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An Overview of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Updated on December 9, 2016

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - The Novel

Published January, 14th 1831, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, was originally entitled Notre dame de Paris. Hugo wrote the book to bring awareness for the value of Gothic architecture and began writing the story in 1829. He was so often delayed on other projects that his publisher forced him to finish it.

Hugo found inspiration for the narrative when he found writing on the wall in one of the towers of the cathedral. Written on the wall was the Greek word "Anatkh" which roughly means "Fate" but as concept it's a dark fate that even if you know you'll meet a tragic end you must fulfill it, there is no escape.

It was recently discovered that Quasimodo was inspired by a worker who was working at Notre Dame during the time Hugo was writing the novel. The Worker was also a Hunchback.

Plot Summary

Frollo stabbing Phoebus by Auguste Couder
Frollo stabbing Phoebus by Auguste Couder

The story starts on January 6th 1482, the Epiphany, which is when the "Feast of Fools" is celebrated. Esmeralda, a beautiful, young Gypsy dancer, performs and gets the attention of Pierre Gringiore, a playwright and the archdeacon of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo. The big event of the day is the crowning of the Pope of Fools. The Crown is awarded to the ugliest face in the Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame is crowned the Pope of Fools.

Later that night, Frollo overcome with his lust for Esmeralda, orders Quasimodo to kidnap her but the hunchback ends up arrested by Phoebus and his guards who save Esmeralda. Pierre Gringoire having saw the attempted abduction accidentally stumbles into the Court of Miracles, the place where a safe-haven for Thieves and Gypsies. The rules of the Court of Miracles say that intruders are hanged but Esmeralda saves him by marrying him thus making Gringoire a member. The marriage is in name only as Esmeralda has fallen in love with Phoebus. Days later Quasimodo is sentenced to 50 lashes and an hour of public display. He begs for water and Esmeralda gives him some along with a little pity. In that moment Quasimodo falls in love with her.

A few months past, Esmeralda meets Phoebus for a romantic rendezvous. Frollo follows them and hides himself in the room. In a fit of jealousy Frollo stabs Phoebus and flees the scene as Esmeralda faints.

Esmeralda is charged with murder and witchcraft. They tortured her and she falsely confesses to the crime and sentenced to be hanged. A day before Esmeralda's execution Frollo visits her and confesses his feelings to her and begs her to left him save her. She refuses as she hates Frollo for killing Phoebus, even though Phoebus did not really die. Right before she is to be hanged Quasimodo saves her by taking her into Notre Dame and claiming Sanctuary for her. Quasimodo then cares for and protects Esmeralda.

Painting of Esmeralda and Sister Gudule by Nicolas Eustach Maurin
Painting of Esmeralda and Sister Gudule by Nicolas Eustach Maurin

Frollo tries to get Esmeralda into his power by making up a rumor that sanctuary will be suspend and Esmeralda will be hanged. The rumor gets out of hand when Clopin leads an attack on Notre Dame to save Esmeralda and also to plunder the Cathedral. Quasimodo misconstrues the attack as people trying to kill Esmeralda and he fights back. King Louis learns of the attack on Notre Dame and misconstrues it as the people demanding Esmeralda's death and orders her to be executed.

While Quasimodo is defending Notre Dame, Frollo and Gringoire seek into Notre Dame and take Esmeralda away. Gringoire takes Djali, Esmeralda's goat companion, and runs off leaving Esmeralda with Frollo who tries once again to get Esmeralda to be his. When she once agian refuses him, he leaves her in the hands of Sister Gudule, a sachete, a type of nun that locks themselves inside and just prays. Sister Gudule hates Esmeralda because she blames Gypsies for killing her daughter who would have been Esmeralda's age. It's then that Esmeralda discovers that Sister Gudule is her real mother. Gudule tries to hide Esmeralda from the soldiers but Esmeralda exposes her hiding location when she thinks she hears Phoebus' voice. Esmeralda is captured and brought to the gallows and her mother is killed when the hangman knocks her to the pavement.

Esmeralda is hanged while Frollo and Quasimodo watch from Notre Dame. Frollo in a moment of insanity laughs in a horrible manner and Quasimodo, in a fit of rage, throws him off of Notre Dame. Both the deaths of Esmeralda and Frollo is too much Quasimodo to bare and he disappears.

Two years after the events of the story, two skeletons are discover in Montfaucon, the vault of the condemn. The skeletons are entwined together. One is of a women whose neck had been broken and the other was that of a hunchback who had died beside her. When Quasimodo's skeleton is attempted to be separated it crumbles to dust.

Book?

Disney Notre Dame with molten lead
Disney Notre Dame with molten lead

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The Characters of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Characters of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Characters

Esmeralda - A young Gyspy Dancer and in French a titular Character. Her actual given name is Agnes. She is very young, innocent, naive and prone to whims. She enjoys, dancing and the open air. She is very beautiful and this attracts various men to her. She is always in the company of her pet goat, Djali, who performs various innocent tricks. These tricks are the reason why Esmeralda is later accused of being a witch.

Claude Frollo - The Archdeacon of Notre Dame, he starts the story as a good if stern man. He falls for Esmeralda to the point of obsession, lust and insanity. These intense feelings led to his undoing and death.

Quasimodo - The deformed deaf bell ringer of Notre Dame. He was adopted by Frollo when he was young. Quasimodo is very loyal to Frollo and does whatever Frollo wishes. Quasimodo falls in love with Esmeralda when she gives him some water and he's very protective of her.

Pierre Gringoire - A poet who is a bit of coward. Esmeralda marries him in name only to save his life. He takes to the life style of being a street performer with much ease, finding he is good at balancing chairs in his teeth. He tries to save Esmeralda's life but runs off with Djali instead as he likes Djali better because Djaili likes him. He one of the few characters to survive and ends up writing tragic plays. He is based off a real poet of the same name.

Phoebus de Chateaupers - Captain of the King's Archer, Phoebus saves Esmeralda from Quasimodo and Frollo. Esmeralda takes a liking to him and he tries to get her to sleep with him but Frollo stabs him. Phoebus lives but he doesn't try to help Esmeralda's situation as he embarrassed. After getting stab he does reform a little and he tries to commit himself to his fiancée, Fleur de Lys. Phoebus also survives the end however he meets a tragic end though; he gets married.

Clopin Trouillefou - Leader of The Court of Miracles, he controls the beggars and the thieves of Paris. He organizes the raid on Notre Dame to save Esmeralda but is killed.

Jehan Frollo du Moulin - Frollo's younger brother whom he raised. Jehan is a a good-for-nothing leech. He is a student who would rather drink and go to brothels than study. He always asks for money from his elder brother. Frollo eventually cuts Jehan off and he joins the Court of Miracles. Jehan dies in the raid when Quasimodo throws off the Gallery of Kings.

Fleur-de-Lys Gondelaurier - Phoebus' fiancée, She is a noble who doesn't know about Phoebus' womanizing ways but she is jealous of Esmeralda when she meets her. She marries him and probably gets the happiest ending of anyone in the book

Sister Gudule - Formerly Known as Paquette Guybertaut a.k.a Paquette Chantefleurie, Esmeralda's mother. Originally a prostitute from Rheims. She longed for a child and gave birth to a daughter she named Agnes. Agnes was spirited away by Gypsies and a deformed child was left in Agnes' place. Paquette became a sachette, a nun who locks herself away from the world and constantly prays. She thinks she hates Esmeralda because she feels strong emotions when she sees her and because Esmeralda is a gypsy she just assumes it's hate that she feels instead of motherly love.

King Louis XI - King Louis IX is a penny pitching King who misconstrues the attack of Notre Dame as the people demanding Esmeralda's death and he orders her to be executed.

Character Poll

Notre Dame de Paris Cast
Notre Dame de Paris Cast

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Disney Esmeralda Concept Art
Disney Esmeralda Concept Art

Interesting Things

  • Frollo practices Alchemy, more specifically Hermentics. One of the Most Famous texts associated with Hermentics is called "the Emerald Tablet". Esmeralda's name means Emerald
  • Quasimodo was celebrates his birthday November 11. Making him a Scorpio. He also says he is twenty years old.
  • Esmeralda was born January 26th 1466. Making her an Aquarius. She is sixteen during most if the books events except she is fifteen at the beginning of the novel.

Movie Poster for the 1923 Lon Chaney Version
Movie Poster for the 1923 Lon Chaney Version

Films and Television

  • 1905 La Esmeralda - France
  • 1909 The Hunchback - US
  • 1911 Notre Dame de Paris - France
  • 1917 The Darling of Paris - US
  • 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame - US
  • 1925 Enmei-in ni Seimushi - Japan
  • 1926 The Dancer of Paris - US
  • 1939 The Hunchback of Notre Dame- US
  • 1953 Badshah Dampati - India
  • 1956 The Hunchback of Notre Dame - France/Italy
  • 1957 Nanbanjo no Semushi-Otoko - Japan
  • 1977 The Hunchback of Notre Dame - England (TV)
  • 1982 The Hunchback of Notre Dame - US/England
  • 1996 Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame - US
  • 1997 The Hunchback - US
  • 1998 Quasimodo d'el Paris - France
  • Upcoming film Josh Brolin version (maybe), An Independent movie starting Max Ryan as Quasimodo and A version from Esmeralda perspective from Peter Chernin.

Helene Segara as Esmeralda and Garou as Quaismodo in the 1998 musical Notre Dame de Paris
Helene Segara as Esmeralda and Garou as Quaismodo in the 1998 musical Notre Dame de Paris

Musicals

  • 1977, by Ken Hill (England)
  • 2010, by Pip Utton (Scotland)
  • 1993 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, an Off Broadway musical with music by Byron Janis, lyrics by Hal Hackady and book by Anthony Scully
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1993), a dramatic sung-through musical with book and lyrics by Gary Sullivan and music by John Trent Wallace. In 2010 it was re-written as a conventional musical, with the new title Notre Dame.
  • 1996, Quasimodo, Prince of Fool, Michael Rapp,Concept Only
  • 1998 Notre Dame de paris music by Richard Cocciante and lyrics by Luc Plamondon (France Originally other countries this musical has been performed in USA, Canada, Italy, Spain, Russia, Korean, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Belgium). Currenty it being performed in France and Italy.
  • A rock musical version was released in Seattle, Washington in 1998 titled "Hunchback" with music and script by C. Rainey Lewis
  • Der Glockner von Notre Dame (1999) music by Alan Menken and based off the Disney version, performed in Berlin.
  • A musical version, scored by Dennis DeYoung, opened in Chicago at the Bailiwick Repertory in the summer of 2008
  • "Our Lady of Paris" with music and lyrics by David Levinson and book by Stacey Weingarten was produced in a reading format in Manhattan. It takes place in 1954 at the beginning of the French Algerian conflict. A second reading was produced in January 2011 under the musical's new title, Les Enfants de Paris.
  • 2013 Quasimodo! by Lionel Bart (England)
  • American Version of the Disney version coming soon to La Jolla Play house in San Diego and Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. It currently is playing around the USA at Regional theatres.

La Esmeralda Costume Design
La Esmeralda Costume Design

Opera

  • 1836 La Esmeralda by Louise Bertin Libertto by Victor Hugo
  • 1847 Esmeralda by Alexander Dargomyzhsky
  • 1883 Esmeralda by Arthur Goring Thomas
  • 1902 Notre Dame by Franz Schmidt first performed in 1914

Fanny Elssler as La Esmeralda, Berlin, circa 1845.
Fanny Elssler as La Esmeralda, Berlin, circa 1845.

Ballet

  • La Esmeralda (1802-1870) - Music composed by Cesare Pugni
  • Notre-Dame de Paris (1965) - choreography by Roland Petit, first performed by the Paris Opera Ballet.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1998) - choreography and direction by Michael Pink and original music score by Philip Feeney; currently in the repertoire of Milwaukee Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and Colorado Ballet.
  • Ringaren i Notre Dame (Swedish for The Bellringer of Notre Dame) (2009) - choreography by Pär Isberg and original music score by Stefan Nilsson, first performed on 3 April by the Royal Swedish Ballet.

Enchanted Tales Hunchback of Notre Dame
Enchanted Tales Hunchback of Notre Dame

Children Cartoons Based on the Book

-The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1986)

- The Secret of the Hunchback ( 1996)

- Enchanted Tales Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

- Jet Lag Productions; The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

- Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

-The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2003)

- Timeless Tale; Hunchback of Notre Dame 2007

Notre dame  Gargoyle
Notre dame Gargoyle

Radio Plays

  • 5 parts from 6 January to 3 February 1989, with Jack Klaff as Quasimodo. This was aired on the BBC.
  • 2 parts on 30 November and 7 December 2008, with deaf actor David Bower playing Quasimodo. This was aired on the BBC.

Hunchpoll

Disney Phoebus and Quasimodo
Disney Phoebus and Quasimodo

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Read the Book,Watched a Movie,Seen a Musical? Leave a Comment!

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    • drmattshepard profile image

      drmattshepard 4 years ago

      great lens. Well done for sure.