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Gavroche is also a French beer, produced by Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre; Le Gavroche is a French restaurant in Britain.
Illustration of Gavroche by Émile Bayard (1837-1891)

Gavroche (French pronunciation: ​[ɡavʁoʃ], c. 1820-1832) is a fictional character from the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. He is a boy who lives on the streets of Paris. His name became a synonym for an urchin or street child.


Gavroche in the novel

"Gavroche," Pen and ink drawing by Victor Hugo
"Gavroche a 11 ans" (Gavroche aged 11), Pen and ink drawing by Victor Hugo

Gavroche is the eldest son of M. and Mme Thénardier. He has two sisters, Éponine and Azelma, and two unnamed younger brothers. He is also technically unnamed; the reader is told he chooses the name for himself, but is not provided with his real name. Mme. Thénardier only loves her daughters, and M. Thénardier shows no affection for any of his children. Gavroche is told by his parents to live in the street, because he would have a better life there.

Gavroche and his brothers, sculpture in Malta

The Thénardiers sell (or rent) their two youngest sons to a woman named Magnon. Due to a freak accident, the two boys are separated from Magnon without identification, and encounter Gavroche purely by chance. They are unaware of their identities, but Gavroche invites them to live with him and takes care of them. They reside in the hollow cavity of a giant elephant statue, the Elephant of the Bastille conceived by Napoleon as a fountain, but abandoned unfinished. This was no imaginary construction; located at the Place de la Bastille, it had been designed by Jean-Antoine Alavoine. The two boys soon leave him the next morning. They are last seen at the Luxembourg Gardens retrieving and eating discarded bread from a fountain. It is unknown what has happened to the two after that.

At dawn, Gavroche helps his father, Patron-Minette and Brujon escape from prison due to the request of Montparnasse.

During the student uprising of June 5–6, 1832, Gavroche joins the revolutionaries at the barricade.

After an exchange of gunfire with the National Guards, Gavroche overhears Enjolras remark that they are running out of cartridges. He decides he can help. He goes through an opening in the barricade and collects the cartridges from the dead bodies of the National Guard. In the process of collecting the cartridges and singing a song, he is shot and killed.

Inspiration and character

Detail of Liberty Leading the People.

The character of Gavroche is often said to have been inspired by a figure in Eugene Delacroix's 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People, which depicts the successful 1830 July revolution, two years before the events described in the novel. The painting depicts revolutionaries advancing from a barricade over the bodies of government troops. A young boy waving pistols leads the way, beside the figure of Liberty herself carrying the tricolore.[1] The boy carries a cartridge box over his shoulder, apparently picked up from a dead soldier, just as Gavroche does in the novel. The painting, commissioned by the new government, was taken down in 1832 after the June Rebellion described in the novel, precisely because of its revolutionary message. Champfleury wrote in August 1848 that it had been “hidden in an attic for being too revolutionary.” According to Albert Boime, "after the uprising at the funeral of Lamarque in June 1832 it was never again openly displayed for fear of setting a bad example."[2]

John Frey says that Gavroche possesses "a Gallic spirit (l'esprit gaulois), unknown to the more serious child outcasts found in the novels of Charles Dickens, little Joe, for example, in Bleak House." In other words, Gavroche is cheerful and resourceful rather than a victim. According to Frey, because of his basic honesty and "good will" he would never be suspected of being a member of the Thénardier clan, and unlike the only other positive Thénardier, Éponine, he is not compromised by continuing to act as a member of the family.[3]

The words of the song sung by Gavroche before his death are a parody of conservative views about the French Revolution: blaming all alleged modern social and moral ills on the influence of Voltaire and Rousseau. Gavroche sings "Joie est mon caractere, c'est la faut a Voltaire, Misere est mon trousseau. C'est la faute a Rousseau." (I have a cheerful character. It's Voltaire's fault. Misery is my bridal gown. It's Rousseau's fault).[4]


Argot is the slang used by thieves, criminals, and others who live in the streets. Victor Hugo was one of the first to note the slang and write it down. The character of Gavroche is used to introduce the concept of argot to the reader.[5] The word "argot" has actually come to be the current French and Spanish term for "slang".

Gavroche in the musical

Gavroche singing while collecting cartridges from stricken government troops

Catalyst for the musical: "Gavroche came to mind"

French songwriter Alain Boublil had the idea to adapt Victor Hugo's novel into a musical while at a performance of the musical Oliver! in London:

As soon as the Artful Dodger came onstage, Gavroche came to mind. It was like a blow to the solar plexus. I started seeing all the characters of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables—Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, Cosette, Marius, and Éponine—in my mind's eye, laughing, crying, and singing onstage.[6]

He pitched the idea to French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, and the two developed a rough synopsis. They worked up an analysis of each character's mental and emotional state, as well as that of an audience. Schönberg then began to write the music, while Alain Boublil began work on the text.

Differences in the musical

There are a few notable plot differences in the Cameron Mackintosh stage musical.


Gavroche sings in the following songs in the musical:



Film and television


Cultural references



  1. ^ Gilles Néret, Eugène Delacroix, 1798-1863: The Prince of Romanticism, Taschen, 2000, p. 26.; Pool, Phoebe (1969). Delacroix. London: Hamlyn, p.33
  2. ^ Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Civil Struggle, 1848-1871, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2007, p.16
  3. ^ John Andrew Frey, A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia, Greenwood Press, 1999, p.92; 262.
  4. ^ Françoise Mélonio and François Furet, introduction to Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I: The Complete Text, University of Chicago Press, 1998, p.41; Daniel Brewer, The Enlightenment Past: Reconstructing Eighteenth-Century French Thought, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 169.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-03-09.
  6. ^ Behr, Edward (1989). "The Complete Book of Les Misérables". Arcade Publishing (via Google Books). p. 50. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-03-09.[dead link]
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  10. ^ "Aspic, détectives de l’étrange" (in French).

External links