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Literature / Le Bossu

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Le Bossu (French for The Hunchback) is a 1857 historical fiction novel by Paul Féval. Along with Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, it is one of the most influential works of the Swashbuckler genre in France.

The story is set between 1699 and 1717 and concerns Henri de Lagardère, a French swordsman of small nobility who takes it upon himself to avenge Duke Philippe de Nevers, one of the richest noblemen of the court of King Louis XIV, after his murder by his wicked cousin, Prince Philippe de Gonzague, who wants to inherit Nevers' immense wealth. Lagardère also protects and raises Nevers' true heir, his daughter Aurore, born from a secret marriage of Nevers to Aurore de Caylus. Sixteen years after the murder, a mysterious hunchback enters Gonzague's inner circle in Paris...

Paul Féval himself wrote a stage adaptation in 1862. His son, Paul Féval Fils (or Paul Féval Jr.) wrote several sequels, spinoffs and even an Origins Episode for Lagardère.

The story has been adapted several times, including on film, most notably in 1959 and 1997.

Le Bossu provides examples of:

  • Ancestral Name: The mother of Aurore (the daughter of Philippe de Nevers) is also named Aurore. For simplicity's sake, she will always be referred to as "Aurore de Caylus" here.
  • Badass Boast: "If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!"
  • Best Served Cold: It takes Lagardère sixteen years to accomplish revenge for the murder of Nevers.
  • Doorstopper: The novel is just over 500 pages long.
  • Good Samaritan: Lagardère never met Nevers before the latter's murder, but takes it upon himself to dedicate no less than sixteen years of his life to protect and raise Nevers' daughter Aurore (since Gonzague wants her dead and her grandfather on the Caylus side would be quite wrathful learning of her existence). He swears to avenge the death of Nevers and make sure his daughter's status will be recognized and his inheritance given to her. He has no ulterior motives for this effort.
  • Master Swordsman:
    • Duke Philippe de Nevers is the most feared swordsman in the kingdom, particularly with his Signature Move, the "Botte de Nevers".
    • Lagardère is also a proficient sworsdsman. He trained under Cocardasse and Passepoil, and initially wishes to meet Nevers to master the Botte.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In order to infiltrate Gonzague's inner circle, Lagardère disguises himself as a hunchback.
  • Parental Substitute: Lagardère takes it upon himself to raise and protect Aurore after the murder of her father.
  • Retcon: Paul Féval Jr. rewrote the final chapter so it would fit the prequels and sequels he wrote better.
  • Revenge: Lagardère vows to avenge Philippe de Nevers and never departs from that goal.
  • Secret Relationship: Philippe de Nevers and Aurore de Caylus have loved each other in secret (they're Star-Crossed Lovers), and even secretely married at a chapel on the Caylus family's lands.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Philippe de Nevers and Aurore de Caylus love each other while their families are at each other's throat.
  • Undying Loyalty: Lagardère spends sixteen years protecting the daughter and memory of Philippe de Nevers and plotting revenge. All this despite he only met Nevers once, the day he died even.
  • We Will Meet Again: Again:
    "If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!"
  • Wife Husbandry: Lagardère marries Aurore (whom he raised as a surrogate father) at the end once Gonzague is dead and his treachery and schemes are exposed.