Tatum Hart Illustrations

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Les Misérables: The Bishop has a backstory

It’s Christmas Day. My sister and mother have tickets for Les Misérables later in the day but about noon it starts snowing. My mother declares it blizzard weather and announces that she would not be leaving the house. In fact, by the time the movie starts, the police will be asking people to stay off the roads.

My sister is sad. I offer to go. They do already have tickets after all and I like my sister.

Things you need to know:

1. I know zero about this movie. I really mean zero. I don’t go to movies much, and we don’t get broadcast TV or cable at our house, so I don’t see previews ever. I have never seen or been interested in the musical. I didn’t know that “I Dreamed a Dream” was from this musical and I have never paid attention to the lyrics anyway.

2. I have a husband, a seven-year old and a two-year old. The only movies I have seen in the past six years have been about hobbits, kung-fu, or princesses. They have mostly had happy endings.


First, I am happy that Valjean found a new life. I can tell he will struggle to keep his past at bay, but I can cope with that. I’m interested to know where the plot will go.

Then we meet Fantine. I am not prepared for the level of human suffering I’m seeing in Fantine. And it just keeps getting worse…and worse…and worse. Then I figure out what that “I Dreamed a Dream” song is all about. It’s horrible and throws me into despair. But, not to worry, I think. She will probably be in the movie later, united with Cosette and singing a happy “Dream” reprise. Sure. That will happen. Munch, munch, popcorn, popcorn.

Then she dies without ever seeing her daughter again. Without any real symptoms, I might add, increasing my shock.

“Seriously?” I ask my sister.

“It’s called ‘The Miserables.’ What did you expect?”

Then, we find out her daughter is a beautiful little girl, in serious need of better foster care, who dreams of an angel whispering, “I love you very much,” because she hasn’t heard anyone say that in ages.

By the time Marius is singing about empty chairs at empty tables, I threaten to punch my sister in the face. This makes her laugh out loud during the movie, which disturbs the people around us.

Despite all of this, I really love the themes and Valjean is an amazing character.

First thing the next morning, of course, I’m downloading the book (It’s free on Kindle.) and diving in.

The book is really, really long and I doubt I will finish it. For motivation, I’m posting my progress on this blog and giving you bits of information that you wouldn’t know from the movie. With pictures because I draw.

Today’s tidbit: The Bishop has a name as do his sister and housekeeper. He is a widower and does amazingly kind deeds before he even gives Valjean the candlesticks. This is a portrait of M. Myriel, Madame Magloire, and Mademoiselle Bapistine (Bishop, maid, and sister) in the garden of the hospital they live in.

Bishop M and Household

In the novel, he visits the local hospital and, seeing the poor conditions and cramped space, swaps homes with all the patients. He goes to live in the tiny hospital and the patients are all cared for in his giant bishop palace. That’s how he rolls.

There is your Les Mis fact of the day. You’re welcome.


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This entry was posted on December 30, 2012 by and tagged , , , , , .
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