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At the end of Disney's animated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", the antagonist Frollo

falls off the cathedral roof and grabs onto a gargoyle statue. The statue then begins glowing, grins evilly, and breaks off, thereby plummeting Frollo to his death.

Was the significance of this scene, or the grinning gargoyle, ever explained in "behind-the-scenes" materials or interviews?

I had three possible ideas:

  • This gargoyle is alive like Quasimodo's three other stone-friends.

  • It was purely a hallucination from Frollo's part (as he is turning mad at that moment)

  • It was the Devil, or at least a devil, which incarnates temporarily in this gargoyle because he is already satisfied by the thought of soon having Frollo's soul.

These three hypotheses are only my thoughts about the possible answers, however. Here is a screenshot showing the scene in question:

enter image description here

  • You have 5 questions. Which one would you like answered? – JohnP Apr 28 '15 at 16:26
  • @Jason Baker - As you can see at about 1:35 in this clip, the gargoyle gives an animated grin in which its mouth opens wider and a glow starts to emanate from its mouth and eyes, it isn't just the ordinary static grin of a stone gargoyle. – Hypnosifl Apr 28 '15 at 17:33
  • It's a good question I haven't seen answered anywhere. I cleaned up the question and added a screenshot of the scene he's referring to. – Omegacron Apr 28 '15 at 18:06
  • 1
    I always assumed Frollo was just going insane. Having another "living" gargoyle like Quasimodo's friends is possible, I guess. The devil idea seems unlikely, because it would raise even more questions-- are the other gargoyles also animated by devils? Or are they angels? Or something else? (The movie implies that Quasimodo's friends are in his own imagination, but never explicitly addresses the subject.) – PlutoThePlanet Jun 19 '17 at 19:15
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I've heard two primary theories:

  1. Frollo has completely lost his sanity.
  2. The gargoyle is alive and passing judgement on Frollo.

Both of these theories tie into the rest of the movie neatly. This is especially because they relate to the parallel discussion of whether Hugo, Victor, and Laverne, Quasimodo's three gargoyle friends, are truly alive or merely Quasimodo's imagination. If Quasimodo invented the gargoyles out of his loneliness and isolation, then Frollo losing his mind to the point of having similar hallucinations makes his comeuppance that much more karmic.

By another interpretation, there are reasonable thematic reasons to believe the gargoyle Frollo saw was indeed alive. Hugo, Victor, and Laverne are treated ambiguously throughout the whole movie, so animate gargoyles are plausibly part of the story's setting. And symbolically, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is hinted to have a personality and force of will all to its own. At the beginning of the film, Frollo refuses to spare baby Quasimodo's life until he realizes the church's statues of the saints are staring at him. The animation and camerawork used makes the statues appear to be sentiently judging Frollo's actions. By this interpretation, the gargoyle that breaks on Frollo is another statue in the church judging his sins, deliberately condemning his soul. This is a strong symbolic and motivic bookend with the statues holding Frollo accountable to his murder at the film's opening.


I don't see much evidence to believe the gargoyle is an incarnation of a devil coming to take Frollo's soul. The imagery of Satan attacking humans is used in only one place in the film, during Frollo's "Hellfire" song, when the judge says, "God made the devil so much stronger than a man." Frollo says this as a way of trying to reject his responsibility for his sinful lust, so his reference to Satan is deliberately theologically flawed and dishonest. So this reference to Satan is less about establishing Satan as an important symbol or character in the story and more about revealing Frollo's heart.

Within this film, God is portrayed as the one who sends sinners to hell, not Satan. Consider again the scene with the statues silently judging Frollo. And throughout the movie, with the only unhinged exception above, Frollo consistently describes himself as carrying out God's judgement on sinners, sending them to hell where they righteously deserve to be.

All this considered, I find it doubtful that demons show up to claim Frollo's soul at the end of the film. They haven't showed up anywhere else in the film, and the only reference to them in the film comes from an unreliable character during one of his most thoroughly unhinged moments.

  • The way in which this answer infers authorial intent exclusively from the text—acknowledging and accounting for intentional ambiguity—makes for particularly compelling analysis. – Ryan Veeder Sep 4 '18 at 20:43

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