Quasimodo is a fictional character in 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. His name “Quasimodo” translates to “partially formed.” Due to accusations of rape, and his resulting life of seclusion, he appears scary and mysterious to the townspeople. When he does venture out of his tower, Quasimodo is besieged with vindication and hostility. Like Lenny, he is strong and feared, yet exhibits a desire for love.
Like Captain Hook, he’s “punished” with disfigurement. Quasimodo’s unrequited love of Esmeralda, a young gypsy, demonstrates that despite his isolation and disfigurement, he is capable of emotion; after she’s hung for witchcraft, he goes to her tomb to die there.
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 the 1996 Disney animated 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 he may have been the source of inspiration for the character of Quasimodo. 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.
Quasimodo was born with physical deformities, which Hugo describes as a huge wart that covers his right eye and a severely hunched back. 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.