Last night we saw the stage musical ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ excellently staged and performed by ‘The Lowestoft Players’. Based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel… set in 1482 Paris… adapted by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz…
Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer, is an orphan with significant physical disability. He lives an isolated life, rarely leaving Notre Dame because he’s hated and misunderstood by those outside. He has longings and dreams… to be loved, to be a part of the outside world… but these can never come true.
Esmeralda, the street dancer, is the popular centre of attention, her beauty making her the object of various amorous advances. She’s compassionate and kind, but she’s a gypsy, a common girl of low status. Finally she’s accused of being a witch…
Frollo, the archdeacon, is religious, pious and powerful. He’s also corrupt, hypocritical, angry and judgemental. He mocks and psychologically abuses Quasimodo, lusts after Esmeralda and repeatedly uses his religion as an excuse for his desires and actions
Although the story is set in another country, in another time, the themes are enduring. I think of my own ‘hunchback’ friends who…
…wishing for Esmeralda’s health and beauty… find themselves with Quasimodo’s disabilities.
…longing for Esmeralda’s popularity and love… find themselves with Quasimodo’s loveless isolation.
…hoping for Frollo’s riches… find themselves with Esmeralda’s poverty.
…seeking for Frollo’s power or Esmeralda’s freedom… find themselves with Quasimodo’s dependency.
…hoping for Quasimodo’s dreams… find themselves with Quasimodo’s disappointments.
…seeking Quasimodo’s simple trust… find themselves hurt by ‘Frollo’s, wielding judgmental religious power.
Musing on my own hunchback… my personal physical, social and spiritual imperfections, disappointments and insecurities…
I continue to read my Bible, a few chapters each day; I’ll complete it in a year. This morning I read: ‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.’
I don’t find easy answers to difficult hunchback questions, but I’m reminded that I can find peace as I carry them.