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The Hunchback of Notre-Dame character
Hunchback of Notre Dame.jpg
Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda in the 1923 film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Created by Victor Hugo
Nickname(s) the hunchback of Notre Dame
Occupation Bell-ringer of Notre Dame cathedral
Family Claude Frollo (adoptive father)
Significant other(s) Esmeralda
Relatives Gypsies (biological family)
Religion Catholic
Nationality French

Quasimodo (from Quasimodo Sunday[1]) is a fictional character and the main protagonist of 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, and most recently Michael Arden in the 2016 stage musical 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 each other.[2]

In the novel[edit]

The deformed Quasimodo is described as "hideous" and a "creation of the devil". He was born with a severe hunchback, and a giant wart that covers his left eye. He was born to a Gypsy tribe, but due to his monstrous appearance he was switched during infancy with a physically normal baby girl (the infant Esmeralda). After being discovered, Quasimodo is exorcised and taken to Paris, where 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.

Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion's illustrations

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 Romani 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 whipped in the pillory for punishment and jeered by a horrid rabble.

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; although she recognizes his kindness toward her, she is nonetheless repulsed by his ugliness and terrified of him. (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 of Paris' Truands led by Clopin Trouillefou storms Notre Dame, and although Quasimodo tries to fend them off by throwing stones and bricks down onto the mob and even pours deadly molten lead, 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, by throwing him from the cathedral when he realizes that he has sealed Esmeralda's doom in hopes of quelling his lust for her.

Quasimodo cries in despair after witnessing the deaths of both Esmeralda and Claude Frollo, lamenting "There is all that I ever loved!" He then leaves Notre Dame, never to return, and heads for the Gibbet of Montfaucon beyond the city walls, passing by the Convent of the Filles-Dieu, a home for 200 reformed prostitutes, and the leper colony of Saint-Lazare. After reaching the Gibbet, he lies next to Esmeralda's corpse, where it had been unceremoniously thrown after the execution. He stays at Montfaucon, and eventually dies of starvation, clutching Esmeralda's body. Years later, an excavation group exhumes both their skeletons which have become intertwined. When they try to separate them, Quasimodo's bones crumble into dust.

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.[3]

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.


Among the actors who have played Quasimodo over the years in each adaptation of the novel are:

Actor Version
Henry Vorins 1905 film
Henry Krauss 1911 film
Glen White 1917 film
Booth Conway 1922 film
Lon Chaney 1923 film
Charles Laughton 1939 film
Anthony Quinn 1956 film
Peter Woodthorpe (voice) 1966 animated television series
Warren Clarke 1977 television film
Anthony Hopkins 1982 television film
Tom Burlinson (voice) 1986 animated film
Daniel Brochu (voice) 1996 animated television series
Tom Hulce (voice) 1996 animated Disney film and its 2002 direct-to-video sequel
Mandy Patinkin 1997 television film
Garou 1997–2002 musical
Patrick Timsit 1999 parody film
Michael Arden 2014–2015 musical

Disney version[edit]

In the first film[edit]

Quasimodo is the protagonist of Disney's 1996 animated film adaptation of the story, where he is a very different character than in the novel. Quasimodo was voiced by Tom Hulce and animated by James Baxter. Unlike in the novel, Quasimodo has two eyes, with his left one only partially covered. He is not deaf either, is capable of fluent speech and longs to live in the world outside the bell-tower. He has three anthropomorphic gargoyle friends named Victor, Hugo (both named after original novel's author), and Laverne, who mainly come to life in his presence, and comment on events taking place when he is gone. Quasimodo is also older than his original counterpart, as he is about 20 years old in the film while in the book he is about 16. He comes from a family of gypsies like in the novel, but his father is arrested (and presumably executed as well) by Judge Claude Frollo's soldiers, and his mother is killed during a struggle with 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 murdering Quasimodo's parents and attempting to do so to their child, warning of the consequences that his cruelty will result in damnation if ever he kills the baby under the "eyes of Notre Dame".

Quasimodo is portrayed as kind-hearted and initially very loyal to his master and so-called father figure Frollo, but eventually becomes increasingly rebellious after some encouragement from the gargoyles. He discovers from Esmeralda that the world is not as dark and cruel a place as Frollo imagines it to be. During the Festival of Fools, he is tormented by the crowd when Frollo's thugs start a riot. Eventually, Quasimodo is helped by Esmeralda who frees him and puts the torture to a stop. Later, Esmeralda apologizes to Quasimodo for her actions at the Festival, and he helps her flee from the cathedral in gratitude.

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 by 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 against Frollo's tyranny. From the bell-tower, Quasimodo and the gargoyles watch the citizens fighting Frollo's army. They pour molten lead, thus disallowing Frollo and his soldiers to break in. However, Frollo successfully manages to enter the cathedral, and when the archdeacon attempts to intervene, he throws him down a flight of stairs. He also tries to kill Quasimodo, who is mourning Esmeralda, believing her to be already dead. The two struggle briefly until Quasimodo throws Frollo onto the floor and comes very close to killing him. Esmeralda awakens and Quasimodo rushes her to safety. He then fights the wrathful Frollo and both fall from the balcony. While Frollo falls to his death, Quasimodo is caught by Phoebus and pulled 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 citizenry, and most are pardoned and continue to serve under the new minister.

Quasimodo displays an immense amount of physical strength (most likely due to twenty years of pulling the ropes on the heavy bells with no letup). 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 from heavy chains.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II[edit]

In Disney's 2002 direct-to-video sequel, Quasimodo reappears 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 love in a beautiful circus performer named Madellaine (voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt), who ultimately reveals that she is aware that the gargoyles are alive. His love for Madellaine is briefly strained when he learns she was actually working on behalf of a criminal mastermind, Sarousch, who planned to steal a particularly valuable bell, La Fidele, from Notre Dame while Quasimodo was away with Madellaine, but Madellaine's true feelings for Quasimodo overcome her loyalty to Sarousch and she aids Quasimodo in rescuing Zephyr from him, allowing Phoebus and the guards to apprehend Sarousch. Quasimodo forgives Madellaine and the two admit their love for each other.

Later Disney appearances[edit]

  • 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 a very rare meetable character at the Disney Parks and Resorts.
  • 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 2014 at the La Jolla Playhouse, Disney premiered a new adaption of Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like the 1999 German Adaption, the new adaption was based off the movie but it restored some of the themes, characters, and ending of Hugo's original book. It later transferred to PaperMill Playhouse in 2015 but was denied to transfer to a theater on Broadway.

In popular culture[edit]

Hotel Transylvania[edit]

  • Quasimodo appears in Hotel Transylvania, voiced by Jon Lovitz. He is the master chef at the titular hotel where puts up with Count Dracula's changing taste buds and has a desire to make a dish out of humans. Quasimodo owns a pet rat named Esmeralda who can sniff out humans and tends to abuse one of the gargoyle waiters. When Quasimodo manages to successfully capture Jonathan, Count Dracula uses his abilities to magically freeze Quasimodo. The abused gargoyle then takes the opportunity to put Quasimodo's finger up his nose. Esmeralda later brought Quasimodo's petrified body to the party where the Fly translates his frozen language that revealed that Jonathan is a human. Around the end of the movie, Quasimodo is still frozen as Wayne and Wanda's children are constantly licking him.
  • Although Quasimodo doesn't appear in Hotel Transylvania 2, he does appear in the video game adaption where he has reformed.
  • Quasimodo appears in Hotel Transylvania: The Series (which takes place four years before the events of the first movie).

Other appearances[edit]

  • Quasimodo appears in Mad Monster Party? with his vocal effects provided by Allen Swift.
  • Quasimodo appears as a playable character in Shrek SuperSlam.
  • Quasimodo appears in an episode of The Beatles cartoon series titled "When I Get Home", in which the Beatles meet him in Notre Dame while exploring the cathedral during their visit in France.
  • Quasimodo appears as a playable character in the 1983 video game Hunchback, which is based on Victor Hugo's novel. In this video game, he saves Esmeralda.


  • The Big Bad Beetleborgs episode "Hunchback of Hillhurst" featured a parody of the character named Quincy Modo (performed by Brian Tahash and voiced by Dave Mallow). He was a former fullback for a college football team at the University of Notre Dame until he suffered from amnesia and took up residence in Hillhurst Mansion's bell tower.
  • The TV series Casper's Scare School featured a parody of the character named Quasi, who is a hunchbacked ogre monster.
  • The What's New Scooby Doo? episode "Ready to Scare" featured a parody of the character named Sonny Les Matines (a pun on "Sonnez les matines", a line from the popular French nursery rhyme "Frère Jacques" used as a reference for ringing the bells). The reference is further alluded to when Shaggy calls him "The Lunchback of Notre Dame".
  • The Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "The Hunchback of Nowhere" featured a hunchback (also a parody of Quasimodo) who lives in Nowhere. In this episode, he stays temporarily in Courage's house and displays a liking of bells.

The Muppets[edit]

  • The Muppet Babies episode "The House That Muppets Built" featured Baby Gonzo as "Quasigonzo".
  • A Muppets Tonight sketch called "The Hunchbear of Notre Dame" (based on Victor Hugo's novel) featured Bobo the Bear as "Quasibobo".
  • In episode 509 of The Muppet Show, Mulch played the hunchback during the song "For Me and My Goyle," accompanied by his gargoyle bride.
  • The Muppet Parodies 1998 Calendar shows Kermit the Frog playing Quasimodo in The Lunchbox of Notre Dame. The lunchbox itself is an homage to the Muppets' parody of Jean-Honoré Fragonard's "The Swing," which was first featured in The Miss Piggy Calendar 1980.

Real-life Quasimodo[edit]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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."[2] Because Victor Hugo had close links with the restoration of the cathedral, it is likely that he was aware of the unnamed "humpbacked carver" nicknamed "Le Bossu" (French for "The Hunchback"), who oversaw "Monsieur Trajin".[2] 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 humpbacked carver's employee), but later changed it to "Jean Valjean".[2]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "quasimodo (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 24, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Real-life Quasimodo uncovered in Tate archives", Roya Nikkhah, The Daily Telegraph (London), 15 August 2010
  3. ^ Chapter 46 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

External links[edit]