|The Hunchback of Notre-Dame character|
|Created by||Robert Burcea|
Quasimodo (from Latin, quasi modo) is a fictional character in the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) by Victor Hugo. Quasimodo was born with a hunchback and feared by the townspeople as a sort of monster, but he finds sanctuary in an unlikely love that is fulfilled only in death. The role of Quasimodo has been played by many actors in film and stage adaptations, including Lon Chaney, Sr. (1923) and Charles Laughton (1939), as well as Tom Hulce in the 1996 Disney animated adaptation. In 2010, a British researcher found evidence suggesting there was a real-life hunchbacked stone carver who worked at Notre Dame during the same period Victor Hugo was writing the novel and they may have even known one another.
In the novel
Quasimodo is described as "hideous" and a "creation of the devil." He was born with a hunchback, and a giant wart that covers his left eye. He is found abandoned in Notre Dame (on the foundlings' bed, where orphans and unwanted children are left to public charity) on Quasimodo Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter, by Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, who adopts the baby, names him after the day the baby was found, and brings him up to be the bell-ringer of the Cathedral. Due to the loud ringing of the bells, Quasimodo also becomes deaf. Although he is hated for his deformity, it is revealed that he is fairly kind at heart. Though Quasimodo commits acts of violence in the novel, these are only undertaken when he is instructed by others.
Looked upon by the general populace of Paris as a monster, he relies on his master Claude Frollo and frequently accompanies him when the Archdeacon walks out. He first encounters the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda when he and Frollo attempt to kidnap her one night, though in this event Quasimodo did not wish personally to harm Esmeralda, but was complying with his master's demands. Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers arrives to stop the kidnapping and captures Quasimodo. Quasimodo later falls in love when she gives him water as he is being punished at the pillory.
Esmeralda is later entangled in an attempted murder and sentenced to hang for both the attempted murder and witchcraft. As she is being forced to pray at the steps of Notre Dame just before being marched off to the gallows, Quasimodo, who has been watching the occasion from an upper balcony in Notre Dame, slides down with a rope, and rescues her by taking her up to the top of the cathedral, where he poignantly shouts "Sanctuary!" to the onlookers below.
However, Quasimodo is never loved by Esmeralda (the main theme of the book being the cruelty of social injustice); although she recognizes his kindness toward her, she is nonetheless repulsed by his ugliness and terrified of him, however unfairly. (In the 1982 television film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she kisses him goodbye at the end; something that does not occur in either the book, nor any other film version of the novel.) He continues to watch over her and protect her regardless, and at one point saves her from Frollo (and stops short of killing him) when the mad priest sexually assaults her in her room.
After an uneasy respite, a mob storms Notre Dame, and although Quasimodo tries to fend them off the mob continues attacking until Phoebus and his soldiers arrive to fight and drive off the assailants. Unbeknownst to Quasimodo, Esmeralda is lured outside by Frollo and subsequently seized and hanged. In despair, Quasimodo murders his former benefactor, Frollo, when he realizes that he has sealed Esmeralda's doom in hopes of quelling his lust for her. He leaves Notre Dame, never to return, and later goes to Montfaucon, a huge graveyard in Paris where the bodies of the condemned are dumped. He dies of starvation, clutching Esmeralda's body. Years later, an excavation group exhumes both their skeletons which have become intertwined. When it tries to separate them, Quasimodo's bones crumble into dust.
Quasimodo's name can be considered a pun. Frollo finds him on the cathedral's doorsteps on Quasimodo Sunday and names him after the holiday. However, the Latin words "quasi" and "modo" also mean "almost" and "the standard measure" respectively. As such, Quasimodo is "almost the standard measure" of a human being.
In the novel, he symbolically shows Esmeralda the difference between himself and the shallow, superficial, self-centered, yet handsome Captain Phoebus with whom the girl has become infatuated. He places two vases in her room: one is a beautiful crystal vase, yet broken and filled with dry, withered flowers; the other a humble pot, yet filled with beautiful, fragrant flowers. Esmeralda takes the withered flowers from the crystal vase and presses them passionately on her heart.
A small sculpture of Quasimodo can be found on Notre Dame, on the exterior of the north transept along the Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame.
In the original film
Quasimodo is the protagonist of Disney's 1996 animated film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where he is a very different character than in the novel. Unlike in the novel, he has two eyes. He is not deaf either; he is capable of fluent speech and longs to live in the world outside the bell-tower. He has three anthropomorphic gargoyle friends/guardians named Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, who mainly come to life in his presence. He comes from a family of gypsies like in the novel, but his mother is killed during a struggle with Judge Claude Frollo as she attempts to save her child near Notre-Dame. Quasimodo is spared and sent to live in the bell-tower when the Archdeacon of Notre Dame condemns Frollo for both murdering Quasimodo's mother and attempting to do so to her son, warning of the consequences that his cruelty will result in damnation if ever he kills the infant under the "eyes of Notre Dame".
Quasimodo is portrayed as kind-hearted and initially very loyal to his so-called master and father figure Frollo but becomes innocently rebellious after some encouragement from the gargoyles. He discovers from Esmeralda that the world is not as dark and cruel a place as Frollo makes it out to be. During the Festival of Fools, he is tormented by the crowd when Frollo's men start a riot. Eventually, Quasimodo is helped by Esmeralda who frees him and puts the torture to a stop. Later, Esmerelda apologizes to Quasimodo for what happened at the Festival, and he helps her flee from the cathedral.
Later, the gargoyles cheer up Quasimodo by assuring him that Esmeralda is in love with him, but unfortunately, this is proven wrong after Quasimodo catches Phoebus and Esmeralda kissing, which greatly saddens him. However, Frollo eventually locates the gypsies and Phoebus, sentencing them to death, and has Quasimodo detained. Enraged at Frollo's actions, Quasimodo breaks free and rescues Esmeralda from being immolated by lifting the unconscious Esmeralda. Phoebus breaks free from his cage and rallies the citizens of Paris and the French army against Frollo's tyranny. From the belltower, Quasimodo and the gargoyles watch the citizens of Paris and the French army fighting Frollo's army. They pour molten lead, thus disallowing Frollo and his soldiers to break in. Nevertheless, Frollo breaks into the cathedral and when the archdeacon tries to stop him, he throws him down a flight of stairs. He also tries to kill Quasimodo who is mourning Esmeralda (thinking she is already dead). Quasimodo throws Frollo onto the floor, and realizes his evil reputation.
In a drastically different ending, Quasimodo remains alive at the end of the Disney film. As he falls from the roof of Notre Dame cathedral, it is Phoebus who catches him and pulls him to safety. He is finally accepted into society by the citizens of Paris who are celebrating the death of Frollo and the liberation of their city. Frollo's soldiers surrender to the French soldiers, and some of them reform and rejoin.
Quasimodo displays an immense amount of physical strength (most likely due to twenty years of pulling the ropes on the heavy bells with no let up). He is able to easily lift a full grown man with one hand, throw a stone with enough weight to destroy a chariot of metal, and with extreme effort, break free of heavy chains.
- Quasimodo reappears in Disney's sequel film The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002) once again as the protagonist. Despite Frollo's death, and being accepted into society, he remains a bell-ringer, still living in Notre Dame with the gargoyles. He is now much happier, confident, and independent and finds true love in a circus performer named Madellaine (voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt), who ultimately reveals that she is aware that the gargoyles are alive.
- Quasimodo also made some occasional appearances on the Disney Channel series, House of Mouse. At one point, Jiminy Cricket, when giving advice to the guests, consoles him by saying that some people find someone special and some people do not, poking fun at the fact that Quasimodo and Esmeralda did not fall in love at the end of the original film. Quasimodo is also a very rare meetable character at Walt Disney World Resort.
- A German musical stage show Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (1999) derived from the Disney movie, restores some of the darker elements of the original novel lost in the film: Esmeralda dies at the end, Frollo is revealed to have once been a priest in his past (akin to the novel, where he was an archdeacon), and Frollo dies because Quasimodo throws him from the roof rather than falling by accident.
- Quasimodo appears in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance voiced by Ari Rubin. He appears as a supporting character in a world based on the film called "La Cité des Cloches" and plays out a more or less the same role as in the film.
In August 2010 Adrian Glew, a Tate archivist, announced evidence for a real-life Quasimodo, a "humpbacked [stone] carver" who worked at Notre Dame during the 1820s. The evidence is contained in the memoirs of Henry Sibson, a 19th-century British sculptor who worked at Notre Dame at around the same time Hugo wrote the novel. Sibson describes a humpbacked stonemason working there: "He was the carver under the Government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no interaction with him, all that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers." Because Victor Hugo had close links with the restoration of the cathedral it is likely he was aware of the unnamed "humpbacked carver" nicknamed "Le Bossu" (French for "The Hunchback"), who oversaw "Monsieur Trajin". Adrian Glew also uncovered that both the hunchback and Hugo were living in the same town of Saint Germain-des-Pres in 1833, and in early drafts of Les Misérables, Hugo named the main character "Jean Trajin" (the same name as the unnamed hunchback carver's employee), but later changed it to "Jean Valjean".