The Vile Village

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The Vile Village
Vile village.jpg
Author Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
Illustrator Brett Helquist
Cover artist Brett Helquist
Country United States
Language English
Series A Series of Unfortunate Events
Genre Gothic fiction
Absurdist fiction
Steampunk
Mystery
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
May 2001
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256
ISBN 978-0-06-440865-3
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 marks a turning point in the structure of the series and effective marks the halfway mark between books one to six and eight to thirteen. It breaks with the following major patterns of the earlier books in the series:

  • The Baudelaires can no longer call on Mr. Poe for assistance after the events of this book.
  • The Baudelaires themselves are deemed "criminals", and they are no longer assigned any more legal guardians after this point.
  • As a result, because the authorities turn their attention away from him and to the Baudelaires, Count Olaf no longer needs to bother with disguises (apart from a voice-only disguise in The Hostile Hospital and one final disguise in The End which, for the only time in the series, fools no-one).

Plot[edit]

The book begins with the Baudelaires in Mr. Poe's office, awaiting a 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 abbreviation to which Duncan and Isadora Quagmire referred before they could explain further during their kidnap by Count Olaf and his acting friends (in the Austere Academy). 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, who 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 voluminous list of 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 forever. They discuss the Quagmires and consider 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 just happens to share the same surname as the author's pseudonym. Jacques also has a unibrow and a tattoo of an eye on his ankle. The children insist he is not Count Olaf, but the townspeople ignore them. The next day Jacques is to be burned at the stake. That night the orphans 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 a hair ribbon belonging to Violet (it's not Violet's) and a lens from Klaus's glasses (it's not Klaus's) 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. Olaf, abandoning his Dupin disguise, tells them that one of them will make a great escape before the burning, as one child is needed alive to inherit the family 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 enters the cell, grudgingly brings them water and bread as that is one of the many rules governing the village. 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 sixth line, "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 way of "speaking" to the Baudelaire orphans is not V.F.D., but the first letter in each verse, which spells out FOUNTAIN. They rush to Fowl Fountain but can do nothing. They begin falling and Sunny inadvertently presses a secret button in the eye of the crow, which opens the beak, revealing the damp Quagmires inside.

At this point they flee the pitchfork-carrying mob and 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 a 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 continue 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. Officer Luciana's final harpoon pierces the books, destroying and scattering many of the pages, as the hot-air mobile home heads towards the horizon.

The book ends with Olaf and Officer Luciana (who removes her omnipresent helmet and reveals herself to be Esmé Squalor) escaping by motorcycle, and the Baudelaires fleeing the village on foot.

Cultural references and literary allusions[edit]

  • 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 a Mr. Fagin (Fagin being a main character from Oliver Twist), a distant relative who informs Poe that he cannot take the orphans. In Oliver Twist, Fagin is a nefarious character who uses orphaned children in his criminal exploits.
  • Olaf's alias, Detective Dupin, is a reference most likely to C. Auguste Dupin, a fictional detective character created by Edgar Allan Poe, but possibly to Arsène Lupin, a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise created by French writer Maurice Leblanc.
  • 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).
  • "It takes a village to raise a child" is a reference to a well-known proverb.

Translations[edit]

Adaptation[edit]

The book will be adapted into the fifth and sixth episodes of the second season of the television series adaptation produced by Netflix.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Snetiker, Marc (January 11, 2017). "Lemony Snicket speaks out about Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 12, 2017.