silverwhistle (silverwhistle) wrote in lafetedesfous,
silverwhistle
silverwhistle
lafetedesfous

Hi! New member here…

Hi!
I'm Doc M, a historian and long-term Notre Dame book-fan. I'd just thought I'd drop by and say hello, and explain how I got this way. Around 1981-82, I was a 16-17 year old, intending to study mediæval history at university. I discovered the works of François Villon, poet of the 15C Parisian underworld, which led me to Notre Dame de Paris. I got a cheap, US-printed paperback from a station bookstall. The cover was dominated by the ungainly figure of Quasimodo, but my eye was caught by the handsome young priest behind him… (See icon). I'd already read a lot of Dostoevskii, so tortured, intellectual heroes who leave a trail of destruction were already very much my thing. In fact, Claude strikes me as a Dostoevskian type, who's somehow materialised in 15C Paris.

I could identify with the teenaged Claude totally as a teenager myself. Enthusiastic scholar? Yes. Passion for every kind of learning, for learning's sake? Yes. He was my kind of boy. And he's so loving and kind – bringing up his little brother and adopting a severely disabled four-year-old waif when he himself was only nineteen. (And later, even devising sign-language to help Quasimodo communicate when he lost his hearing.) He has books everywhere and his own laboratory! But all this attention to other people's needs has left him in a situation in which there is no-one to whom he can take his. All his life, he's been the good boy, the perfect student, the perfect priest, & c.: then emotions he's been stifling with brutal self-mortification finally break through.

To see this brilliant, passionate young man torn apart and broken because the attitudes with which he has been indoctrinated (mediæval religion was permeated with fear/hatred of women and women's bodies: woman as the ianua diaboli, the Devil's Gateway), and the rules of his job (which plenty of his colleagues ignored) forbid him the love he needs – To see him driven to madness and self-destruction, and destruction of all he loves around him – He breaks my heart. It's like watching a beautiful animal in a snare, lashing out at everyone who tries to help it, and chewing off its own paw in its torment. And for what? A pretty little airhead, who prefers equally airheaded, pretty soldiers. Another Heloïse might have been worth the madness and torment…
(Où est la très sage Helloïs,
Pour qui fut chastré et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart à Saint-Denis?
Pour son amour ot cest essoyne.
– Villon, Ballade des Dames de Temps Jadis)
…but for Esmeralda?

I've never been entirely happy with any of the screen versions. I think part of the problem is that the popular English title, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which Hugo hated) puts Quasimodo centre-stage. But he's not the hero. Hugo's title rightly gives the cathedral itself central place, but of the human characters, it's Claude who drives the story and is the most fully developed psychologically. If films don't portray him as a priest (NAMPI 'Thirteen Points' and Hays Code restrictions in the 1923 and 1939 versions), then the whole point of the story has gone. (He's usually played far too old, as well: he's only in his mid-30s.)

(edited x-post with frollophiles)
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Hello, hello!

The thing that fascinates me about Frollo is that he's such a contradiction. For instance, he clearly has great capacity for compassion in adopting Quasimodo, yet is thoroughly misanthropic and seems to harbour a general dislike for people. Not to mention Frollo's utter belief in fate and letting it take its course, and yet his meddling is the driving force behind almost every event in the book.

Then you have science vs religion vs Esmeralda. Frollo will angst and panic over betraying god in the form of desiring a gypsy girl, and yet doesn't give a second thought to delving into the dark and most un-priestly sides of science.

To defend Esmeralda, she isn't a complete shallow, air head as she is the only other character, other then Claude, to show poor Quasimodo some sympathy. Alas, both Esmeralda and Frollo fall into the same pit of falling madly in love with someone based on appearances.

Oh, the film versions. I have no idea why it's fashionable to make him older. Perhaps, to make Frollo more clear-cut as the villian? ... Not that being older should equal evil! I've only seen the silent version (horribly watered down narrative), the 1939 version (film making masterpiece, but slants the story in a different direction) and the Disney version (black and whites the story, but then how could it not?). When it comes to adaptations I think the French/Italian/Russian stage musical is the best - have you seen it? It stills runs in Italia and (I think) Russia too. Although, Jehan is (alas) ommited and Gringoire seems to be from a different dimension compared to his book self!
For instance, he clearly has great capacity for compassion in adopting Quasimodo, yet is thoroughly misanthropic and seems to harbour a general dislike for people… Then you have science vs religion vs Esmeralda. Frollo will angst and panic over betraying god in the form of desiring a gypsy girl, and yet doesn't give a second thought to delving into the dark and most un-priestly sides of science.

I think that comes across as a form of self-protection. It's clear that, for a few years, he's been having difficulties, especially with his emotions and sexuality. So, seeing his emotions as his weak spot, he walls them off. Again, with the scientific research – it's another way of escaping from his emotions, a realm where feeling doesn't matter. I know this type: sensitive, warm people who are made afraid of that side of themselves, so lose themselves in kinds of work where they don't need to deal with anything emotional, or appear to be cold and distant. They fear loss of control and/or getting hurt. They appear unfeeling because they feel too much.

Also, one has to bear in mind he has been brainwashed since childhood with the mediæval religious views about sexuality and women. I recommend tracking down Robert Bartlett's BBC documentary series, Inside the Mediæval Mind, which has episodes on knowledge, belief and sex. It's very, very useful in summarising how he would have got that way. His scientific work was far less dangerous to his soul.

To defend Esmeralda, she isn't a complete shallow, air head as she is the only other character, other then Claude, to show poor Quasimodo some sympathy. Alas, both Esmeralda and Frollo fall into the same pit of falling madly in love with someone based on appearances.

Indeed. But I think she is something of a Canon-Sue. Given her upbringing among the gypsies, she is far too innocent and naïve for her age to be entirely plausible.

I haven't yet seen the musical. I've seen all the movie versions and 2 BBC TV ones (1976 and 1982). I like the 1956 film.

Oh, the film versions. I have no idea why it's fashionable to make him older. Perhaps, to make Frollo more clear-cut as the villain? ... Not that being older should equal evil!

I think it's to play down his romantic potential, and try to deter females in the audience from thinking, "What's wrong with the girl?!!!!".
"His scientific work was far less dangerous to his soul."

Yet, alchemy was certainly toeing the line of sorcery and witchcraft, and the way Claude disscusses his obsession with creating gold was pretty damn blasphemous, if I remember that part in the book correctly. I always considered Frollo to prioritise science first and god second.

"But I think she is something of a Canon-Sue. Given her upbringing among the gypsies, she is far too innocent and naïve for her age to be entirely plausible."

Frollo has the misfortune to fall in love with the only gypsy who hasn't been round the bushes! She's clearly not that naive as she gets Gringoire's game very quickly, just an absoloutly terrible judge of character. What with the King of the Gypsies acting as her father and the 'shoe vow of chastity' (to only be broken by men in uniform) I think it is possible that she could last till 16 without ever having a lover of sorts.

"I think it's to play down his romantic potential, and try to deter females in the audience from thinking, "What's wrong with the girl?!!!!"."

If you ever see the musical version, you will be thinking exactly that when she rejects the utter hunky-ness that is musical Gringoire!
Yet, alchemy was certainly toeing the line of sorcery and witchcraft, and the way Claude disscusses his obsession with creating gold was pretty damn blasphemous, if I remember that part in the book correctly. I always considered Frollo to prioritise science first and god second.

He's on the cusp of the Renaissance: the balance is beginning to tilt in his favour in that respect. (He's only 5 years older than Leonardo da Vinci: which raises amusing thoughts for an alternative scenario in which Claude could have lived to old age and met Leonardo when he settled in France!) But sex remained (and remains) hugely problematic in Catholicism.

If you ever see the musical version, you will be thinking exactly that when she rejects the utter hunky-ness that is musical Gringoire!

I like Pierre: I've always thought him a sweetie (allowing for the goat fixation). She really is lamentable in her tastes, turning her nose up at the only 2 men in the book who are worth a second glance.
Hey, and welcome to the community =)

Frollo is by far one of the most interesting characters in literature. To watch him struggle with his passion, I feel constantly jerked around by his personality: are we supposed to sympathise with him or not? Because he really isn't an evil person, like the Disney version dumbs him down to be; he adopts Quasimodo out of the goodness of his heart. But then again, he does do some terrible stuff to Esmeralda...but you can't help sympathizing with him a little, because he truely is suffering under his lust. And in the end, you're watching a man fall deeper and deeper into his own passion until it consumes him, and eventually leads to his downfall. He's such a fasinating character, and none of the movies really do him justice (why do they portray him as so OLD?)

Sorry, long comment ^^ Just saying a agree with many of your points. I have to say, I'm more of a Quasimodo person, but NDdP simply couldn't be without Frollo (which is why the 20's version bugs me a lot). Anyway, welcome to the community!
Thanks!
Well, it's the same with Crime & Punishment: we engage with the psychological struggles of Raskol'nikov, digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole, even though we know he's killed the two old ladies.

Claude is a very Dostoevskian figure, spiralling downwards to destruction, ruined by the unnatural vows that have prevented his passionate nature expressing itself freely. As I said, it's like watching a rare and beautiful animal in a snare, lashing out at others and destroying itself.

(why do they portray him as so OLD?)

I suspect to neutralise the effect he has in the book on many readers… "Sympathizing with him a little", you say? He broke my heart when I was 17, and does so even more at 44-ish, because it's such a tragic waste of a brilliant young man.