Fiendish Fridays #2: Thenardier

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

#2 – Friday 29 January 2010: Thenardier

Name: Thenardier
Appears in: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Who is he? Thenardier is a greedy and corrupt innkeeper.
What is he like? He is introduced to us as a “small, skinny, sallow-faced man, bony, angular and puny”, who is “thoroughly crooked, a sanctimonious knave”.
What makes him a Friday Fiend? When we first meet Thenardier near the beginning of the book he is extorting large amounts of money from the poverty-stricken Fantine on the pretext of needing it to feed and clothe her daughter Cosette. We also see him stealing from corpses after the battle of Waterloo – he subsequently claims to have been a sergeant in Napoleon’s army, hence the name of his inn, The Sergeant of Waterloo. Later in the book he causes further trouble for our hero, Jean Valjean.

Many people consider Inspector Javert to be the villain of Les Miserables but I disagree. Yes, Javert also makes life very difficult for Valjean, but he behaves the way he does because of his belief in upholding the law no matter what. I don’t see Javert as an evil character, unlike Thenardier who cares about nothing but himself and his latest money-making schemes.

Redeeming features: I can’t think of any – can you? His wife Madame Thenardier is equally unpleasant but at least appears to love her daughters, whereas Thenardier doesn’t seem to care about anybody.

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