Le Petit Parisien (WIP)

How amazing is that, my friend Truhania found an actual 19th century French novel that has the main character who used to be a contortionist in his youth and says that in plain text!

"Quant au métier de désossé, on en voit partout. Lou petit couquin de Lagardère faisait tout ce qu'il voulait de son corps. Il se grandissait, il se rapetissait; ses jambes étaient des bras, ses bras étaient des jambes, et il me semble encore le voir, sandiéou ! quand il singeait le vieux bedeau de Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, qui était bossu par devant et par derrière."

"La mère Bernard était une pauvre mendiante qui s'était arrangé un trou dans le pignon en ruine. Le petit Lagardère lui apportait chaque soir le produit de ses plongeons et de ses contorsions."

(Excerpts from Paul Féval's novel "Le Bossu", 1857)

Truhania helped to translate this to English so it should read like this:

"As for the boneless/contortionist job, we see that everywhere in Paris. This naughty boy of Lagardère was doing everything he wanted with his body. He extended it, he shrunk it. He turned his legs into arms and his arms into legs and I still seem to see him, Goodness Gracious! When he was mimicking the old beadle of Saint Germain L'auxerrois, who was a hunchback both from front and behind."

"Mother Bernard was a poor beggar who lived in the streets. The young Lagardère brought her every night the money he made from his diving and contorsions."

Unfortunately, they completely erased the whole contortion part from the official English translation! It's amazing how much most people fear this form of art that has been completely valid for many centuries in a lot of different countries. It's impossible to say why he's no longer a former contortionist in the English version.

Anyways, this drawing of Henri de Lagardère should be pretty close to the text, for some reason in every single movie and illustration for "Le Bossu"/"The Hunchback" he is always a brunet. In the text it's mentioned again and again that he has beautiful blond hair and looks a lot like an angel or a woman.

The story first tells us about Lagardère being from one of the wealthiest families in France, alas the noble blood of his parents was spilled and the child was not just left alone in the world but had to hide his identity for many years. His caretaker, mother Bernard, was very poor, so young but proud Lagardère was constantly in the search for any jobs that could relieve her burden.

The boy was extremely determined and inherited the strong will of his bloodline, whatever work he did he always did perfectly and that includes his period of working for the circus where the leader of the troupe, certain Pablo, decided that the boy would make a perfect gymnast. He wasn't wrong and after a few months Henri could do whatever he wanted with his body: shrink his tall slender body to the size of a midget, bend to any direction and to any angle that he wanted, as if his body only had muscles and not a single bone. Little Henri, who was born to one of France's noblest families, had to spend whole days entertaining the simple crowd with these dangerous stunts.

As for diving, I think they meant that poor boys were used to dive into water to fetch small coins that the wealthy would throw for them, as a sort of public entertainment, so Henri used to do both that and contortions... Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't have put clothes on him if he used to be in and out of water... And the clothes are not really accurate for the 17th century where he lived, I basically just drew whatever looked nice to me :3

Alas Henri's contortionist career only lasted for a few years as he soon entered a swordsmanship school and in another several years became a great swordsman. But I guess the novel wouldn't be entitled "The Hunchback" if it was about him swinging the sword the whole time, it actually gives us a hint that his childhood's flexibiilty would be once again used, though not in any pretty way alas...

What do you think? 😄
Read more
Full View Comment