A/N:I wrote parts of this year ago because Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my favorite Disney Movies and Clopin for whatever reason has always been my favorite character in the film, but it sadly never went anywhere. Then after rewatching the movie ironically the day before the Fire at Notre Dame, I was reinspired to work on this fic. I've often wondered how the story would be different if Clopin had a child and how parts of the story might differ with that. I utilized a transcript of the film to add Jackob into the storyline and it works. If this is well received and people would like I can upload the transcript with Jackob added in.
Kudos and comments are most welcome! Thank you, everyone!
So as not to awaken his father, Jackob quietly slipped out of bed and tiptoed through the curtain that secluded their small part of the court that they chose to call home. As he pulled the curtain back, the light from the dying fire lit up his father's tired face, causing the older gypsy to stir a bit,
"Jackob…" he muttered, causing Jackob to wonder if he was waking up, but his father only called his name once, obviously dreaming; before rolling back over and settling.
Jackob sighed with relief; he picked up his well-worn cloak, and carefully let the curtain fall back into place. All was quiet in the Court of Miracles, hidden deep below the streets of Paris, hidden from the accusing eyes of Judge Frollo. Jackob had lived in the caverns his entire life and early in life was very rarely allowed to venture to the streets above.
His constant confinement below was protection from his weak lungs; Jackob had been born weak and sick coming close to death many times since his birth. As it were, his mother had passed away giving birth to him, leaving Jackob in the care of his father Clopin King of the Gypsies and the other gypsies, his extended family.
But his father had begun to allow Jackob out with him to the streets of Paris, where he watched his father with entertain the citizens of Paris. But at night, Jackob's curiosity and adventurous side had overwhelming, as he would take the opportunity while his father slept, to sneak out of the court and experience Paris for himself.
Long before Jackob's birth, tunnels had been built by the gypsies as a means of escape, should the court ever be discovered; such a thought was unimaginable, since Frollo himself had spent at least twenty years searching for it, but for precaution the tunnels had been built, only two of the original six had survived and were still useable.
Unfortunately, the remaining two were only large enough for a child; granted an adult could make his way through the entrance, and even though a good portion of the tunnel, but halfway to the exit, the tunnel suddenly became smaller, so small that only a child Jackob's size could crawl through, an adult would become stuck and unable to continue on or even turn around. The tunnel exit, which came up just behind Notre Dame was even smaller and even a child of tiny statue would have to wiggle and worm their way out.
Debates had been stirred up many times about going back into the tunnels and reopening them so the adults, as well as the children, could escape; but the arguments had been quashed each time, when the older Gypsies reminded everyone that if an invasion ever did occur, than it was up to the future generations to carry on what had been destroyed. They explained that this would be impossible if every gypsy in the Court of Miracles was captured, invaders would not notice a few children missing from a large group of adults, but if many adults were missing, that would arose suspicion.
This last argument put a stop to any future debate about repairing the tunnels and thus every child from the moment they could walk, were taught the way through the tunnel and where to go at the end…to Notre Dame claiming sanctuary. Jackob knew the tunnels better than anyone, young or old.
Though Jackob hated being enclosed, he used this fear to his advantage, it forced him to hurry through the tunnel, another reason he chose to hurry was the fact that the tunnels had been dug through parts of the oldest catacombs, therefore complete skeletons and skulls alike littered the tunnels; his own brushes with death, his mother's untimely death, and seeing others die around him (despite Clopin's attempt to shield him from seeing this) had only encouraged Jackob's fear of death, and seeing the dead filling the tunnels, only made it worse.
But a desire to leave the court and breathe fresh air, and familiarize himself with his home city, made Jackob ignore these facts, and for what seemed the hundredth time, Jackob made his way to a chest which covered the entrance to one of the tunnels. He looked around carefully, just to double check, before opening the lid of the chest and putting a foot in, he was just about to lower himself to the ladder waiting below when he felt his cloak become ensnared on something.
Strangely, the more he pulled, the more the thing pulled back, this went on for a good minute until finally, the tug of war match went to whatever held him, as Jackob was yanked back out of the chest hard. He landed on his rear and winced as he hit the stone floor and looked around trying to see what had pulled him out...
He was met with a furry face staring back at him accusingly and he couldn't help but wince again, not from pain this time, but from humiliation at being caught…not by his father, but by Djali…a goat,
" 'lo Djali…" he said softly obviously dejected, the goat belonged to Esmeralda one of the gypsies, who had sort of taken up the role as mother figure to Jackob, all the women did, feeling responsible for the young Gypsy Prince, but Jackob felt closer to Esmeralda than anyone else (besides his father that is).
Jackob and Djali were good friends and often played together, playing their own version of tag, it was even more fun when the other children joined in because Djali's idea of tag was ramming the children in the behind, never hard enough to hurt, but enough to knock them down.
Jackob looked around if Djali was around, Esmeralda wasn't far behind, he was going to be in big trouble now, she would tell his father and he'd never be allowed to go anywhere ever again, especially not to the Feast of Fools the next day.
The feast was Jackob's main reason for sneaking out this time, he wanted to see what everything looked like in the square before the crowds arrived, but now he wasn't even going to see what it looked like set up, not if his father had anything to say.
"Djali…how many times do I have to tell you do not eat Jackob…"
Jackob scooted around on his behind to face the voice, Esmeralda was sitting on a stone platform not far from the chest, she had obviously known what he was doing and had been waiting for him.
Djali made a baaa noise, before he sat down next to Jackob, proud of his capture. Esmeralda patted the platform and Jackob got the hint; he slowly stood up and even more slowly walked to her, she helped him climb to up to the platform and once he was settled she looked him over.
Jackob expected her to be mad at him, but he was surprised to see her smiling… smiling as if she was amused.
"Guess I'm in for it now?"
"Actually, I'm more surprised than anything else, and I'm curious, how long have you been sneaking out?"
Jackob shrugged, that was the truth, he had lost count a while back he had done it so often.
"You're going to tell papa, aren't you?" Esmeralda thought this over for a moment, slowly she shook her head and Jackob was shocked "why not?"
"Because I understand why you did it, but you need to remember Jackob it's dangerous out there for a gypsy, even a child, Judge Frollo won't hesitate to arrest anyone. When you go outside with us it's all right, but going alone is not safe especially at night. Understand?" He nodded "so I will make a deal with you, I won't tell your father about your late-night escapades if you promise to only go outside when the rest of us do," she paused "deal?" Jacob hesitated at first, he didn't want to get in trouble and have to see the look of worry on his father's face, but he had gotten bit by the city bug and he hated to give that up. Going out with his father to help with the puppet shows wasn't enough anymore. Esmeralda seemed to see deep into his thoughts and understood why he wasn't agreeing so quickly, "Jackob?"
"If you want, on top of not telling your papa, I'll see if we can get him to agree to your going to the festival tomorrow."
"I think you're old enough now." Jackob launched forward and hugged Esmeralda tight.
"But don't forget, in the end, it is up to your papa, if he says you're still too young that's the end of it understood?" Jackob nodded slowly "Jackob, I know that look, that's your: 'I'm listening and understanding, but not willing to compromise look'. It's the same look you had when the physician tried to give you medicine for your cough."
"I do not have a look."
Esmeralda kissed the top of his head
"You do too." She paused "now, go back to bed before your father wakes up and discovers you missing."
Jackob nodded, he leaped down from the platform and ran back to the small area father and son called their own.
Clopin was still sound asleep, but Jackob could see the worry lines on his father's face that did not vanish as he slept. Jackob laid his cloak over his father's body and kissed his forehead before climbing into his own bed. He had just curled up under his blanket when he heard the straw of his father's bed rustle, quickly Jackob closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.
He felt his father kneel next to his bed and check on him. Jackob didn't know if he had woken his father up or if this was just his father instinctively checking on him. Either way, Clopin would have been suspicious if hours after he had put Jackob to bed, he was awake.
Clopin smoothed Jackob's hair down and tucked one of the puppets; his look-a-like puppet under the blanket next to Jackob and pulled the blanket over Jackob, tucking him in tight and warm. He kissed Jackob's head and Jackob heard him climb back into bed.
But Clopin did not fall back asleep, he listened to the normal noises of the court and more importantly, he listened to Jackob's breathing as he did every night. Something must have woken Jackob up, however briefly because his breathing was not soft and deep at first, but as Clopin listened, slowly Jackob's breathing grew deeper, a slight whistle echoed from his throat the final proof that he had fallen back asleep.
Clopin laid back down on his bed and stared at the stone ceiling listening to his son's breathing, as he did so Clopin felt his mind drifting back…back ten years when Jackob was born a day that should have been the happiest day in his life. A day to be celebrated throughout the court as the birth of a prince and in the very beginning, it was.
Nadia, Clopin's wife was ordered off her feet early on in her pregnancy, the midwife had examined her and was worried for the health of both mother and child. Nadia had protested of course, she was a dancer and ached to dance for as long as her body allowed it, but she seemed to sense the older woman was right and gave into the order.
She would complain to Clopin on a daily basis, sometimes more than once or twice how useless she felt and how she felt fine. Clopin chuckled at her stubbornness but knew she wouldn't disobey the order to rest. For their son she would do anything, she was sure they were expecting a boy, even when the midwife examined her and said she had all the signs of a girl, Nadia insisted that she was carrying a son, a prince.
The birth had seemed typical, at least Clopin believed it was. He was not allowed into the curtained area where Nadia was surrounded by other women, all ready to help her bring a new child into the world. Clopin stood with several of the men and children who waited patiently. A few claps and chants could be heard from the curtain, but no screams, no crying, and Clopin wasn't sure how to take the silence. He remembered the birth of his younger brother, who had died at the age of five. He had stood outside the tent with his father, grandfather, and the rest of the clan and the screams and cries from his mother were gut-wrenching, but his father had stayed calm and collected, never wavering. So the silence from behind the curtain worried Clopin more than any cries. Finally after what felt like days, one of the women had emerged from the curtain, carrying a small bundle in her arms. She had smiled at Clopin and carefully handed him the bundle.
"Your son my king." She said and took a step back as Clopin looked into the face of his son for the first time.
"I have a son?" he asked, dumbfounded as the baby's eyes fluttered open for a moment, before closing again. "I have a son!" Clopin exclaimed as the Court erupted with claps and cheers. As the court celebrated, Clopin looked at the woman "and Nadia?" he asked, the woman smiled and gestured for the new father to follow her. Behind the curtain, looking exhausted, but pleased with herself, Nadia was sitting up just so, as the midwife helped her drink some water.
"A son Clopin," She said with a knowing smile, "I told you our first would be a son,"
"I was foolish not to listen to you," Clopin replied, kneeling down next to his wife, she gently took the baby from his arms.
"Always the fool," she added "my fool," she looked down at the baby "he needs a name,"
Clopin thought this over. He leaned over and kissed Nadia on the forehead. She looked at him suspiciously.
"I think we should name him Jackob, after your father." He offered and Nadia looked up at him, tears in her eyes.
"Are you sure?" she asked, her voice full of hope
Nadia smiled and stroked Jackob's cheek
Outside the curtain, the entire Court of Miracles sounded as though it was erupting from the cheers and celebration. Nadia rolled her eyes a little and chuckled
"You should rest my love, I'll go quiet them down." Clopin offered, but Nadia shook her head
"Let them celebrate, take Jackob and present him to the court, let them see their new prince."
"They can wait," Clopin tried to assure her, but she gently handed Jackob back to him
"Go, take him to them. They've been waiting for this day as long as we have."
The midwife helped Clopin to his feet and made sure Jackob was snug and warm in his blanket.
"He's a bit sickly, but he'll get stronger quick once he's fed a little bit more. But Nadia needs to rest, so she is right, take him out there, let the court see him. Let them celebrate him. I will come to get you when she wakes and it is time for him to drink." And with that, the midwife gently pushed Clopin out through the curtain. The moment he did he was engulfed by all those who called the Court of Miracles home, the cheers were deafening, as he made his way to the wooden platform.
With all eyes watching, Clopin carefully held Jackob up for everyone to see.
"May I present to you, my son Jackob!" he called out and once again the extended family broke into cheers as they celebrated the birth of the young prince. As Clopin made his way through the crowd, with pats on the back, words of congratulations, and 'awws' from adults and kids alike.
"He's beautiful Clopin!"
"Nadia must be so happy,"
"Yes where is she?" the questions swirled around Clopin and he waved them off gently.
"She is resting right now but wanted to make sure that Jackob had the chance to meet his family. When she's had time to rest I know she will want to see all of yo-" Clopin didn't even have the chance to finish his sentence. He felt a wave of coldness wash over him and instinctively looked up towards the curtained off area, the midwife was standing there, a look of pure devastation on her face. Clopin felt his stomach turn, a breath caught in his throat. He carefully handed Jackob to Yasmine, Nadia's closest friend as he rushed towards the curtain.
Clopin awoke with a start as the memory rushed back to him as a dream… nightmare, whatever it could be called. He glanced over at Jackob who was still sound asleep. The puppet tight in the crook of one arm, while his other arm hung over the side of the bed. He looked so much like his mother, her eyes, her face, even her desire to help those less fortunate was present in Jackob. Of course, Clopin saw parts of himself in Jackob too, his love of performing, his sense of adventure and love of music and all who met the pair commented on their smiles, the matching grins that father and son shared.
Jackob had been begging and pleading with Clopin to allow him to go to the Feast of Fools and though Clopin was hesitant, he was starting to cave. The smell of breakfast being cooked nearby encouraged Clopin to head out of his and Jackob's area. He leaned over to double check on Jackob who was now buried as deep in his cloak and blanket as possible. Jackob was not a morning person and always seemed to sense when it was time to wake up, he would bury himself as deep into the blankets as possible and many times Clopin had feared his son would suffocate.
"Jackob," Clopin whispered in a singsong voice "Jackob breakfast time." Jackob stirred a little but didn't get up. "Fine, be that way I'm going to take all your bread and milk and not share a bit."
When Jackob still didn't move, Clopin rolled his eyes and tugged on his own cloak, before heading out into the main chamber of the Court of Miracles. The others were going about their morning routines and greetings were exchanged. Tas and Tem, twin rascals ran past Clopin heading towards the main entrance to the court and Clopin could only imagine the trouble the pair was out to get into. Everyone was slowly emerging and waking up. The Feast of Fools was a shining moment for the entire tribe and everyone looked forward to it every year.
"Good Morning Clopin," a sweet voice called behind him and Clopin turned to face Esmerelda
"And to you as well," he replied "are you ready for the day?" he asked and she gave him a mischievous smile
"Perhaps," was the only answer she would give. She looked around quickly, concerned "where's your shadow?" she asked and Clopin chuckled
"Still sleeping, and yours?"
"Chasing after the Pannel twins it would seem they stole his apple."
"That would explain what they were running from, and here I thought they were on their way to cause mischief."
Esmerelda laughed and took a deep breath
"I did want to ask you something and please do not get cross or say it's not my place."
Now Clopin was both intrigued and suspicious, he wasn't the type of person to lose his temper unless it was in defense of Jackob or protecting the Court of Miracles, so he was curious as to what Esmerelda could possibly ask that would make her concerned. Not her place was an odd thing to say too.
"Jackob wants to attend the festival today and to be honest Clopin, I think he's ready.
Clopin rubbed his goatee, Esmerelda's intuitions were terrifying sometimes, how had she known he was considering this.
"Well, I-" he started to say, but she cut him off
"If he stays with everyone and we all keep an eye on him as we do anyway, he'll be safe. Keeping him safe here in the court is all well, but soon the safety of the court is going to feel like a prison for a child."
"And I know it's not my place, you're his father and our leader and you know what's best, but he's ready to experience the world and if we aren't careful he's going to try to do that on his own."
At this point Clopin just crossed his arms and let her go, interrupting her wasn't going to work. His smile grew bigger and bigger as she hit upon all the points he agreed with. Finally, Esmerelda stopped and looked at him.
"What is so funny?" she asked
"I was trying to say I think you're right."
"I do, I've been protecting him for so long I've been ignoring how much he has grown. I was planning on taking him with me for the puppet show this morning and then we'll see how the Feast of Fools goes."
"I take it you haven't told him yet?"
"I was trying to get him up for breakfast and tell him then, but he must be so exhausted for whatever reason."
Esmerelda didn't let on that she knew that reason. She was just happy that Jackob was going to get his chance outside and with the safety of the group.
"What if I say the wrong thing?" Jackob asked jogging to keep up with his father's long strides as he pulled the cart towards Notre Dame "what if I mess up the story?"
Clopin chuckled and pulled out one of the hand-puppets, it was Jackob's favorite because it was identical to his father. Many times when a nightmare became too much or he was sick, Jackob would hold the puppet close.
"Jackob you know these stories better than anyone, better than us even!" Clopin exclaimed speaking as the puppet "you'll be amazing." Clopin paused and knelt down so he was eye-level with Jackob, his voice turning serious, no hint of playfulness "and if you mix up keep going, no one will be the wiser. You and I know the stories we're here to tell it and entertain that's all there is to it."
"I don't know if I'm ready papa," Jackob admitted and Clopin hugged him tightly
"You may not think you're ready, but I know you are. Just pretend you and I are singing together, just the two of us, no one else is watching."
Jackob nodded, they passed the bakery and fresh bread hot out of the oven cooling on the table, the smell wafting it's way to father and son. Jackob felt his stomach growl as he looked hungrily at the bread
"Afterwards Jackob, I promise."
The entire city was coming alive and Jackob could hear the bell's of Notre Dame ringing loudly from the cathedral. He helped his father set the cart up and stood next to it as his father started to sing, giving Jackob the chance to find his own voice and catch up to a song he had heard since he was a baby.
"Morning in Paris, the city awakes to the bells of Notre Dame. The Fisherman fishes, the baker-man bakes to the bells of Notre Dame. To the big bells as loud as the thunder, to the little bells soft as a psalm. And some say the soul of the City's the toll of Notre Dame!"
Clopin's singing quickly attracted a small group of kids about Jackob's age. They wandered over to the cart and listened to Clopin's song intently. With a glance at his father and a reassuring wink from him, Jackob took a deep breath and continued where his father left off in the song.
"Listen, they're beautiful, no? So many colours of sounds, so many changing moods. Because, you know, they don't ring all by themselves." All the kids turned their attention to Jackob, listening to him intently.
Clopin reached behind him and pulled out the look-alike-puppet who leaned towards Jackob
"They don't?" the puppet asked in a squeaky voice and Jackob grinned and tried to imitate his father's voice, being stern and serious:
"No, silly boy." All the children laughed and Jackob felt his confidence growing, he pointed towards the cathedral, towards the bell tower. "Up there, high, high in the dark bell tower, lives the mysterious bell ringer. Who is this creature?"
"Who?" the puppet asked
"What is he?"
"How did he come to be there?"
"How?" the puppet asked again and Jackob pulled out a stick and gently whapped the puppet on the head
"Hush!" he reprimanded
"Oooh," the puppet whimpered and Clopin gave Jackob another reassuring wink, reminding him he was doing perfectly.
"And Jackob will tell you. It is a tale, a tale of a man and a monster!" on cue, Clopin pulled out other puppets as the story was retold, through his father's puppet work and Jackob's singing.
"Dark was the night when our tale was begun on the docks near Notre Dame…Four frightened Gypsies slid silently under the docks near Notre Dame." Jackob felt a shiver go down his back, he had heard this story so many times and seen it acted out with his father's puppets so many times that he could see the events unfolding in his mind. "But a trap had been laid for those Gypsies, and they gazed up in fear and alarm…At a figure whose clutches were iron as much as the bells…the Bells of Notre Dame." Jackob took a deep, calming breath, he could feel his confidence growing as the other children were mesmerized by both his song and the story being acted out with puppets behind him. Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of Vice and Sin. And he saw corruption everywhere 'cept within…
"Bring these Gypsy Vermin to the Palace of Justice!" Clopin exclaimed acting as Frollo.
"You there, what are you hiding?' demanded a soldier" Jackob added
"Stolen goods no doubt," the Frollo puppet growled, "take them from her!"
"She ran!" Jackob exclaimed, waving his hands animatedly. "Ran for Notre Dame, ran for Sanctuary! But when she reached the Cathedral, she found the doors shut tight, no Sanctuary was coming…but on the steps of the Cathedral, came Judge Frollo on horseback! He ripped the bundle from her arms and sent her flying to the steps. When Frollo unwrapped the cloth to see, he was startled by a cry and discovered not stolen goods, but…"
"A baby!?" the Frollo puppet exclaimed, now holding a bundle in its hands "a Monster!"
"Frollo looked around frantically, looking for a place to dispose of the baby, he was just about to follow through with this deed, when…" Jackob paused as his father exclaimed:
"Cried the Archdeacon!" Jacob added
"See there the innocent blood you have spilt on the steps of Notre Dame!" Clopin sang, using both the Archdeacon puppet and the Frollo puppet as the children watched mesmerized "Now you would add this child's blood to your guilt, on the steps of Notre Dame. You can lie to yourself and your minions, you can claim that you haven't a qualm, but you never can run from, nor hide what you've done from the eyes…the very eyes of Notre Dame!"
"And for one time in his life, of power and control! Frollo felt a twinge of Fear for his immortal soul!"
"What must I do?" the Frollo puppet asked
" 'Care for the Child, raise it as your own,' instructed the Archdeacon," Jackob explained "Frollo was disgusted by the idea and voiced it clearly" Clopin looked at Jackob with a smile and turned the Frollo puppet to face the children
"What?" he exclaimed "I'm to be saddled with this misshapen—" then Clopin turned the puppet to look up at Notre Dame "Very well. Let him live with you, in your church."
" 'Live here? Where?' The Archdeacon asked bewildered." Jackob narrated
"Anywhere, just so he's kept locked away where no one else can see…even this foul creature may yet prove one day to be…of use to me." Clopin had the Frollo puppet tap it's hand to it's chin as if contemplating the possibilities and the children gave a nervous laugh.
"And Frollo gave the child a cruel name…a name that means half-formed… Quasimodo!" Jackob concluded before he began to sing again, with his father joining him…as Clopin acted out with the puppets the final part of the show, from a little hunchbacked figure following the shadow of Frollo up the great stairs of the Cathedral, to the single silhouette of the hunchback making his way to the tower to ring the bells. "Now here is a riddle to guess if you can sing the bells of Notre Dame, who is the Monster and who is the Man? Sing the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells of Notre Daaaaame!"
Jackob sang as loudly as he could trying to outlast his father on the lengthy note. Clopin carefully and indiscreetly cut the hold down to accommodate Jackob and father and son exchanged a grin as the kids burst into applause and several of the adults that had been drawn in by the story joined them, tossing coins into Jackob's waiting cap.
Jackob was still breathing heavy as the small crowd dispersed and his father climbed down from the interior of the cart that housed the backdrop for the show. Clopin reached down and lifted Jackob up high in the air, laughing
"I am so proud of you Jackob!" he exclaimed "that was wonderful,"
"Really Papa?" Jackob asked trying to catch his breath and not laugh with delight from flying through the air.
"Really and truly," Clopin explained, his voice turning serious for a moment as he lowered Jackob so they were eyelevel. "And your mother would be proud of you too," Jackob looked at his father quickly, he knew how much it hurt his father to speak about his mother and Jackob had always felt a twinge of guilt over her death.
"Do you think she was watching?" Jackob asked carefully and Clopin smiled, hugging Jackob tightly before looking up at the statues around the cathedral
"I know she was watching." Clopin lowered Jackob to the ground "now, I think my assistant…" Clopin paused and pretended to think things over for a moment "I mean, I think my partner has earned a nice baguette for his hard work." Jackob stared up at his father and felt a swell of pride at his new title. "Let's split a loaf and we'll bring the cart back to the court and be back in time for the Festival."
Jackob nodded quickly
"I can't wait to watch," he exclaimed, skipping ahead of his father as they walked towards the bakery.
Clopin laughed and shook his head
"Who said anything about watching Jackob? You and I will be performing!"
"Me?!" Jackob squeaked, fear washing over him, the puppet show was one thing, but to help his father at the Feast of Fools, something he had never seen before, let alone helped with.
"Don't panic, you'll be fine, we'll talk about it on the way home." Clopin said trying to reassure his son "I have faith in you Jackob, you and me, together."
"Always right Papa?" Jackob asked as they neared the bakery and Clopin nodded