The 13 Most Unfortunate Events In ASOUE

by Charlotte Ahlin

I'm sorry to say that the article you are reading is very unpleasant. Here you will not find any adorable wedding favor ideas or any information whatsoever on the the television show Friends. Instead, you will find a harrowing list of the 13 most unfortunate events to ever transpire — a word which here means, "ruin the lives of three fictional orphans"— in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Anyone who read A Series of Unfortunate Events as a child is probably waiting with dread for the upcoming Nasty Netflix Series of the same name. While we wait, we might as well revisit some of the miserable misfortune of the original books. Because those books were not kidding around with their misfortune. No other children's book even came close. I mean, sure, Harry Potter was often looked in a cupboard as a child, but did his legal guardian ever tie him up, stuff him in a cage, and dangle him from a window in order to blackmail another child into a forced marriage? The siblings from Narnia had their fair share of struggles, but did they ever see their aunt devoured by leeches? And I'm sure those babysitters occasionally had trouble with their club, but did anyone ever attempt to surgically remove one of their heads? Probably not.

So if you would like to take a literary trip down memory lane, go read an article about Beverly Cleary. If not, here are the most unfortunate events from A Series of Unfortunate Events:

1. The Bad Beginning

The Baudelaire parents perish in a fire. Also, Count Olaf tries to marry Violet.

The first chapter of the first book gets straight to the unfortunate point: the Baudelaire parents have perished in a fire, and the three children are given this news by a banker with a bad cough. This event is not only extremely unfortunate, but it sets off the chain of even more unfortunate events yet to come. However, since the Baudelaire parents technically (and tragically) die before the book begins, the most of unfortunate event in the actual book would have to be the fact that Count Olaf, an adult man with poor hygiene, tries to forcibly marry Violet, a 14-year-old girl. And he's pretty clear on the fact that he finds her attractive, all fortunes aside. A bad beginning indeed.

2. The Reptile Room

Uncle Monty dies.

Uncle Monty, the Baudelaire's second guardian, is a huge relief after Olaf. He is kind, intelligent, and owns multiple snakes. He's not very perceptive when it comes to recognizing Olaf in disguise, but that certainly doesn't mean that he deserved to die. And yet, just when the orphans think they might have found a loving new guardian who wants to take them to Peru, he is killed under mysterious circumstances. The orphans lose yet another parental figure, as well as all of his interesting reptiles.

3. The Wide Window

Aunt Josephine is not a terribly good guardian.

Yes, there are very unfortunate things in this book, like flesh-eating leeches and a house that topples into a lake. But the most unfortunate event in book three has to be Aunt Josephine's reluctance to protect the children. She's a well-meaning guardian, and nowhere near as bad as Olaf, but Aunt Josephine still promises to surrender the orphans to Olaf just before she's thrown to the leeches. The adults in the Baudelaire's lives tend to be ineffective guardians even before they die tragically.

4. The Miserable Mill

The employees of the mill are paid in coupons.

Klaus is hypnotized and a very nice man is almost killed by a buzz saw (and a very cruel hypnotist is killed by a buzz saw). But The Miserable Mill is an Orwellian nightmare from start to finish, and the most unfortunate event is the daily mistreatment of the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill employees. They're paid in coupons and fed gum for lunch. There's social commentary running through all thirteen books, but it's especially painful to watch the mill employees suffer when they don't even have a large fortune to look forward to if they can survive in the end.

5. The Austere Academy

The orphans are forced to live in the orphan shack and make their own staples.

When the three orphans are shipped off to boarding school, conditions aren't much better than at the lumber mill. The children are forced to live in a filthy shack full of crabs simply because they are orphans, and Sunny is forced to work as an administrative assistant and make her own staples, despite being an infant. Of course, Olaf resurfaces eventually to make the orphans run laps and kidnap their new (and only) friends. But even without him, the orphan shack is a pretty unfortunate place to live.

6. The Ersatz Elevator

The Baudelaires are given overlarge pinstripe suits and also pushed down an elevator shaft.

Esme Squalor, the most fashionable villainess in all of children's literature, pushes the children down an elevator shaft. They are also forced to wear oversized pinstripe suits, although that's slightly less unfortunate. After a succession of guardians who weren't necessarily evil, the Baudelaire children find themselves adopted by Olaf's completely evil girlfriend (and her unsuspecting husband). And she pushes them down an elevator shaft.

7. The Vile Village

The children are framed for murder.

Because they didn't have enough problems already, the three children are framed for murder. This book is especially unfortunate, because it disrupts the pattern of the series: Mr. Poe, the coughing banker, would always bring the children to their new guardian at the start of every book. After The Vile Village, however, the Baudelaires are on the run from the law after being unfairly accused of Count Olaf's murder (even though he's not dead), and no coughing bankers can help them now.

8. The Hostile Hospital

Count Olaf tries to surgically remove Violet's head.

Marrying Violet never worked out. So instead, Count Olaf decides to kill Violet in this book. And his plan is unusually cruel and unfortunate: his cronies are going to decapitate Violet as part of a "surgery," before an audience. They children are also accused of burning down a hospital, but it was Violet's close call with the "crainiotomy" that haunted my dreams as a child.

9. The Carnivorous Carnival

The "freaks" betray the children.

Someone's eaten by lions, and there's another devastating fire. The worst thing in this book, however, is another adult betrayal. The orphans are posing as carnival "freaks" to evade Count Olaf, and they make friends with the other "freaks" (none of whom are especially strange or freakish). However, Olaf and Esme manage to convince the orphan's new friends to join them, and the book ends with little Sunny in the clutches of villains, and the older Baudelaires hurtling down a mountain in a runaway caravan.

10. The Slippery Slope

Sunny's cooking is underappreciated.

This was the first book in which the children where separated from the start, and it made everything much more stressful. Little Sunny has been kidnapped by Olaf, and she is forced to cook for his dastardly troupe, despite having no cooking supplies (and being a baby). She successfully makes dinner anyway, but it is woefully underappreciated by the villains. Poor Sunny.

11. The Grim Grotto

Sunny is almost killed by mushrooms, and Klaus’s new girlfriend betrays everyone.

Sunny just can't catch a break. In this book she's back with her siblings, but she is almost killed by poisonous mushrooms. Plus, the children make a new friend, Fiona, who double-crosses them to join her villainous (and complicated) brother. At least Fiona allows the orphans to escape from Olaf's troupe at the very last moment. The mushrooms never show that much mercy, however, and they must be defeated by the children's quick thinking and use of wasabi.

12. The Penultimate Peril

The children accidentally kill a man.

As the series goes on, the Baudelaire's are forced into more and more morally dubious situations. In The Penultimate Peril, especially, they begin to question their own nobility, and wonder if they're really on the right side of things. It certainly doesn't help that Olaf forces a harpoon gun into their hands at one point, and the gun discharges and kills Dewey, a comparatively innocent man and expectant father.

13. The End

The children are abandoned on a coastal shelf and everyone dies.

Lemony Snicket has piled on misfortune after misfortune. You'd think that by The End, he would have run out of unfortunate events with which to ruin the Baudelaires' lives. But you'd be wrong. The End finds the Baudelaires shipwrecked on a strange dystopian island, thrown off the island by its strict inhabitants, abandoned on a coastal shelf with an unconscious pregnant woman, and, finally, watching two people die onshore while the rest of the islanders sail away to almost certain death. How unfortunate.

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