THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1869) – Written by Victor Hugo.
I always commit the literary blasphemy of saying that I don’t consider Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame to be very much of a horror story. I will forever maintain that Hugo’s overlooked novel The Man Who Laughs features all the virtues of Quasimodo’s tale AND presents them all in a superior fashion.
In addition The Man Who Laughs contains many more elements that lend themselves to pure horror than does The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the past I’ve examined elements of the film adaptations of The Man Who Laughs (including the fact that the physical appearance of Batman’s foe the Joker was inspired by Conrad Veidt’s 1928 portrayal of the title figure.)
Here’s a breakdown of why I prefer TMWL, with Hugo’s tragic monster Gwynplaine to THOND, with his tragic hunchback Quasimodo:
TIME PERIOD: The Man Who Laughs has the action set mostly in England in 1705. For Gothic Horror I prefer that time period to the late 1400s, when The Hunchback of Notre Dame takes place.
ORIGIN OF THE TITLE CHARACTER: Quasimodo the hunchback was simply born in a deformed state.
Gwynplaine on the other hand, was born looking normal, but was stolen away and sold by villains to the Comprachicos, evil anatomists who distorted the bodies of children in very painful ways. Continue reading