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The Strix

Musée d'Orsay, Paris (France) © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Charles Nègre

(1820 - 1880)

Date : 1853 | Medium : Printed on salt paper

You are probably familiar with the three gargoyles who are Quasimodo's companions in the famous cartoon. These gargoyles are rarely mentioned in the original book by Victor Hugo, however. At most, the author mentions that in his solitude, Quasimodo sometimes spoke to the statues,

'[The cathedral] was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops [...]. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, bore no hatred towards Quasimodo. He resembled them too closely for that. It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at. The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and kept watch over him. He often poured out his feelings to them. He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues in solitary conversation with it.'

In any case, Victor Hugo made no mention of the three false gargoyles, Hugo, Victor and Laverne, who could talk and who appear in the film. The sculptures which inspired these characters did not actually exist when the novel was published in 1831; they were created more than ten years later, when Viollet-le-Duc restored the building!

So why are they in the Walt Disney adaptation, brought to life and given the important role of confidants of the Hunchback of Notre Dame? It is because the attractive image of these little stone monsters had spread far and wide since the publication of the book and made them famous. This photograph by Charles Nègres is proof of that popularity; as in a number of modern postcards, it shows that the 'Strix' had become the very symbol of the soul of Notre Dame.


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