If I were Lemony Snicket, chronicler of the hapless Baudelaire orphans, I would advise you to close the tab on this article immediately. I would insist that there’s still time to avoid the misery and woe implicit in a piece recounting the most unfortunate events to occur throughout the entire Series of Unfortunate Events , and that you would definitely have a more pleasant day if you were to instead read this inspiring story about a trio of animal BFFs, or restore your faith in humanity by cooing over this adorable rescued bear cub. But if you are an obstinate person determined to persevere — a word which here means “refuse to cease reading an article despite the fact that the author of the article has informed you in no uncertain terms that it will cause you great anguish, since it does not involve any snuggling baby animals” — then at least you will rest easy tonight knowing that your lot in life is infinitely better than that of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire.
The story of the Baudelaire children is an extraordinarily melancholy one. It is a story that poor Lemony Snicket has taken upon himself to record, for reasons unknown to those who embrace notions of peace, love, puppies, rainbows, and happiness. Though Violet, the eldest, is a gifted inventor, and her brother, Klaus, is adept at research, and Sunny — only a baby when the unfortunate events of The Bad Beginning begin — is particularly proficient at biting, the children’s precociousness is not enough to distract from the overwhelming amount of misfortune that befalls them following their parents’ death in a mysterious fire, and the unfortunate events of A Series of Unfortunate Events prove to be very unfortunate indeed.
If you took Mr. Snicket’s advice all those years ago and put his books aside when you had the chance, or if you read all 13 of his unfortunate chronicles but have since repressed your memories of these books due to their sheer unpleasantness, I have taken the liberty of summarizing the most unfortunate event to occur to the Baudelaire orphans in each book. Since you’ve stuck with me for this long, it seems apparent that you’ve already given up on blissful ignorance. So, let us begin at the very bad beginning…
Book the First: The Bad Beginning
Unfortunate Event: Mr. Poe places the Baudelaires in Count Olaf’s care.
Mr. Poe, the Baudelaire family banker in charge of overseeing the children’s guardianship, proves to be one of those generally incompetent humans whose mere existence turns the world into a place of supreme inconvenience. It is Mr. Poe who continuously puts the Baudelaires in the care of unruly (or sometimes merely incapable) guardians, beginning with the series’ Big Bad, Count Olaf. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince Mr. Poe of Olaf’s villainy, and Poe's unresponsiveness is exasperating to the extreme.
Book the Second: The Reptile Room
Unfortunate Event: Dr. Montgomery dies of a snakebite.
The children’s second guardian, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, is an overall pleasant man, which means that he is not long for this world, since the Baudelaire children can't have nice things. A future with “Uncle Monty” would have undoubtedly been a bright one, but the good herpetologist dies of a suspicious snakebite on the day he was set to leave with the children to Peru.
Book the Third: The Wide Window
Unfortunate Event: Aunt Josephine’s house is destroyed by a lightning strike.
The Baudelaires go to live with jittery Aunt Josephine, whose house totters precariously along a cliffside, until a lightning strike tears the house from its moorings, causing it to fall into the lake below. The children watch in horror and come to the realization that they are homeless once more.
Book the Fourth: ‘The Miserable Mill
Unfortunate Event: Klaus is hypnotized and coerced into doing a whole host of unfortunate things.
A book full of allusions to Orwell’s dystopian 1984 is eerie and unpleasant in its own right, but to make matters worse, Violet and Sunny stand by helplessly as a hypnotized Klaus causes an accident at the mill involving one of the few well-intentioned characters in the series.
Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy
Unfortunate Event: The Baudelaires are forced to live in the luridly decorated “Orphan Shack.”
As if the green-and-pink decor isn’t unfortunate enough, the “Orphan Shack” where the Baudelaires reside is also cramped, grubby, and crab-infested. It’s like the worst aspects of all of your college dorm room experiences jam-packed into a single block of foul-smelling garbage, which is then adorned with obnoxious pink hearts.
Book the Sixth: The Ersatz Elevator
Unfortunate Event: The Baudelaires are pushed down an elevator shaft by their newest guardian.
When the Baudelaires make new friends in the form of Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, it is inevitable that these friends will soon be caged and secretly sold in an auction. And after the Baudelaires confide in their supercilious new guardian, Esmé, they are unceremoniously tossed down an elevator shaft and trapped in a net at the bottom of the shaft. You know what they say: No good deed goes unpunished.
Book the Seventh: The Vile Village
Unfortunate Event: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are accused of murder.
The Baudelaires believe they’ve finally found an ally in Jacques Snicket, but he dies before they can bust him out of jail — and they are accused of his murder. Nothing stings quite like a false accusation, and the stakes in this case are certainly higher than usual.
Book the Eighth: The Hostile Hospital
Unfortunate Event: The orphans are once again falsely accused, this time of arson.
Violet is about to undergo a forced “crainiotomy” when Esmé barges in and accuses Klaus and Sunny of a) setting fire to the hospital (which they didn’t do) and b) posing as Count Olaf’s assistants (which they had been doing, up until the point when Esmé exposed them). Incredibly, two wrongs do make a right here, as Sunny and Klaus manage to help Violet escape the unwanted operation amidst all the chaos of accusations true and false alike.
Book the Ninth: The Carnivorous Carnival
Unfortunate Event: Another new friend is devoured by lions.
By this point, the Baudelaires should have learned to bubble-wrap every person who displays even a remote interest in helping them. The latest casualty is "Madame Lulu," who was about to reveal information about a secret organization pertaining to the Baudelaire family when she fell into a lion pit. So it goes.
Book the Tenth: The Slippery Slope
Unfortunate Event: Sunny cooks a delectable meal that Count Olaf promptly rejects.
It’s like that time you stayed up all night to polish off an essay to utter perfection, only to receive a C- from your heartless professor. Oh, the tragedy of unappreciated genius!
Book the Eleventh: The Grim Grotto
Unfortunate Event: Sunny is infected by a rare poisonous mushroom.
Fortunately, the mushroom contamination is quarantined inside Sunny's diving helmet, but this is little consolation to Sunny, who is now contaminated and feeling claustrophobic.
Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril
Unfortunate Event: The Baudelaires accidentally kill yet another friend.
Count Olaf gets hold of a harpoon gun and threatens Dewey, the sub-sub-librarian at the Hotel Denouement. The Baudelaire orphans move to shield Dewey from harm, but when Mr. Poe arrives (inconveniently, as always), Olaf places the harpoon gun in the hands of the Baudelaires, whereupon it spontaneously discharges and hits dear old Dewey.
Book the Thirteenth: The End
Unfortunate Event: The Baudelaires are abandoned on a treacherous coastal shelf with an unconscious pregnant woman.
Misfortune really does seem to follow this lot around, doesn’t it?
Images: Header, giphy.