Quasimodo was born to a family of Gypsies parents in 15th century France. He was born with significant deformities, " a huge wart that covers his left eye and a severely hunched back. His unnamed parents parents decided to abandon him. They abducted a beautiful baby girl called Agness, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and prostitute Paquette Guybertaut. (The baby Agness would grew to become Esmeralda). They left Quasimodo in the girl's place in Rheims, at the hands of Paquette.
Paquette had adored her young daughter. This replacement son was not so lucky. Paquette left her native city, Rheims, in distress. She left the deformed baby boy behind. The authorities of Rheims found themselves in custody of this unwanted child. They had it sent to Paris and left there as a foundling. Persuming the boy would become someone else's problem. It did. The boy was taken in by Claude Frollo , the 21-year-old Archdeacon of Josas of Notre-Dame Cathedral .
Frollo was "a respected scholar and studies several languages, law, medicine, science and theology ". But his interest in alchemy had gained him a reputation as a sorcerer. Keeping most people away from him. Besides his wards Jehan Frollo, Claude's younger brother, and Quasimodo few had much affection for the man. Adoptive son of a social outcast, Quasimodo became an outcast himself. His deformities gained him a reputation as some kind of deamon. People feared and hated him on sight. Frollo found employment for his ward as the bell-ringer of Notre Dame. But the job came with a cost. The sound of the bells rendered Quasimodo almost completely deaf.
By 1482, when the novel starts, Quasimodo is given a rather gruesome but detailed description. : "We shall not try to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedral nose, that horseshoe mouth; that little left eye obstructed with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow, while the right eye disappeared entirely beneath an enormous wart; of those teeth in disarray, broken here and there, like the embattled parapet of a fortress; of that callous lip, upon which one of these teeth encroached, like the tusk of an elephant; of that forked chin; and above all, of the expression spread over the whole; of that mixture of malice, amazement, and sadness. Let the reader dream of this whole, if he can. "
"His whole person was a grimace. A huge head, bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,--strange exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as beauty shall be the result of harmony. Such was the pope whom the fools had just chosen for themselves."
Quasimodo had trouble comprehending the words aimed at him. he himself was mostly silent in his interactions with others. But he did notice the grimaces and hostile expressions aimed at him. He then left his hands do the talking. For example, "One scholar (Robin Poussepain, I think), came and laughed in his face, and too close. Quasimodo contented himself with taking him by the girdle, and hurling him ten paces off amid the crowd; all without uttering a word."
Main events of the novel
Frollo managed to live a celibate life to his 35th year of age. But then had "strong sexual passions" awakened by his meeting with the teenaged Esmeralda. But the girl had no interest in the priest. Quasimodo initially attempts to help his adoptive father by abducting Esmeralda His attempt is thwarted by Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers. Quasimodo is then placed on trial and sentenced to a public flogging. Esmeralda shows some kindness to the tortured man, bringim him water after his punishment. The act causes Quasimodo to fall for her.
If Esmeralda had two unwanted suitors in the faces of Frollo and Quasimodo, she found a lover in the handsome Phoebus. The first (and only man) to actually seduce her. She fails to realize the man is "vain, untrustworthy, and a womanizer". Nor that he is engeged to Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier, a lady of good social standing. Phoebus only saw his mistress as a fun diversion. Not a loved one. Frollo discovers their affair and is driven over the edge out of jealousy. He attacks Phoebus and stabs him in the back, then escapes into the night.
Esmeralda is the one accused of attempted murder instead. Placed on trial, the girl is sentenced to death. But then Quasimodo helps her escape and transports her back to Note Dame. A sanctuary for her. Forced to co-habit for a while, Frollo, Quasimodo and Esmeralda argue constantly. Quasimodo tries in vain, through use of symbolism, to explain to her than his emotions are pure while her beloved Phoebus' are not. She fails to get the message and treats him as a servant. The once self-controlled Frollo has degenerated into a would-be rapist, forcing Quasimodo to physically separate the other two.
When the Parlement of Paris decides a pagan gypsy has no right to sanctuary within a Christian church, the Parisian people start a riot. During the chaos Quasimodo violently defends Notre Dame from whoever attempts to enter. Unfortunately failing to realize some of these people are allies of Esmeralda and were only trying to help her escape. Among those killed by Quasimodo is Jehan Frollo, though his death goes unnoticed. Meanwhile is smuggled out by Claude Frollo and Pierre Gringoire, a poet betrothed to Esmeralda.
Esmeralda gives herself away for a chance to know where the recovered Phoebus is. She instead swiftly executed. With Phoebus a spectator her execution, revealing no emotion. Frollo also witnesses her death, laughing at the thought of hopefully becoming free of his obsession with her. An enraged Quasimodo pushes his adoptive father off the heights of the cathedral. He then has clear views of the corpses of Frollo and Esmeralda, realizing the death of "all that I have ever loved". He disappears shortly after.
His final fate is explained in another chapter. "About eighteen months or two years after the events which terminate this story, when search was made in that cavern for the body of Olivier le Daim, who had been hanged two days previously, and to whom Charles VIII. had granted the favor of being buried in Saint Laurent, in better company, they found among all those hideous carcasses two skeletons, one of which held the other in its embrace. One of these skeletons, which was that of a woman, still had a few strips of a garment which had once been white, and around her neck was to be seen a string of adrézarach beads with a little silk bag ornamented with green glass, which was open and empty. These objects were of so little value that the executioner had probably not cared for them. The other, which held this one in a close embrace, was the skeleton of a man. It was noticed that his spinal column was crooked, his head seated on his shoulder blades, and that one leg was shorter than the other. Moreover, there was no fracture of the vertebrae at the nape of the neck, and it was evident that he had not been hanged. Hence, the man to whom it had belonged had come thither and had died there. When they tried to detach the skeleton which he held in his embrace, he fell to dust. "