|“||And when we're rich as Croesus, Jesus won't we see you all in Hell!||„|
|~ The Thenardiers final line in their last song.|
The Thenardiers are the secondary antagonists in the book, stage, and film adaptations of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. They are a pair of greedy Innkeepers who will do anything for money. They have two daughters, Azelma and Eponine, who aren't really villains, and three sons, Gavroche and two unnamed ones, who they despise.
In the 2012 adaptation, Monsieur Thenardier was portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, who also portrayed Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Admiral General Aladeen in The Dictator; and Madame Thenardier by Helena Bonham Carter, who also portrayed Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter franchise, the Red Queen in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Serena Kogan in Terminator: Salvation, Skynet in Terminator: Genisys, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Dr. Julia Hoffman in Dark Shadows. In the 2018 miniseries, Monsieur Thenardier was portrayed by Adeel Akhtar, who also portrayed Mr. Smee in Pan and Madame Thenardier was portrayed by Olivia Colman, who also portrayed Godmother in Fleabag and voiced PAL in The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
Monsieur Thenardier is a Con artist who is always ready for money. Along with his wife, he owns and mistreats poor Cosette, who is the daughter of a now-deceased mother named Fantine. Thenardier and his wife will always try to pickpocket people when they least expect it, such as when they are giving someone a hug or taking their coats and hats for them. He is deviously sneaky and cunning and at times can be a tiny bit dim-witted. In some stage adaptions and in the 2012 film, he calls Cosette "Colette" with his wife constantly correcting him. In the book, he is much more ruthless and less comedic. He loves money so much to the point he actually loots corpses of valuable items, which he is seen doing in the book, stage, and film adaptions.
Madame Thenardier (or MME. Thenardier) is the wife of Thenardier and (like him) is acquisitive, conceited, selfish, greedy, and rude to Cosette. She adores her daughter Eponine and treats her like a princess while she treats Cosette like a mere slave. She seems to be a tad more ruthless than her husband and more willing to get what she wants. She even orders him around at times.
In The Novel
In the novel, Thenardier and MME are greedy Innkeepers who own and abuse Cosette until the main character, Jean Valjean, arrives and buys her from them for 1,500 francs. After Jean Valjean leaves with Cosette, Thenardier tries to get more money from Valjean but fails.
They are later shown to have lost their tavern and reside as a gang in the streets. He lives next to Marius Pontmercy (an important character). When they hear that someone wants to buy a child from them, Thenardier tells his family to make themselves look poor, so they'll receive more money. He even tells a young Azelma to punch a window to make herself look poor also. She obeys her father's orders and does so, causing the window to break a bit and resulting in her cutting her hand, which starts bleeding. Thenardier, being a callous person with no regard for others, takes no concern for his daughter's pain and actually seems to enjoy it.
In The Musical And Film
Like the book, The Thenardiers are con artists ready for money and they own and abuse Cosette. One night when Cosette is sweeping the floors of the Inn, she starts dreaming of a better life than the one she has now. MME. Thenardier comes in and orders her to go fetch some water from the well in the woods. MME. Thenardiers' daughter, Eponine, comes in and points to Cosette, who was still there. MME. Thenardier grows angry and yells at Cosette, forcing her to go out by herself. Once she is gone and Eponine is in bed, Thenardier opens up his Inn and it quickly fills up. This is where The Thenardiers are fully introduced during their first musical number Master Of The House. During the song, Thenardier sings about all the stuff he puts into his food and drinks, such as the "Kidney of a horse" and the "Liver of a cat". He even sings about the outrageous and unfair prices he charges to the occupants, such as costing them a large amount of money for looking in the mirror twice and for having mice in their room or having lice. He also describes himself as everybody's boon companion and chaperone and basically describing himself as a really nice guy. Of course MME. Thenardier doubts this as she insults him and reveals him to be the actual lousy good-for-nothing he is. Once the song is finished, Jean Valjean finds Cosette alone in the woods and offers to come with her back to the inn. When they get back, he tells the Thenardiers that he will take Cosette from them. The Thenardiers tell him they don't want her to leave, but obviously they are doing this so Valjean will pay them a large amount of money. He gives them 1500 francs for Cosette and they immediately agree. As soon as Valjean and Cosette leave the inn, the police Inspector Javert arrives at the Thenardiers door and demands to know where Cosette had gone. The Thenardiers, afraid of getting arrested, say that someone bought her from them and left. Javert goes off to find the person who took her, presuming it was Valjean. MME. Thenardier grabs Monsieur Thenardier and demands him to get them more money and get Cosette back. Thenardier quickly agrees.
Later on in the story, the Thenardiers show up again having lost their inn, and have become tramps. This is mentioned by a young boy named Gavroche (Who is presumed to be the son of Thenardier but is never really said). They make themselves look poor and moneyless so people will give them more money. Jean Valjean arrives with a now grown-up Cosette, whom a young man named Marius, immediately falls in love with. A now grown-up Eponine is also secretly in love with Marius and is upset when he is shown to have eyes for Cosette. Thenardier attempts to con Valjean out of money but then realizes Valjean as "The Bastard who borrowed Cosette". He orders his men to attack him and a fierce fight ensues. Javert arrives and breaks it up with Valjean quickly running away with Cosette. As Javert attempts to arrest the Thenardiers, Monsieur Thenardier asks him to let them go free and tells him that Jean Valjean was the one who took Cosette. Javert lets them go and heads off to get Valjean.
Thenardier and his crew, The Patron Minette, then attempt to rob Valjean of his stuff while Jean is sleeping. Eponine comes up to her father and tells him not to rob Valjean. She claims to know him and says that they are just an ordinary family with not much to give. Thenardier ignores her and continues the robbery but she threatens to scream and alert the police there. Thenardier warns her not to but she goes ahead and does it anyway. The scream alerts Valjean and he goes to check on Cosette, thinking that Javert has come to arrest him. Thenardier grows furious at Eponine and threatens her and tells his crew to get underground into the sewers to hide. In the next song One Day More, all the characters sing about what tomorrow has in store for them. Being that there is going to be a big battle, The Thenardiers sing about how they will be hiding in the shadows and that they'll be looting the dead corpses that fall into the sewers.
After the battle is over, Valjean carries a wounded and unconscious Marius on his back and travels through the sewers to get away from Javert. In the sewers, Thenardier is seen looting all the dead corpses that have fallen, including Marius' ring. He then attempts to loot Valjean thinking that he is dead. Once Thenardier turns him over he recognizes him and leaves quickly (In the book and 2012 film, Valjean gets up and wrestles Thenardier underneath the sewage and demands to know the way out of the sewers). The Thenardiers then show up at Marius' and Cosette's wedding disguised as the Baron and Baroness du Thunard. Marius immediately sees through their disguises and demands that they leave. Thenardier begins telling him about the truth about Jean Valjean. He says that he was in the sewers and he saw Valjean carrying a "Dead corpse" on his back, which of course was Marius. He says that Valjean is a killer and a criminal which Marius already knows (Due to a conversation he had with Valjean earlier in the story). Thenardier says he has proof and shows Marius the ring he found from the "Corpse". Marius recognizes it as his ring. Thenardier orders him to give more money for the information he gave. Marius demands to know where Valjean is. Thenardier tells him to pay first, but Marius punches him in the face and demands an answer. Thenardier, scared of what Marius was going to do to him, tells him that Jean Valjean is at the convent. Marius throws money at him and leaves with Cosette. Thenardier and MME. Thenardier then begins singing about how their plans and antics will always get them successful and how they will always come out on top with the things that they do. In the end, they simply stay and enjoy the party.
However, in the 2012 film adaption, the Thenardiers are instead carried out by the participants and kicked out of the party for good.
- The Thernadiers are symbolic to the criminal underworld that seeks to extort Valjean, in contrast to Javert, who represents the authorities who seek to punish him for his criminal past.
- In the book, they are arrested by Javert and Madame Thenardier dies in prison shortly after. Thenardier and his other daughter, Azelma, then move to America to become slave traders at the end of the book. Azelma herself is not seen in most adaptions but she is more prominent in Les Miserables: Shoujo Cosette.
- In Les Miserables: Shoujo Cosette, Madame Thenardier does not die in prison and is able to keep Azelma with her. Also, Javert did not commit suicide in that version, so he could arrest Monsieur Thenardier.