Today, the most familiar form of Hunchback of Notre Dame is the Disney cartoon instead of the novel by Victor Hugo. If I could say what the cartoon is like when comparing it to a novel, I'd describe it as a castrated version of the novel, as well as very infuriating. Before reading the book, I used to like cartoon, but not anymore. There are so many things wrong with the cartoon and the way it created the characters as well as the plot, which I will discuss in this article. I will briefly compare and contrast characters and discuss some plot points of cartoon vs the novel.
One of the things Disney had done is change the character of Phoebus being from someone you want to murder to a "good guy". In the book Phoebus is already engaged to Fleur De Lis, and is a crude soldier who has no finese or anything of that kind. He lusts after Esmeralda, not loving her or caring about her. (Spoiler: In the end when he might have learned that Esmeralda is alive, he could have assured the public he's alive and not dead, thus saving her instead of letting her die, but he doesn't do it.) He briefly works for Claude Frollo, especially when Claude Frollo desires to witness the coupling between the two of them. (Not kidding either...)
If changing Phoebus's character wasn't bad enough, then the changes in Claude Frollo take the cake. For one thing, Claude Frollo NEVER killed Quasimodo's mother. In fact he willingly adopted the boy and raised him as his own, naming him Quasimodo in honor of a certain week, so the name doesn't mean 'half formed.' Also Claude Frollo willingly raised his own brother and he wasn't a judge but a clergyman. (Disney possibly didn't want to deal with Catholics crying foul or whatnot so perhaps that's why they made Claude Frollo a judge in the cartoon.) In the book, I don't think Claude Frollo hates gypsies but he does dislike women and some similarities he has with his Disney version is consuming and destructive love towards Esmeralda.
Just like with Phoebus and Claude Frollo, Quasimodo also undergoes through a personality change. In the cartoon he's a gentle lovable man who is in full use of his senses. He also loves Esmeralda and does what he can for her.In the book, although he shares some common atributes with his Disney persona, he's also different. For one thing he's deaf so he's unable to hear anything, and he tends to be violent if I'm not mistaken and thanks to Claude Frollo knows some sign language.
Esmeralda as well had her personality altered. For those who watched Disney cartoon and are dying to read the original novel, don't expect for La Esmeralda to be spunky and independent character. Also Esmeralda was raised as a gypsy, but her heritage is French, and she meets her mother who was a former prostitute, and she is very dependent and not spunky, although she does have a female goat named Djali who could do clever tricks that Esmeralda teaches it. And, Esmeralda is married by law, (never the consumation) to a man named Pierre Gregoir. (Phoebus in the cartoon takes over Gregoir's role in rallying everyone to rescue Esmeralda before she is hanged.) Also, she is repulsed by Quasimodo and won't even allow him to kiss her hand!
The plot is also slightly different than in the book; unfortunately due to constant narrative jumps I had a hard time understanding some points of the novel; just like in book, the novel does start out with Festival of Fools, but Quasimodo isn't tied up because he's ugly (where Esmeralda rescues him in the Disney version,) but its because Quasimodo, on orders of Claude Frollo, tried to kidnap her and also due to both Quasimodo and the judge being deaf.
The only other things I can recall is that in the book Phoebus doesn't trap Esmeralda in the cathedral, but both continue with own lives. Claude Frollo does destroy Esmeralda in the book, first by accosting Phoebus and giving him money for a room so he could meet up with Esmeralda and then by witnessing and getting jealous of watching Phoebus try to consummate the lust he feels for her. Claude Frollo stabs Phoebus in the act of jealousy and of course she gets arrested. Fleur De Lys is jealous of Esmeralda thus when Phoebus becomes okay she never tells him of Esmeralda's plight, and somehow Phoebus is too stupid to put things together. Esmeralda does gain sanctuary in the tower (the scene where Quasimodo carries her off to the Notre Dame and shouts sanctuary actually does happen,) Pierre Gregoir gets people to attempt to rescue her, but Quasimodo, thinking they are going to hurt her, fights with them. She escapes, finds out about her mother but in the same day both women die.
That was the novel version. I do wish that it would have been as exciting as I wrote it, but unfortunately I read the unabrdiged version which happens to have many unnecessary details. Since the novel version is reviewed, let's briefly go over the Disney version.
The story begins with Clopin (He died in the book by the way,) telling the story about the Hunchback of Notre Dame and goes back in time where gypsies were running away from Claude Frollo who found them and killed the mother. He wants to dump the baby in the well but a priest forbids him to do so. He raises Quasimodo in the bell tower and forbids him to go outside. On Feast of Fools Quasimodo disobeys, is crowned king of fools and gets taken up by a mob to be tied and pelted. While Frollo ignores him, Esmeralda rescues him and both get away. She also meets Phoebus who traps her in the cathedral but Quasimodo helps her escape. Claude Frollo falls in love with her and in process destroys everything to get her, but he isn't successful. Thanks to Phoebus and Quasimodo he discovers Court of Miracles and traps everyone. Then he tries to burn Esmeralda, but Quasimodo rescues her, there's a fight and Frollo falls to his death (in book as well he falls to his death from a gargoyle) and Esmeralda and Phoebus marry and live happily ever after, while Quasimodo becomes accepted by humans.
So, which is better? I do think that Disney cartoon is a bit dark, but the novel is far more interesting than the cartoon, and now, the book doesn't seem so childish, does it?