What Does Count Olaf's Tattoo Mean In 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events'? The Eye Symbol Is A Major Clue

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A Series Of Unfortunate Events requires you to play close attention. If you don't, you could miss some major clues as to what is really going on. Of course, there are some clues that it doesn't try to hide and instead begins throwing hints at the audience early and often that this story about more than just melancholy orphans. One such clue is an image that recurs throughout A Series of Unfortunate Events, an eye symbol that seems to be built into just about every surface in Count Olaf's decrepit estate. The mysterious eye appears in windows, trap doors, and maps of geographic locations. In fact, Count Olaf has a tattoo of the eye symbol that becomes his distinguishing feature. Clearly, this image holds significant meaning, but what?

The most obvious symbolism of the eye is only part of the whole story. First and foremost, the ever-present eye serves as a reminder that the Baudelaires are always being watched, and reminds them that there is no true escape from Count Olaf. It's no accident that one of the first times the Baudelaires see the eye symbol is tattooed on Count Olaf's ankle. However, the eye doesn't just turn up whenever Count Olaf is around — because it doesn't solely belong to him.

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The eye hints at the secret organization that counted Count Olaf, Lemony Snicket, the Baudelaire parents, as well as some of the Baudelaire's guardians like Montgomery Montgomery and Josephine Anwhistle, and many others among its members. While the secret organization encompasses both good and bad people, it's hinted that there's been a falling out that has resulted in two sides turning against each other, and causing several former members to have a vendetta against the late Baudelaire parents. While the series offers very little in the way of clear answers, fans who turn to the books will learn that the eye isn't just the symbol of the secret organization — it's also its name.

Spoilers for the ASOUE book series ahead. If you look closely at the eye, you can see a few letters hidden within the symbol. Specifically the acronym VFD, with the "V" and "F" making up the Iris of the eye and the "D" being the pupil. The VFD, or "Volunteer Fire Department" is the organization that housed the many people who are at battle with each other over what will happen to the Baudelaire orphans. Now that there are two sides to the organization, the eye indicates two things – that the person in ownership of the eye either stops fires, or starts them.

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The internal struggle between the VFD is the cause for nearly all of the Unfortunate Events that befall the Baudelaire orphans. From the many houses and other establishments burnt down, to the many deaths that plague the series. The eye serves as an indication that the VFD is present – but there's no way to tell if it's the good "Baudelaire" side of the VFD or the bad "Olaf" side of until something is already on fire. The presence of the VFD's all-seeing eye means that either that the Baudelaires are safe or that they are in grave danger – a fittingly foreboding symbol for a series as morose as this one.