") is a venomous constrictor described as "one of the deadliest snakes in the hemisphere." The (fictional) book The Mamba du Mal: A Snake That Will Never Kill Me (by Mommy Eggmonteror) states:
The illustration provided in The Mamba du Mal portrays the mamba as small and light-colored with large, dark spots. However, an unidentified associate of Count Olaf describes the snake as black. In addition, the mamba is capable of human mimicry and is used for the same purpose as V.F.D. crickets (see below), with which it can communicate.
While the mamba never actually does anything in the series apart from reside in Dr. Montgomery's collection, Count Olaf (under the guise of "Stephano") uses its poison to murder Dr. Montgomery and frame the snake.
Following its removal from the Reptile Room, the Mamba du Mal falls victim to an unspecified lethal accident, after which it is mounted in a display frame and auctioned away at the In Auction. Though several "unidentified sources" bid on it, the Esmé Squalor Fan Club wins out.
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The crickets are specially trained field crickets employed by V.F.D. to carry coded messages using stridulation. The crickets are shown to carry their messages at night outside people's bedrooms, prompting V.F.D. members to leave their windows open. Lemony Snicket points out that they are not usually active in the winter.
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone," they sang. "Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying."
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall — the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
The author provides the following translation of these apparently coded messages:
- summer is: enemies are nearby
- over and gone: probably in disguise
- dying: beware of arson
Thus rendering the passage from Charlotte's Web:
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. "Enemies are nearby, probably in disguise," they sang. "Probably in disguise, probably in disguise. Enemies are nearby, beware of arson, beware of arson."
In addition, Snicket cites a modified (and annotated) version of The Three Languages fairy tale as an example of the crickets in action, although the exact nature of the passage is not made explicit:
There once lived in
Canadaan old Count, who had just one son: but he was as dimwitted as a baby yak, and could learn nothing. So his father said to him: "Listen to me, my dimwitted son. I can get nothing into your head, no matter how hard I try. You must go far away from here, and study with a renowned Professor in a large city for one year."
The story goes on to say that the professor teaches the son the language of dogs. The old Count is dissatisfied, and sends him off to another professor, who teaches him the language of birds. The old Count is again dissatisfied:
Then the father threw a wild tantrum, and roared: "Dimwitted fruit of my loins, have you learnt nothing all this time? Aren't you ashamed to come into my presence? I will send you to study with a third Professor in the hinterlands, but if you learn nothing this time, I won't be your father any longer. "
The son stayed with the third Professor for one more year, and when he came home again and his father asked, "My dimwitted hobbledehoy, what have you learnt?"
He answered, "I have learnt the cricket language."
The story is cut off here. The "hinterlands" referenced in the passage may be the Hinterlands in The Carnivorous Carnival. While trapped in Count Olaf's car trunk on their journey through the Hinterlands, the Baudelaires can make out the chirping of crickets.
The bats are domesticated bats bred in homing by V.F.D. for use in carrying messages (similar to pigeon post), a process known as "baticeering". Members of V.F.D. trained in baticeering are called "baticeers" and included Beatrice Baudelaire, who styled herself as a "Baticeer Extraordinaire" as early as age 10. Lemony Snicket, Beatrice Baudelaire, Beatrice Baudelaire II, and the Duchess of Winnipeg all express doubts about the capability of the bats to deliver messages to the correct correspondents. Snicket describes the bats as living in caves in the Mortmain Mountains.
Snicket frequently refers to Beatrice as his "baticeer" (which, in addition to a reference to Beatrice's training, is an anagram of her first name). In a play titled My Silent Knot (both an anagram of "Lemony Snicket" and a reference to V.F.D.'s motto, "the world is quiet here"), Beatrice (who was a professional actress) played the starring role of the "Baticeer", in which she wore a butterfly costume.
Although no mention is clearly made of the bats within the main series, the dedication to The Miserable Mill reads:
My love flew like a butterfly
Until death swooped down like a bat.
Which may enigmatically refer to My Silent Knot, although no further indication is provided.
This vineyard was famous for having grapes that smelled delicious, and it was very pleasant to picnic in the fields, while the fragrance drifted in the air and the vineyard's famous donkeys, who helped carry bushels of grapes at harvesttime, slept in the shade of the grapevines.
Stricken salmon are a fictional species or subspecies of salmon found in Stricken Stream and Sontag Shore. Their main diet is insects: in particular, snow gnats. Though not playing a significant role in the books, they appear in The Slippery Slope and are discussed in The Ersatz Elevator and The Grim Grotto.
After the V.F.D. schism, Anwhistle Aquatics and its founder, ichthyologist Gregor Anwhistle, lead a program with the help of Captain Widdershins, Fernald, and the Snickets (among other volunteers) called Voluntary Fish Domestication, in which a fleet of stricken salmon was trained over the course of four years to swim upstream to locate wildfires.
When the waiters of Café Salmonella (on the firestarting side of the schism) tried to appropriate the salmon for their café, the Snickets engaged in a knife fight against them, later dubbed the Snicket Snickersnee. However, the waiters won and Café Salmonella processed V.F.D.'s salmon into cuisine as diverse as salmon ravioli, salmon butter sauce, and salmon pie.
Almost a month before the Baudelaire children arrived in the Mortmain Mountains, the two judges of the high court burned down V.F.D.'s headquarters in the Valley of Four Drafts. The ashes from the mammoth headquarters' destruction polluted Stricken Stream and harmed the stricken salmon. In addition, the snow gnats were driven from the area by the fires' smoke, leading Quigley Quagmire to fear that the stricken salmon would die out. According to Snicket, however, this was not the case (see under Eagles above).
There is also some evidence to suggest that the stricken salmon grew in opposition to V.F.D., since Captain Widdershins says, "Aye! The Submarine Q and Its Crew of Two is not in the best of shape, I'm afraid! Aye! We've been attacked by...angry salmon!"
Lachrymose leeches are a fictional species of leech that inhabit the central part of Lake Lachrymose. Though playing a significant part in The Wide Window, they are also mentioned in several other books in the series, including The Beatrice Letters.
The Lachrymose leech is a sightless, anthropophagous leech that travels in social groups and gregariously attacks its larger prey. It is predatory (rather than hemophagic, or "blood-sucking"), generally preying on small fish. The leech's body is made up of roughly sixty annuluses (body rings), is of a lightish color, and has two sets of vela (veil-like frills) along its midsection whose purpose is unspecified. The body is also slightly longer than a human finger, though whether this is at its fully extended state or not is likewise unspecified.
The Lachrymose leech feeds on humans who have eaten within an hour of entering their territory. According to Aunt Josephine, they can "smell even the smallest bit of food from far, far away". This corresponds with chemoreception (olfactory stimulus triggered by certain food chemicals), a trait found in actual species of leech.
The Lachrymose leech is described as having "six rows of very sharp teeth", which indicates that it is probably of the order Gnathobdellae, whose species have several jaws of minuscule, sharp teeth (this order includes the medicinal leech). Also like the medicinal leech, the Lachrymose leech has an anterior sucker (that is, only one mouth).
Ike Anwhistle was eaten alive by the Lachrymose leeches shortly before the Baudelaires' arrival to the city of Lake Lachrymose, leaving the orphans' third guardian, Josephine Anwhistle, a widow. During their residence with Josephine, Count Olaf (disguised as Captain Julio Sham) claimed his leg was eaten off by Lachrymose leeches; this, however, was part of his ruse to hide his ankle tattoo and curry Josephine's sympathy. In the end, Josephine herself was eaten alive by the Lachrymose leeches.
The snow gnats are white gnats found in the Mortmain Mountains and other frigid, high-altitude areas. They attack in well-defined, wind-based swarms and produce a mildly poisonous venom which can prove damaging in large doses. Snicket describes their aggressive behavior as "for no reason whatsoever." The most effective means of repellent is fire, and "even the smell of smoke can keep a whole swarm at bay." In an attempt to coin a V.F.D. name for them, Violet refers to the gnats as "violent frozen dragonflies", although gnats are members of the suborder Nematocera, while dragonflies are of the only distantly related suborder Epiprocta. Snow gnats are the main element of the stricken salmon's diet.
Jacques Snicket apparently suffered an encounter with the gnats so devastating he "had nightmares about it for weeks." Snicket describes how an "associate" of his fell over a cliff in the Mortmain Mountains while pursued by the gnats. Within the series, the Baudelaires are attacked by snow gnats while lost in the Mortmain Mountains. The gnats are described as forming an arrow shape and creating a vortex around the children.
The crabs (usually referred to as the "tiny, territorial crabs") are land crabs which infest the Orphans Shack of Prufrock Preparatory School, where the Baudelaire orphans are forced to live in The Austere Academy.
The crabs are described as the size of small matchboxes and display aggressive behavior toward intruders on the Shack. They are afraid of loud noises, prompting Violet to design "noisy shoes" for her siblings and Duncan and Isadora Quagmire. When Vice Principal Nero forces Sunny to make her own staples, Violet provokes one of the crabs into clipping the metal rods with its claws.
In The End, sheep were used by Ishmael to carry various items which were found on the coastal shelf towards the arboretum at the far side of the island. They were originally washed up on the island many years ago, but now are left to scavenge on the island.
- p. 295, The Slippery Slope
- pp. 39 – 40, The Vile Village
- p. 126, The Wide Window
- p. 48, The Slippery Slope
- p. 294-295, The Slippery Slope
- p. 134, The Slippery Slope
- p. 27, The Ersatz Elevator
- p. 302, The End
- p. 303-304, The End
- p. 270-271, The Slippery Slope
- p. 144, The Slippery Slope
- p. 158, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 79, The Slippery Slope
- The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition
- p. 196, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 195, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 108, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 205, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 271, The Carnivorous Carnival
- The Bad Beginning (letter to the editor)
- p. 26, The Reptile Room
- p. 185, The Reptile Room
- p. 313, The Slippery Slope
- p. 23, The Reptile Room
- pp. 35 – 36, The Reptile Room
- p. 12, The Reptile Room
- p. 67, The Reptile Room
- p. 45, The Reptile Room
- LS to BB #5, The Beatrice Letters
- pp. 21 – 22, The Reptile Room
- p. 31, The Reptile Room
- p. 25, The Reptile Room
- p. 28 – 29, The Reptile Room
- p. 295, The Slippery Slope
- p. 153, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 156, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 133, The Reptile Room
- p. 169, The Reptile Room
- p. 167, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 152, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 164, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 27, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 169, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 172, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 168, The Unauthorized Autobiography
- p. 15, The Carnivorous Carnival
- BB to LS #4, The Beatrice Letters
- BB to LS #6, The Beatrice Letters
- BB to LS #1, The Beatrice Letters
- LS to BB #4, The Beatrice Letters
- LS to BB #6, The Beatrice Letters
- LS to BB #2, The Beatrice Letters
- The Miserable Mill (dedication)
- p. 203, The Carnivorous Carnival
- p. 121, The Slippery Slope
- p. 76, The Grim Grotto
- p. 98-99, The Grim Grotto
- p. 76, The Ersatz Elevator
- p. 128, The Slippery Slope
- p. 36, The Grim Grotto
- LS to BB #3, The Beatrice Letters
- p. 164, The Wide Window
- p. 32, The Wide Window
- Snicket describes the leeches as resembling fingers lit by the moonlight on p. 166, and the photo in The Beatrice Letters portrays the leech as whitish, as do Brett Helquist's illustrations.
- p. 166, The Wide Window
- p. 5, The Wide Window
- Some fans debate whether or not Josephine was really eaten (since the children do not witness her death), but on p. 210 of The Wide Window Snicket writes, "I wish I could write...that Aunt Josephine...miraculously escaped from the Lachrymose Leeches. But it was not so."
- p. 38, The Slippery Slope
- p. 37, The Slippery Slope
- p. 39, The Slippery Slope
- p. 42, The Slippery Slope
- p. 81, The Slippery Slope
- pp. 36 – 37, The Slippery Slope
- p. 33, The Austere Academy
- p. 49, The Austere Academy
- 62 – 63, The Austere Academy
- p. 179, The Austere Academy
- p.49 'The End'
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