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Little is known about Fagin's early life. He was born and raised in London, probably in the slums of the East End. At some point, probably very early in his life, he fell into criminality. He developed his skills as a thief and fence. As an adult, he became a kidsman- a criminal who recruits children to steal for them, and in return provides bed and board for the children. During his time as a kidsman he took in dozens of children who he instructed in the arts of thievery. Among his pupils are Nancy and, implicitly, Bill Sikes.
Fagin was created by Charles Dickens, based on the real life fence and possible kidsman Ikey Solomon.
Major Story Arcs
One of Fagin's pupils, the Artful Dodger, brings home the young orphan Oliver Twist. Fagin takes the boy in, and later sends him out with Dodger and another boy to pickpocket for him. Oliver is captured and eventually taken to the home of the wealthy Mr Brownlow. Worried that the boy will inform on him, Fagin enlists the help of Sikes, who kidnaps the boy and returns him to Fagin's care. Oliver attempts to escape, but Fagin and two of the boys drag him back. He and Sikes are prevented from beating the boy by Nancy. Fagin next tries to bring the boy into a life of crime by forcing him to join Sikes in the commission of a burglary. After the burglary is botched, Fagin is contacted by a man named Monks, with whom he conspires to ruin Oliver's reputation. When Fagin discovers that Nancy is aware of his plans and conspiring with Mr Brownlow to save Oliver, he informs Sikes, twisting the story just enough to make it seem that Nancy has betrayed him, thus making Fagin indirectly responsible for Nancy's death. Fagin is later arrested and sentenced to the gallows. He comes down with a fever from the fear of his execution, and is visited by Oliver on the night of the execution. He is then executed.
Fagin appears in most adaptations of the Oliver Twist story. Notable among these is the musical Oliver!, originally released in 1960 and adapted to film in 1968. The role of Fagin was originated by Ron Moody, who also portrayed him in the film. A character based on him appears in Disney's loosely adapted Oliver & Company, where he is a petty thief. He is voiced by Dom DeLuise. He has been portrayed by such actors as Lon Cheney, Sr., Gary Farmer, and Timothy Spall.