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The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831)
In his youth, Claude Frollo was a highly knowledgeable but, morose young man who was orphaned along with his infant brother, Jehan, when their parents died of the plague. His studies led him to become the Archdeacon of Josas, which is his position during the events of the novel. He also has a small fief which brings him a little money, most of which goes to fund his brother's alcoholism.
Frollo has a deeply compassionate side. He rescues Quasimodo, a deformed hunchback child whom he finds abandoned on the cathedral's foundlings bed. He adopts him, raises him like a son, cares for him, and teaches him a sort of sign language when Quasimodo becomes deaf. Frollo is a respected scholar and studies several languages, law, medicine, science and theology. However, he becomes infatuated with alchemy, which leads townspeople to spread the rumor that he is a sorcerer. He also believes strongly in fate. When a visitor to Frollo's quarters sees a fly caught in a web and tries to save the fly, Frollo sharply holds him back, saying, "Do not interfere with the workings of fate!" His dour, prematurely aged appearance (at thirty-six he is already nearly bald), as well as his extreme and irrational fear of women, contribute further to his isolation from society.
Frollo also has strong passions, though he is a celibate due to his station within the church. These passions erupt in him through his contact with the beautiful Gypsy girl, Esméralda, and eventually they prove his undoing. He considers her to be a temptation sent by the Devil to test his faith, and begins by cursing her as a demoness, but finds he cannot resist her, and determines to give in to temptation. Esméralda, however, is repulsed by his impassioned advances. Frollo orders Quasimodo to abduct her, a crime that Frollo himself instigated out of mad lust for her, and then abandons him when the hunchback is suddenly captured by Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers and his guards. Frollo ignores the poor hunchback when he is being publicly tortured for the crime. When Frollo discovers that Esméralda is in love with Phoebus, he spies on the meeting between them which Esméralda has arranged – with Phoebus' consent, as Phoebus only wants one night of passion. As Phoebus and Esméralda prepare to copulate, Frollo, in a jealous rage, stabs Phoebus, and kisses Esméralda when she faints. He does not attempt to intercede when she is turned over to the magistrate on charges of witchcraft and murder, however, but he stabs himself during her torture and shows her the wound as a proof of his love for her. She is unmoved however, as she is still in love with Phoebus, even after discovering the truth about his infatuation with her, and shortly before her execution he comes completely undone and leaves Paris in a feverish madness, not realizing that his adopted son, Quasimodo, has rescued her from the gallows. When he returns to the news that Esméralda is still alive, he quickly becomes as jealous of Quasimodo as he was of Phoebus; the thought drives him to further insanity. Frollo later attempts to rape her at her sanctuary in the cathedral, only to be brutally beaten and nearly killed by Quasimodo, who doesn't realize who he is until he staggers into the moonlight. Frollo has had enough, and decides to rid himself of Esméralda by handing her over to the authorities.
Frollo's time comes when a group of scoundrels, enraged by news that the French monarchy has ordered Esméralda to be taken from the cathedral and hanged within three days, arms themselves to assault Notre Dame Cathedral. While Quasimodo is busy fighting off the scoundrels, Pierre Gringoire, Esméralda's husband – whom she only married to save his life – and a hooded figure sneak into the Cathedral and convince Esméralda to sneak out with them. The man's face is hidden behind a hood, leaving Esméralda to guess his identity. They flee to a boat on the Seine River, then separate when they head to shore, with Gringoire taking her goat, Djali, and leaving Esméralda with the unknown man. The hooded figure drags Esméraldaa to a nearby gallows and identifies himself as Frollo by removing his hood.
Frollo issues his final ultimatum: either she accepts his love, or he hands her over to the authorities. She still refuses to reciprocate. Frollo leaves Esméralda to a recluse to hold her for the royal soldiers coming to hang her and goes back to Notre Dame Cathedral. He then walks up to one of the cathedral's towers to watch the girl being hanged, unaware that Quasimodo has spotted him and followed him upstairs. He watches calmly while Esméralda is taken to the gallows; then when the girl is actually hanged he bursts into an evil laugh – perhaps he is glad to have her out of his life, or perhaps he sees it as retribution for her rejection of him.
When Quasimodo sees him laughing at Esméralda's hanging, he becomes enraged and pushes Frollo off the balustrade. A gargoyle stops his fall, and he cries out to Quasimodo for help, but Quasimodo remains silent. Then Frollo falls down off the cathedral, colliding with the roof of a house. He slides down the roof, hits the pavement of the town square, and dies.
Public Domain Appearances
- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831)
- Jumbo Comics #1-8,10
- Four Color Comics #854
- Esmeralda (1905)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1911)
- The Darling of Paris (1917)
- Esmeralda (1922)
- The Hunch-Back of Notre Dame (1923)
- La Esmeralda (1836)
- Esmeralda (1847)
- Esmeralda (1883)
- Notre Dame (1914)
- La Esmeralda (1844)
- Gudule’s Daughter, or Esmiralda (1902)
While the original character is in public domain, the version of the character used by Disney and other later adaptations published after 1923 ( with the exception of the silent film starring Lou Chaney which was not renewed) are NOT.