Friday, February 13, 2015

WBI: The Thénardiers (Les Mis Musical)

The Thénardiers, from Les Mis: no, I haven’t read the book, and if that bothers you, the x is at the top, thanks for stopping by! We’re going to talk about the musical, because I have a good portion of that thing memorized and I cannot read that book.

Photo Credit: Natalie G. (originally from 2012 production)
The Thénardiers are a husband and wife who initially work at a hash-house down the way where they take in and abuse a small girl called Cosette in her mother’s absence. They exploit their guests and the man who takes Cosette away; when the inn fails, they make money by begging, cheating, lying, and stealing from the dead. When Thénardier tries to rob Jean Valjean, he tips Javert off to Valjean’s true identity and later meets him again in the sewers. Later, the devious duo crash Cosette and Marius’s wedding and steal plates, and are kicked out into the sunset to be malicious ever after.

WBI Profile

Classification :: Ω179&
Role :: Omega (immoral common criminal)
Motivation :: evil (gaining pleasure from others’ misfortunes), gain (stealing goods), wealth (stealing money)
Bonus :: family ties (a married couple)

Click Me to Big Me!

A Study

enjoyable—the Thénardiers are easily the most evil characters, but their humor and songs are funny!

liars—you can never trust the word of a Thénardier, not ever

publicly crooked—the Thénardiers really make no secret of their vileness to their regular clientele; they’re swine and proud of it

charming—believe it or not, the Thénardiers have to con people kindly; their attitudes are usually the bait that catches the fish

reputable—in the intro to “Master of the House,” customers reflect on what they know of their host, and his notorious crimes

married—the Thénardiers often work in tandem, and are an excellent team to steal and cheat together

unattached—though married, the two seem to stay together due to the inherent benefits, rather than for love (“thinks he’s quite a lover but there’s not much there!”)

cold—the Thénardiers care little for Cosette until she becomes profitable to them; all relationships are about the transaction

greedy—there is nothing these two won’t do for money

talented—and, when it comes to their chosen profession, money is the stuff they smell

tightly-knit—a decade later when their luck has gone down, the Thénardiers and their band are still close and capable

disparaging—the spouses function in tandem, but they struggle in their relationship with their daughter and generally dislike her (Gavroche is another matter completely…)

detail-oriented—Thénardier in particular remembers exactly who Jean Valjean is, and that he is a wanted criminal

slimy—they aren’t below sweet-talking the police (not that Javert particularly cares)

sneaky—Thénardier is completely prepared to rob Valjean, nor above punishing his daughter for interrupting his plans

uncaring—neither parent is particularly moved when Eponine is shot at the barricade

opportunistic—when Thénardier is presented with bodies, he starts to salvage what he can from them in the sewers, uncaring of their identities beyond what he can find before they sink into the refuse

marketable—the Thénardiers crash Marius’s wedding and are more than happy to sell him information about the “murderous nature” of Jean Valjean

satisfied—these two are positively merry when they start singing about going to hell as they steal dinner plates from the party

immoral—Valjean and Javert are both led by a concept of God; Thénardier says it flatly in “Dog Eats the Dog” that his only master is death, he gets what he wants while he can, and only the harvest moon shines down

alive—despite their immorality, at the end of the musical, the Thénardiers are the only characters with moral significance who are still alive; Valjean and Javert are dead

Big Idea

humor works—let’s face it, the Thénardiers really suck. But, because “Master of the House” is a clap-along song and because they snag a few grins every now and again, you can’t despise them completely when they abandon Eponine or try to tarnish Jean Valjean’s reputation, because you know they’re entertaining.

pick your partnerships—Monsieur and Madame Thénardier picked profitable people to marry. Sure, she used to dream that she would meet a prince (and God Almighty, have you seen what’s happened since?) but they’re still married. They had kids. They stay together, always, but they don’t show many actions of love the way Valjean does towards Fantine or Marius towards Cosette. They stay together because they’re better together, and when in crime, you always need to pick your partners well.

omegas are not classy—I think “Beggar at the Feast” is pretty much a great example of how not-classy the Thénardiers are, but that is kind of the point. We like our villains to be competent, capable, full of twists and turns and excitement to make us cry. But there’s no two buts about it: the Thénardiers just want money. They have no ideals, they have little kindness. They are simply omegas, and that means they are the lowest scum the world of villains and antagonists has to offer.

play with morality—for Valjean, mercy is everything; for Javert, justice. When Javert’s understand of the world fails him he can’t cope and kills himself, when Valjean faces death he again falls into the merciful arms of his God on high. In the end, it’s almost the Thénardiers who win, because they are the ones still standing, and they know how to stay alive. Knowing that Victor Hugo had a very anti-Catholic stance, and this is just my speculation, if death is losing and life is winning, might he be saying something about the human condition?

Better yet, the Thénardiers are main characters so they sing in LOTS OF SONGS. “Master of the House” is one of my favorites and if you ever need to do the dishes, it is great for that. Others include “Waltz of Treachery,” “One Day More,” “Dog Eats Dog,” and “Beggars at the Feast,” though of course they appear in other songs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to see a man about a barricade...

So, that was long. What did you think? How do you think of the Thénardiers as baddies? Yea? Nay? I know some people don’t like the musical, much less the characters, but I still think they function as lovely symbolic characters. Did they win? Discuss.

(Also, if you’ve only seen the movie, just pretend you’ve seen something better. I don’t want to think about that right now…)


  1. Great breakdown! :) I always found the Thènardiers very compelling/intriguing/amusing, and I'm glad I'm not the only one! (I haven't read the book yet, either, though I do have it. But I pick it up, and I think "Do I want to progress beyond the early stages of Carpal Tunnel?" And then I put it down.)

    1. They are totally compelling AND intriguing AND amusing! They're the best. (That's hilarious, though. I can't even imagine allowing myself to even try buying that particular beast. XD The musical and all the movies are good enough for me.)

  2. I've never seen the Les Miserables musical or read the book, but I'd love to read the book someday. It looks long and daunting, but maybe once summer gets here I'll have enough time to sit down consistently and read it. The Thenardiers seem so nasty and yet so humorous, which is the perfect blend for villains to have.

    1. I personally cannot say what the book will be like (the Wikipedia page is a monster itself, and I got tired read just that) but I hope you enjoy it when you get down to it. And, if you're ever interested, there's a couple versions on Youtube and those will only take you three hours, tops! ^.^ And the music is great and makes you want to be part of a June Days Rebellion as well. The Thenardiers are definitely nasty and humorous, and it makes them awesome, I agree. :D

  3. Hey Heather!

    The Thènardiers seem quite....interesting, to say the least. They have a quick wit about them and are as evil as they come. I have not seen the musical myself, but I must say that I found this post very engaging and keep up the good work!
    I'm a realitive newbie to the blogging scene, and my blog isn't as great as I'd like it to be, but I was wondering if you are not too busy, maybe you'd like to check it out? Maybe leave a little comment?
    -Cindy xx

    1. Hi Cindy,

      They are interesting, although they're not as evil as some other villains I could mention... Haha. There's some debate out there, I promise. Anyway, I'm glad you were engaged, and I hope you look out for me.

      Hey, a comment I can do. No promises on follows, but why not? Thanks for stopping by!


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