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10 Theories & Urban Legends About Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

With its ethereal music and outstanding animation, Disney’s 1996 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is considered, by many, to be a masterpiece and their best animated film. Some also see it as controversial, with more adult themes and religious overtones. 

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With such complexity to what many consider a children’s movie, it shouldn’t be surprising that several theories and urban legends surround the tale of Quasimodo and the Parisian cathedral he dwells in. The real-life Notre Dame is rich with history, as well as some haunting myths. As for the Disney adaptation, some fans think that what is being viewed on the screen is more complicated than most think.

10 The Court Of Miracles

In the movie, The Court of Miracles is a safe haven for Romani that Frollo constantly seeks to destroy. For the average citizen of Paris, The Court is hidden beneath the city and can only be found if a Romani shares its location.

In real life, however, The Court of Miracles was not a secret sanctuary for Romani. According to travel guide Atlas Obscura, it was a well-known slum in the center of the city where the most destitute lived. It earned its name from the impoverished who would fake disability during the day to "earn sympathy" (likely food or money), then drop the ruse when they returned to the slum at night.

9 Clopin Is Lying

From a certain point of view, the entire film is a story that the Romani leader Clopin is telling to a group of children. However, it seems that his story is somewhat exaggerated, rather than a telling of events that actually happened.

Clopin includes details that wouldn’t be well known from his POV, such as Frollo’s Hellfire delusions and Quasimodo’s interaction with the gargoyles. It also wouldn’t make sense for him to talk about what happens in The Court of Miracles unless it wasn’t actually true, otherwise, he would be admitting to attempted murder for trying to hang Quasimodo and Phoebus.

8 The Devil’s Doors

In the flashback at the beginning of the movie, the audience sees Quasimodo’s Romani mother banging on the doors of the cathedral, seeking sanctuary. It is possible that these are the infamous Devil’s Doors.

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A French Frye in Paris mentions the legend of a young metalsmith named Biscornet, who sold his soul in order to complete the intricate design of the cathedral’s doors. His name happens to translate to “two horns.” Some even say the locks on these doors wouldn’t work until they were sprinkled with holy water.

7  Esmeralda Curses Frollo

Frollo’s obsession with Esmeralda is total, and there may be a specific reason for that. The Romani were rumored to have the ability to curse their enemies, and Esmeralda could have cast one on Frollo during her dance at the festival. It isn’t until after this event that Frollo’s desire for her spins out of control. He has hallucinations of very haunting images during his Hellfire song and it can be argued that the purple scarf of Esmeralda’s that he covets isn’t real, but a sign of his insanity.

That said, this rumored ability is simply not true but just further evidence of the discrimination the Roma people have faced over centuries, and as a way of casting them as outsiders, evil or "unholy."

6 Quasimodo Was Real

The story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame seems like a folktale, with a monstrous-looking yet kind man living within the cathedral. Yet, there is some debate that Quasimodo is based on a real person, and the Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail addresses this in a 2010 article.

Based on the memoirs of a 19th-century sculptor who was working at Notre Dame, there was a stone carver employed there who had a severe hunchback and kept to himself. This would have been around the same time that Victor Hugo wrote the novel.

5 The Gargoyles Are In Quasimodo’s Imagination

Victor, Hugo, and Laverne are Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends that talk to him throughout the film. From a realistic standpoint, however, there is no way that stone statues can actually do this. 

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A more logical explanation is that Quasimodo created them in his head in order to deal with his isolation in the bell tower. This is the reason that no other human characters in the story see or hear the trio -- Quasimodo is simply imagining them and the illusion stops whenever another person enters the scene.

4 Several Ghosts

The overall atmosphere of Notre Dame in the movie is haunting, with a heavy sense that spirits of some sort are walking among the pews. This is fitting since there are several ghosts rumored to be dwelling within the cathedral, according to YouTube channel MostAmazingTop10.

One is a woman who sneaked her way past the guards and threw herself from the top of the gothic spires. Another is an organist who died while playing a piece dedicated to his lost son. Some Parisians even blame evil spirits for the 2019 fire that took place at Notre Dame.

3 Quasimodo Is Actually An Assassin

Quasimodo demonstrates great agility and strength as he soars across the rooftops and breaks through stone pillars. One explanation for these abilities is his long-term experience of living high up in the bell tower ringing the heavy bells. But a darker explanation could be that Quasimodo is a skilled assassin.

Frollo openly admitted that the child he raised could be of greater use and he wouldn’t be above training him to take out those that Frollo deemed the scum of the earth. One cannot deny that the hunchback’s moves are very similar to the gameplay in Assassin’s Creed.

2 The Book Saved The Cathedral

Disney’s animated feature is based on the novel written by Victor Hugo, with the magnificent cathedral as its centerpiece. However, as accounted by blogger Carol Seidl, Notre Dame was not so magnificent during the time Hugo wrote his story and the French Revolution had left it neglected and in need of repair.

Once the novel was published, there was a surge of people throughout Paris who wanted to save the landmark. With the local government funding a contest to restore it, Notre Dame became the iconic building it is today.

1 The Cathedral Itself Is Alive

While there are many outstanding characters in Disney’s adaptation, one central character is Notre Dame itself. For some fans, there is evidence that the cathedral is actually a living entity. When Frollo tries to drown baby Quasimodo in the beginning, the outer statues glare at him in outrage for this sin.

A similar instance happens at the end when Frollo clings to a gargoyle that suddenly glows red and seals his fate. This theory would also explain Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends coming to life. 

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