Two stories, two characters, two time periods – over a hundred years apart – a shared name – Quasimodo. Since they’re both quirky as can be here goes a two-in-one post for both these uglier than ugly creatures.
If you’re a lover of classics you’ll know the first one – Hugo’s Hunchback from his sad sad book Hunchback of Notre Dame. He’s the hunchbacked, deaf bell-ringer, half blinded by an ugly wart. So hideous is he, even as a newborn, that he is switched at birth with a little girl and abandoned by his parents. So starved is he for love that a single act of kindness by that same girl makes him fall in love with her. Thus starts a love story – one-sided, ill-fated and doomed. The lovely kind-hearted Esmerelda continues to be repulsed by Quasimodo’s ugliness even after he saves her life. He however never stops loving her. When she is executed he lies down beside her and starves to death holding onto her body.
Quasimodo’s story is heart wrenching.
On a related note there’s this dialogue from the film ‘The truth about cats and dogs’ (Which, by the way is a wonderful film) that says: You know how someone’s appearance can change the longer you know them? How a really attractive person, if you don’t like them, can become more and more ugly; whereas someone you might not have even have noticed… that you wouldn’t look at more than once, if you love them, can become the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. All you want to do is be near them.
I wholeheartedly agree with this idea. Quasimodo’s plight always made me wonder if physical appearances can be so overpoweringly offensive as to hide all other qualities of a person. Is that possible? Try as I might, the romantic in me, cannot think well of Esmerelda. But then maybe that’s idealistic, maybe physical appearances do stop you from looking deeper. Maybe.
Onto Quasimodo No 2. He (or rather she) is as different from his namesake as possible. He makes an appearance in one of my all-time favourite books Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. Forgive me if I’m partial to this one – but he really is most endearing. He is named after the original Quasimodo for his amazingly ugly looks. He’s a pigeon – an obese pigeon – but he’s convinced he’s a human, if that counts for anything. Since he’s ‘human’, obviously he cannot fly. He walks. So when, Gerry, the ten-year old whose pet he is, goes for a walk, Quasimodo walks along. He can of course be carried on the shoulder (like a baby) but then there’s always the danger of an ‘accident’. Nobody thought of pigeon diapers, obviously.
Of course he would sleep in the house rather than the pigeon loft and listen to music along with the family. He turned out to be quite a music connoisseur. He learnt to recognise the waltz and the military march, which is more than we can say for a lot of men. He even choreographed and executed with much brilliance, different dance routines for the two.
Then one day to Gerry’s utter shock Quasimodo laid an egg! An egg for goodness sake. ‘He’ was a ‘she’ … a girl.. a woman.. a mum … whatever!! And he/she was spotted sitting on a tree making eyes at a very very macho pigeon.
At least this Quasimodo had a happy ending to her love story.
Linking up to ABC Wednesday the weekly alphabetical challenge where I get to reminisce about my favourite characters from books. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with for the letter Q.