The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (French: Notre Dame de Paris) is a book by Victor Hugo written in 1831. It is a love story with Christian themes of sacrifice and respect for the outcasts. Victor Hugo thought that architecture was the greatest expression of the mind, and his work was inspired by his dismay at the deterioration in maintenance of this landmark cathedral in Paris. Disney released an animated film version in 1996 which was a spectacular success.

This novel tells the tale of the gypsy girl Esmeralda who falls in love with the captain Phoebus, but who herself is desired by Archbishop Claude Frollo. While being sent to be hanged, Esmeralda is rescued by the hunchback Quasimodo, whom she had shown kindness to by giving him a glass of water while he was on the pillory. The book also talks about architecture, and the effects that the printing press will have on it.


According to a preface of the book, the author states that the book is centered around the word 'ANArKH,' which he found inscribed on the walls of Notre Dame.

Plot summary

The book takes place in Paris, France in the year of 1482. It stats on January 6 of that year on the Festival of Fools. The poet and philosopher, Pierre Gringoire, is debuting a moral play which he wrote himself. The play is interrupted by the announcement of the comings of various nobility, and is finally interrupted by the last time by the choosing of the King of Fools. The choosing of the King of Fools happens when contestants put their head through a hole and try to make the ugliest face possible. Some people try out, before the deformed hunchback and bell ringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo is chosen as the King of Fools. There is then a parade celebrating his coronation.

Later on in the night, Pierre Gringoire stumbles upon a performance of a gipsy girl and her little goat. While she is preforming, a voice every now and then makes a comment which scares the gipsy girl. This voice belongs to the archbishop of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo. The gipsy girl's performances is interrupted by the possession of the King of Fools. When Frollo recognizes Quasimodo, he makes it known (through sign language since the latter is deaf because of the bells) that Frollo is ashamed of him, and the two go off together. The gipsy girl then goes off.

Gringoire decides to follow the gipsy girl as she might let him have a place to sleep. While he follows her, the gipsy girl is being kidnapped by two people. However, she is saved by Phoebus, the captain of the guard. One of the kidnappers escapes, while the other is apprehended and is shown to be the hunchback Quasimodo. The gipsy girl meanwhile escapes from Phoebus, much to his surprise.

Gringoire finds a mattress on the ground and decides to sleep on it. A group of homeless children, without seeing Gringoire, decide to set the mattress on fire. They attempt to do so, but scare themselves and Gringoire who runs away. When he comes to his senses, he keeps on walking, until he is captured by rogues who were pretending to be disabled, and take him to the Court of Miracles, which is a hideout for criminals.

At the Court of Miracles, Gringoire tries to beg mercy from Clopin Trouillefou, the King of the Court of Miracles. Clopin says that if Grongoire is able to steal from a dummy lined with lots of bells without ringing any of the bells, he can join the rogues. But if one of the bells rings, he will be hanged unless a woman marries him for four years. Gringoire tries, and fails miserably. Before he is to be hanged, a couple of women check him out and find him undesirable. Esmeralda comes in with and her goat Djali, who is the gipsy girl from earlier, and decides to save Gringoire by marrying him for four years.

Meanwhile, three women go to the cell at Tour-Roland, where a recluse named Sister Gudule lives to bring a cake to her. One of the women, whose name is Mahiette, tells a story about a dear friend of hers named Paquette Chantefleurie. Chantefleurie gave birth to a little girl named Agnes whom she loved very much, and who had two identical shoes. One day, gipsies came to the town where they lived, and Chantefleurie took Agnes to meet them to get the latter's fortune. Later that night, after Chantefleurie bragged about her daughter's fortune, she came home and found that Agnes, and one of her shoes, were gone, and was replaced by a deformed four year old. The four year old was sent away. The next day there is found evidence that the gipsies had eaten Agnes. Chantefleurie left the town and was never seen again. The three women arrive at the cell where Mahiette recognizes Sister Gudule as her old friend Paquette Chantefleurie. Chantefleurie has been in there for fifteen years, praying to God to give back her daughter, and stills has the little shoe that was left behind.

Quasimodo is to be sent to the pillory (which is a wheel one is tied to), for two hours and to be whipped while he is there. While he is being punished, Esmeralda comes and gives him some water.

Phoebus is at the house of his cousin and betrothed Fleur-de-Lys. Fleur-de-Lys has her mother, and three of her companions, and a little girl, are there as well. The four girls see a gipsy and a goat performing down below and invite her to come up and entertain them. The gipsy girl and the goat, who are Esmeralda and Djali, come up. The four women then get jealous of Esmeralda. After the little girl spills the contents around Djali's neck, the goat precedes to rearrange them into the name Phoebus. Esmeralda then gets the contents and Djali and leaves the house.

Claude Frollo learns from Gringoire that Esmeralda has fallen in love with Phoebus. It turns out that Frollo has fallen in love with Esmeralda.

Claude Frollo meets Phoebus and goes with him to a house where the latter is to meet the gipsy girl Esmeralda. Frollo hides as Phoebus and Esmeralda meet. As the other two play around, Frollo comes out, stabs Phoebus and escapes. Esmeralda faints, and when she wakes up, she is surrounded by officers who arrest her for witchcraft and the murder of Phoebus.

Months later, Esmeralda is being tried. When she doesn't give in to the charges against her, which include murder and witchcraft, the court sends her to be tortured. She is tortured shortly with the boot before giving into the charges against her. She is then to be hanged along with Djali.

That night in prison, Claude Frollo visits Esmeralda and confesses his love for her, and tells her that if she wants to live, she must go with him and love him too. Esmeralda refuses to do so.

The next day, while Esmeralda and Djali are going to be hanged, and are at Notre Dame for penance, Quasimodo, as a payback for her kindness, sweeps down and saves her, carrying her around Notre Dame and screaming "Sanctuary!" The crowd cheers. Quasimodo shows Esmeralda to a room on top of the roof where she can stay. Djali is also there. Quasimodo gives her a whistle which he can hear just in case she needs him.

Esmeralda from looking on the roof looks down and sees that Phoebus is alive. She tries to get Quasimodo to go get him, but it doesn't work.

One night, Frollo tries to kill Esmeralda, but Quasimodo defends her after she blows on the whistle. However, he stopes attacking Frollo when he realizes who it is.

Gringoire tells the Court of Miracles what happens, and that Esmeralda is on Notre Dame. They then plan to go rescue her by assaulting the cathedral. While assaulting it, Quasimodo defends it. In the process, Jehan Frollo, brother of Claude Frollo, gets on top of the cathedral by a ladder -that was shortly after thrown down by Quasimodo- and is killed by the hunchback.

The news of this assault gets to the ears of King Louis XI, who thinking that the vagrants want to hang Esmeralda sends the army to crush the rebellion and hang Esmeralda. He also released Gringoire after he tells the king that he has nothing to do with the rebellion.

Esmeralda and Djali are found and rescued by Gringoire and a mysterious man. They escape onto a boat. On the shore, Gringoire takes Djali and the man takes Esmeralda. Near the scaffold where she would have been hanged, the man reveals himself to be Claude Frollo, who gives her one more chance to escape, which she refuses. Frollo then hands Esmeralda into the hands of the recluse Chantefleurie.

Chantefleurie gloats about Esmeralda dying, as her daughter was eating by gipsies. She shows the gipsy girl the little shoe that used to belong to her daughter. Esmeralda recognizes it, and brings out the object in the pouch of her necklace, which turns out to be a little shoe that's identical to the other one. The recluse then realizes that the gipsy girl is her daughter Agnes. She tears the bars of her cell and brings her daughter in there. Chantefleurie hides Esmeralda from some officers.

After an inquiry, the officers find Esmeralda in the cell and take her out. Chantefleurie begs them to let her daughter go, but to no avail, and is thrown onto the ground by one of the officers where she hits her head and dies. Esmeralda is then hanged.

From Notre Dame, Claude Frollo watches this happen. Quasimodo comes and sees what happens. He realizes what Frollo did and pushes him off of Notre Dame, where he falls to death. No one sees Quasimodo alive ever again.

However, years later, a grave is dug up and two skeletons are found. One of them is of a young girl whose neck is snapped, indicating that she was hung. The other skeleton which is deformed whose neck was not snapped, meaning that he died there, holding the other one. When they try to remove the deformed skeleton from the other skeleton, it turns to dust.


  • Paquette Chantefleurie -the recluse inhabiting the cell in the Tour-Roland, where she is known as Sister Gudule. She has inhabited the cell for fifteen years, praying to God to give back her baby girl who were taken by gypsies., which a little shoe is all she has left of her.
  • Esmeralda -the protagonist of the book. She is an extremely beautiful gipsy girl who is caught between her love for Phoebus and the lust of the Claude Frollo. She doesn't know who her parents are, and she has a little shoe inside a container around her necklace which is said will show her her parents if she remains chaste.
    • Djali -Esmeralda's loyal pet goat. She has golden hoofs. She was trained by her owner to do tricks, which was later provided as evidence of Esmeralda's involvement in witchcraft.
  • Claude Frollo -the archbishop of Notre Dame. He lusts after Esmeralda, and to stop it he tries to have her killed by framing her for murder and witchcraft. Afterwards, he tries to get Esmeralda by saying that if she will be his mistress, he will set her free.
  • Jehan Frollo -the irresponsible brother of Claude Frollo, who was raised by the latter when their parents die. After Cladue Frollo refuses to give him anymore money, he becomes a rogue.
  • Pierre Gringoire -is a poet and philosopher who wrote a moral play in the beginning of the book which is interrupted by the Festival of Fools. Esmeralda becomes his wife for four years as a way to save him from being hanged in the Court of Miracles.
  • Quasimodo -a deformed hunchback who was found at the doorsteps of Notre Dame when he was four years old. Claude Frollo took him in and treated him like a servant. He is the bell ringer of Notre Dame which made him go deaf. When on the pillory, he is given water by Esmeralda, which he repays her by saving her from being hanged.
  • Phoebus -the captain of the guard. He is betrothed to his cousin Fleur-de-Lys. He is the love interest of Esmeralda.
  • Clopin Trouillefou -the king of the Court of Miracles.


  • One of the themes of the book, which commences with the words spoken by Claude Frollo 'the one will kill the other,' [Book 5: Chapter 2], talks about architecture and the effect the printing press will have on it. Hugo argues that before the printing press that architecture was the way humanity recorded ideas, and now that books have become common, that architecture will now no longer serve this purpose.


The endings in the book are mostly unhappy, though sometimes with wit: “Phoebus de Chateaupers also came to a tragic end. He married.”[1]


  • Esmeralda (1905). Earliest known adaptation.
  • Notre Dame de Paris (1911).
  • The Darling of Paris (1917). A loose adaptation.
  • Esmeralda (1922).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).
  • Notre Dame de Paris (1956).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1976). A BBC TV movie.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982). A TV movie.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1986). A direct to video animated film by Burbank Films Australia.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). The Disney version, released during the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999). Considered to be one of Disney's darkest films.
  • The Hunchback (1997).
  • Notre Dame de Paris (1998). A television record of a theatrical version.
  • Notre Dame de Paris (1996). A TV movie told in a ballet.
  • Quasimodo d'El Paris (1999). A comedic version that takes place in the 20th century.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002). Direct to video sequel of the Disney film.
  • Notre Dame de Paris -Live Arena di Verona (2002). A video of an Italian theatrical version.


1. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Movies. Web. 10 Aug. 2014. [<>.]