The Vile Village
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|Author||Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)|
|Cover artist||Brett Helquist|
|Series||A Series of Unfortunate Events|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Ersatz Elevator|
|Followed by||The Hostile Hospital|
The Vile Village is the seventh novel in the children's book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American author Daniel Handler), which consists of 13 children's novels that follow the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents' death. The children are placed in the custody of their distant cousin/uncle Count Olaf, who attempts to steal their inheritance. After the Baudelaires are removed from his care by their parents' estate executor, Mr. Poe, Olaf begins to doggedly hunt the children down, bringing about the serial slaughter and demise of a multitude of characters.
In The Vile Village, the Baudelaire orphans are taken into the care of a whole village, only to find lots of rules and chores, evil seniors, as well Count Olaf and his evil girlfriend lurking nearby.
This book is considered to be the plot twist of the series, because the Baudelaires can no longer call on Mr. Poe for assistance after the events of this book, and they themselves are deemed "criminals". Also, after this point the Baudelaires are not assigned any legal guardians.
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The book begins with the Baudelaires in Mr. Poe's office, awaiting their new guardian. Mr. Poe gives a brochure to the Baudelaire orphans about a new program allowing an entire village to serve as guardian, based on the saying "It takes a village to raise a child.". The children choose V.F.D., an acronym to which the two Quagmire triplets referred in the previous book, before being captured by Count Olaf.
The children depart for the unknown V.F.D. by bus, and after a long, hot and dusty walk from the bus stop, they reach the town of V.F.D., which is filled with crows. They become acquainted with the Council of Elders, who proclaims that the children will do all the chores for the entire village, but they will be living with Hector, the handyman.
Hector takes them to his home, where he shows them the house, the barn and the Nevermore Tree, where all the crows come to roost at night. The Baudelaires learn that V.F.D. stands for the Village of Fowl Devotees. Hector shows the Baudelaires the following couplet, which he says was found at the base of Nevermore Tree:
For sapphires we are held in here,
Only you can end our fear.
The Baudelaires discover that Hector has been breaking the incredibly strict and unfair town rules by keeping a secret library and working on a hot-air mobile home in his barn, so that he can sail away from V.F.D. forever. They discuss the Quagmires and consider the fact that Isadora might be somehow sending the Baudelaires a plea for help in the poem. They also discover a new couplet under the tree, though they've kept the tree under surveillance the whole night, which reads:
Until dawn comes we cannot speak,
No words can come from this sad beak.
Three members of the Council of Elders come and report that Count Olaf has been captured, and the Baudelaires are to report immediately to the Town Hall. The Baudelaires discover that Count Olaf was not captured, but instead a man named Jacques Snicket , who also has one eyebrow and a tattoo of an eye on his ankle. The children insist that he is not Count Olaf, but the townspeople do not listen to them. The next day he is to be burned at the stake.
That night the Baudelaires construct a plan. Sunny keeps watch at Nevermore Tree to see where the poems are coming from. Klaus searches the rules of V.F.D. for something to help Jacques out of trouble. Violet helps finish Hector's hot-air balloon device, for it will be a useful escape device if Count Olaf comes after them.
Violet fixes the hot air balloon. Klaus discovers that a rule allows the accused to make a speech explaining himself. If a few people say something, mob psychology can make everyone demand the same thing and thus they can suggest that Jacques be freed. Sunny discovers that the crows are somehow delivering the couplets, and finds a new one:
The first thing you read contains the clue,
An initial way to speak to you.
When the children run to the uptown jail where Jacques is being held, they learn that he is dead. V.F.D.'s police officer, Luciana announces that Jacques (as Count Olaf) has been murdered in the night, and Olaf, masquerading as Detective Dupin, accuses the Baudelaires of murdering "Count Olaf". He claims that Violet's hair ribbon and a lens from Klaus's glasses were found on the scene, and Sunny's teeth marks are on the body. The people ignore the fact that the orphans have solid alibis and the children are quickly locked up inside the Deluxe Cell in the prison, prior to being burnt at the stake the following day for breaking the town rules. Detective Dupin tells them that one of them will make a great escape before the burning, making it possible for him to inherit the Baudelaire fortune, and he leaves them to decide who will survive.
While they are locked up, Klaus realizes that it is his 13th birthday. Officer Luciana comes in and brings them water and bread, and Violet uses the bread and water to allow them to escape. By pouring the pitcher of water repeatedly down a wooden bench onto the wall to soften the mortar, and then squeezing the water out of the bread where it had collected at the bottom of the wall. This process, repeated all through the day, evening and following morning slowly starts to yield results by weakening the thick brick walls of the prison cell.
At daybreak, Hector comes to the window and tells them that if they manage to break out, he has the hot-air balloon ready. He also gives them the daily couplet:
Inside these letters the eye will see,
Nearby are your friends and V.F.D.
Running out of time, they break free of the jail using the wooden bench as a battering ram against the weakened mortar and read the poems all together, using the clue An initial way to speak to you. to read the first initial of each line.
- For sapphires we are held in here.
- Only you can end our fear.
- Until dawn comes we cannot speak.
- No words can come from this sad beak.
- The first thing you read contains the clue.
- An initial way to speak to you.
- Inside these letters the eye will see.
- Nearby are your friends and V.F.D.
The Baudelaires figure out a number of things: The sapphires refer to the Quagmires' fortune. The Quagmires cannot speak until dawn as the crows do not arrive uptown until then. The initial way to speak to them is not V.F.D., but the first letter in each verse, which spells out 'fountain'. They rush over to Fowl Fountain where Sunny manages to press a secret button in the eye of the crow, which opens the beak, revealing the damp Quagmires inside.
At this point they flee the mob coming to burn them, and make a run for the outskirts of town. As they go, the Quagmires explain that Count Olaf locked them in the tower of his house. Then he had his associates build the fountain and imprisoned the Quagmires. The Quagmires attached the couplet to the crows' feet every morning, which fell off in the Nevermore Tree when the paper was dry. They tell the Baudelaires that the man who died was Jacques Snicket, but the mob catches sight of them and they have to run.
They reach the outskirts of town and Hector arrives in his hot-air mobile home. He throws down a rope ladder and the Quagmires start to climb up to get inside. Officer Luciana shoots at the rope ladder with a harpoon gun, breaking the rope whilst the Baudelaires are still climbing and preventing them from continuing - they jump down to earth, saying good-bye to the Quagmires, who then throw their notebooks down to the orphans so they can read their research. A final harpoon pierces the books and scatters them, as the hot-air mobile home heads towards the horizon.
The book ends with Count Olaf and Officer Luciana, who is revealed to be Esme Squalor, escaping on a motorcycle, and the Baudelaires fleeing, rather than waiting for the police, as the Daily Punctilio has written an article that they killed Count Olaf.
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- On the last picture, there is a newspaper with the words Last Chance on it, foreshadowing The Hostile Hospital.
- The harpoon gun also foreshadows the last two books.
Cultural references and literary allusions
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- The Nevermore Tree is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," in which a raven repeats the word 'Nevermore'.
- At the start of the novel Mr. Poe receives a phone call from Mr. Fagin, a character from Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. Fagin tells Poe that he won't accept the children because they are trouble makers, which is interesting because in Oliver Twist, Fagin runs a gang of pickpockets.
- The alias that Olaf uses, Detective Dupin, is a reference to C. Auguste Dupin, a fictional detective character created by Edgar Allan Poe.
- Five of Sunny's utterances, pipit, grebe, merganser, towhee and vireo, are the names of birds.
- One of the towns on the brochure for "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" is named Ophelia, perhaps referencing Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet; Mr. Poe dislikes the bank in this town, perhaps because Ophelia's father is the originator of the saying "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."
- Officer Luciana, Esmé's disguised name, is probably a reference to a character in Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller, who tears up an address and can never find it again, just as Esmé tears the Quagmire notebooks and they are never fully reassembled.
- Ogden Nash is mentioned in the book, a poet who wrote couplets.
- Mr. Lesko, a town resident, has the same last name as the author Matthew Lesko who offered to teach how to get free things. Mr. Lesko says in this book that he is fine with getting his chores done for him but not having to parent the Baudelaires (he wants free laborers).
- The initial unnerving nature of the crows in the city may refer to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
- Sunny uses the word "Scylla" to explain that it would be better to live with regret on Hector's flying mobile home than to be burned to death at the stake. This is a reference to one of a pair of sea monsters in Homer's Odyssey. The two monsters live so close together that it is virtually impossible to avoid both, and so Odysseus chose to head towards Scylla (the less dangerous of the two). Interestingly, Scylla and Charybdis were also mentioned in The Ersatz Elevator, although Klaus incorrectly claims that Heracles encountered them and escaped "by turning them both into whirlpools".
- Hector quotes Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. "'Curiouser and curiouser,' he said, quoting one of the Baudelaires' favorite books."
- Brazilian Portuguese: "A Cidade Sinistra dos Corvos" (The Sinister City of Crows), Cia. das Letras, 2003, ISBN 85-359-0392-5
- Finnish: "Kelvoton kylä" (A Useless Village), WSOY, 2004, ISBN 951-0-29450-0
- French: "L’arbre aux corbeaux" (The Tree of Crows)
- Greek: "Το Αχρείο Χωριό" (The Village of Scoundrels)
- Japanese: "鼻持ちならない村" (The Odious Village), Soshisha, 2004, ISBN 4-7942-1309-3
- Korean: "사악한 마을" (Evil Town), Munhakdongnae Publishing Co, Ltd., 2008, ISBN 978-89-546-0615-8
- Russian: "Гадкий городишко" (Ugly Town), Azbuka, 2005, ISBN 5-352-01025-2
- Turkish :"Karga Laneti" (Crow Curse)
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