Book 11, Chapter 1, The Little Shoe

Louis Boulanger's Illustration of Frollo, Esmeralda and Sachette picture image

Louis Boulanger’s Illustration of Frollo, Esmeralda and Sister Gudule

This chapter is so dramatic. Originally I was going to put the next chapter in this post but the last two shorts are so short, so I figured I make this chapter its own post and end with three chapters next week.

In this chapter Frollo and Gringoire spirit Esmeralda out of Notre Dame. Gringoire makes off with Djali leaving Esmeralda to Frollo. Frollo takes Esmeralda to the Place de Greve and gives her his ultimatum, “The Tomb or my Bed.” Esmeralda refuses and he leaves her in the vice-like grasp of Sister Gudule, who hates Esmeralda. Frollo then rushes off to get the hangman. It turns out that both of them have the matched pair of each other’s baby shoe,  making Gudule Esmeralda’s mother and her true name is Agnès. Gudule tries to save Esmeralda but Esmeralda gives herself away when she cries out for Phoebus. Esmeralda is taken by the hangman while Sister Gudule tries to save her but Gudule killed when her head is dashed against the pavement.

It a really amazing tragic chapter. Mainly because of Gudule, poor women she prayed for years to see her daughter again if only for an instant and that is the exact outcome. It’s probably a mercy that she dies first. But there is something in Frollo’s weeping that is tragic as well, he really was mad at the end. I can’t help liking this chapter quite a lot.

I really wish a version would do this chapter properly. No version really has. The 1977 version is the closest but despite that version accuracy to the book they didn’t do the Sister Gudule subplot, They do escape in the boat and Frollo does ask her to his or die but that is it. Notre Dame de Paris did sport the the tomb or my bed line but this scene did not occur. It’s just not as emotionally instance.

One version that did sort of play this scene out was the Dingo version, which is one of the worst versions ever. Frollo does drag her to the Place de Greve, though he just hates her in this version and gives her over to Sister Gudule. Gudule shows her the baby shoe and Esmeralda has the other one. But instead of dying Esmeralda escapes with Gringoire. It’s a little insulting that the Dingo version is the closest to the book for this scene.

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