There's a mysterious recurring code in 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' - here's what it means


Count Olaf with spyglass series unfortunate events


Count Olaf picked up a spyglass with a familiar logo.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books and Netflix show.

There are three recurring letters that careful viewers will notice in Netflix's show "A Series of Unfortunate Events": V, F, and D.


The letters have their roots in the books by Daniel Handler, which readers of the series will have recognized immediately. It first comes up in a sentence spoken by Lemony Snicket, the show's narrator and Handler's authorial alter-ego, ten minutes into the first episode.

"All that my associates and I have been able to learn is that neither the official fire department, nor the Volunteer Fire Department, arrived in time to stop the blaze," Snicket says.

And it comes up elsewhere as various characters say phrases like "Very Frightening Decisions," "Vigorously Fixed Destination," "Very Fitting Definition," "Very Fresh Dill," and "Very Fancy Door."


series of unfortunate events lemony snicket patrick wharburton


Patrick Wharburton plays Lemony Snicket.

But what does VFD mean? Well, the Baudelaire orphans - Violet, Klaus, and Sunny - find out in the eleventh book in the series, "The Grim Grotto," shortly after leaving the Valley of Four Drafts.

It was a secret organization that included the Baudelaire's parents, Count Olaf (the villain in the series), and various other secondary characters the Baudelaires meet throughout the series.


The organization's precise mission is never made clear, but it basically involves doing good in the world. "VFD" stands for many things, but their main name is "Volunteer Fire Department," indicating that they put out fires - literal and metaphorical - of their own volition.

For most of the organization's existence, the members were required to get a tattoo of an eye on their left ankles. It's that same tattoo that the Baudelaires first notice on Count Olaf.

eye tattoo vfd count olaf ankle series unfortunate events


The eye tattoo on Count Olaf's ankle.


But what does it mean? On one level, it's just an eye. But if you look closely at the design, you'll see a set of familiar letters.

VFD eye colored

Stephen Parkhurst/INSIDER

Do you see the V (in red), F (in blue), and D (in green)?

The letters V, F, and D are hidden inside them. It's the logo for the organization.


But how did someone as evil as Count Olaf come to be a part of the VFD? Well, years before the events of "A Series of Unfortunate Events," there was a schism within the organization. The good guys included people like the Baudelaire parents and Lemony Snicket. The bad guys included people like Count Olaf and Esmé Squalor.

"The difference between the two sides of the schism," Klaus explains in "The Grim Grotto" book, "is that one side puts out fires, and the other starts them."

Further confusing things is that each side of the schism continued to use the same secret codes and disguise kits.


It's part of the challenge, and fun, of the series. Sometimes the villains are obvious, and at other times the Baudelaire orphans don't know who to trust.

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" is currently streaming on Netflix.

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