Hunchback of Notre Dame – Template for the 3 Classic Leading Men?

notre damePlease do not confuse this as a review of the lovely Disney film. Amazing as it is, this is a review of the book, and if you have not read the book, and would like to live in the blissful world of poor friend-zoned Quasimodo, approving of the love of Esmeralda and Phoebus and rejoicing in the death of Frollo – read no further. Carry on in the joy of ignorance and happy endings.

There is the villain – Frollo. Every novel needs a good villain! And in this case, the villain is under the guise of a priest, the classic, twist of evil in the form of goodness. The respectable man nobody suspects is the most rotten. Although it is not classic for a priest to be in love with a woman, motives of jealousy, and particularly power are the motives behind around ninety percent of literature villains.

Then, the lusty lover. Phoebus, the guy the girl swoons over, the original Vronsky, he is all handsome, uniform, and sweet nothings. He says what Esmeralda wants to hear, all the while planning to marry fourteen year old Fleur de Lys. he does nothing to stop her execution, and had no plans to ever be true to her.But he looks, on the outside, like the dream guy, gorgeous and respectable, and declaring his love for the girl. Where, in actual reality, he is a lust pig, who wants no more than sex.

The unlikely hero. Quasimodo. Deaf, deformed, and half blind, he is, admittedly, less likely than most. But he is the one, overall, that truly cares for and tries to protect our girl. And when he fails, he, quite beautifully, in a weird morbid way, simply lays down, puts his arms around her, and dies right there holding her as he never did in life.

The sore fact is, these three characters have become templates for so many modern tales, that they are almost tired. We all love the underdog, and it is now predictable that the heroine will go for the unassuming, unlikely man, over the flashy, handsome, obvious type. And the villain is always the guy you’d least suspect. The neighbour, the wife, the teacher, or in this case the priest. One of the main reasons I’d recommend this book is that the original is always the best – and it’s good to trace roots. Reading this, it’s not only a powerful and intricately written story, but it’s also a glimpse at the history of fiction. This is one of the places where it all began.

I love this book, but be warned, it is the same guy who wrote Les Mis. Expect no happy endings, as the only two decent and innocent characters in the book are the two who die. Evil does triumph. But the journey is beautiful.

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One response to “Hunchback of Notre Dame – Template for the 3 Classic Leading Men?

  1. Pingback: The Huncback of Notre Dame (1939) | timneath

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