|Abbreviation(s):||Les Mis, Les Miz|
|Creator:||Victor Hugo (novel), Schönberg and Boublil (musical)|
|Date(s):||1862 (novel); 1980/1985 (musical); 2012 (movie based on musical); 2018 (BBC miniseries)|
|Medium:||novel, musical, films|
|Country of Origin:||France|
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Les Misérables is a 1862 novel by Victor Hugo that was adapted into a famous musical, as well as numerous films, plays, miniseries and other media. A film version of the musical was released in 2012, causing a resurgence of the fandom.
There are differences between the different canons in terms of structure and character motivations. The earlier film adaptations in particular drop extensive sections of the source text, often choosing to focus on Javert and Jean Valjean. Much of the modern fandom focuses on Valjean and Javert, but also on Les Amis de l'ABC, a student revolutionary group appearing in the latter half of the story.
The story is set in early nineteenth-century France and primarily follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean. In 1815, after being imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing to feed his family, Valjean is released on parole. After a bishop shows him mercy after he steals from him, Valjean decides to change his ways and breaks parole. With his new identity, he becomes the beloved mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He is under suspicion by his former prison guard, now the dutiful Inspector Javert. Valjean meets Fantine, who has been forced into prostitution to get money to send to an abusive innkeeper couple, the Thénardiers who are keeping her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. Fantine dies and then Jean Valjean retrieves Cosette. After a period of time, Valjean and Cosette are now living in 1832 Paris where Marius Pontmercy spends time with the revolutionary group of friends, Les Amis de l'ABC, led by Enjolras. This changes when he sees Cosette and Jean Valjean being ambushed by the Thénardiers, including their daughter Éponine, and falls in love with Cosette. To Éponine's disappointment, she returns his feelings.
Valjean, more paranoid about being found by the police this encounter, decides that he and Cosette must leave France. Marius is devastated, and goes to join Les Amis de l'ABC at the barricade. Fighting occurs, and Éponine sacrifices herself for Marius and Les Amis de l'ABC are killed by the National Guard. However, Jean Valjean finds out about Cosette's love for Marius and goes to the barricade and rescues Marius. He also frees Javert, who is imprisoned by the revolutionaries for attempting to spy on them. This is despite the fact that he had a chance to kill Javert and be free from the police at last. They escape through the sewers, where Javert finds them. He allows them to go free, and with his soul in conflict about whether or not he has done the right thing, commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seine. Marius and Cosette are married, and Jean Valjean leaves them to live without fear of the police finding him and ruining their life. After leaving Cosette, his health declines. Just before he dies, Marius finds out that Valjean saved him at the barricades, and he and Cosette return to him and they reconcile before he dies.
I think it's easy to forget that Les Mis fandom really wasn't slash-heavy until maybe the 25th Anniversary Concert [in 2010], which played up E/R. Before that point, Valvert may have outnumbered actual E/R, and Valvert was also a fairly rare pair. There was a lot of "pre-slash" and a lot more Romantic Friendship on the Amis side. Any slash was pretty dripping with angst and shame.
The most popular femslash ship is Cosette/Éponine Thénardier. Popular het ships include Cosette Fauchelevent/Marius Pontmercy, Enjolras/Éponine Thénardier, Marius Pontmercy/Éponine Thénardier and Montparnasse/Éponine Thénardier. The most popular polyships are Joly/Bossuet Laigle/Musichetta and Cosette Fauchelevent/Marius Pontmercy/Éponine Thénardier, the latter of which solves an infamous canon love triangle.
The novel, approximately 1900 pages long in its original French version, is affectionately known by fans as "The Brick" and is infamous for its numerous digressions about only marginally-related topics (notably, the Battle of Waterloo and Paris's sewers).
Much of the book fandom focuses on Les Amis de l'ABC (the Friends of the ABC), or "Les Amis". Les Amis are frequently shipped in a variety of slash combinations, with the most common pairing being Enjolras/Grantaire ("E/R"), despite some fans believing that Enjolras is depicted as asexual in the novel.
Javert/Jean Valjean stories based on book canon are likely to be set in Montreuil-sur-Mer era, when Valjean is mayor under the assumed name Monsieur Madeleine, or in a post-canon scenario where both of the characters avoid their canon deaths.
The musical fandom is centered around the Abaissé forums, and involves much comparison of different stagings and meta discussion.
What musical-based fanfiction that existed before the 2012 movie was usually posted on fanfiction.net or private websites.
The movie also brought a large influx of fanfiction. Prior to December 25, 2012, the U.S. release date of the film, there were only about 100 works marked Les Misérables on AO3. By April 2013, this increased to over 2,000 works. Similarly, activity at the Les Mis kink meme at makinghugospin increased dramatically with the release of the film. From November 2009 to December 2012, the kink meme accumulated under 10 pages of comments; by April 2013, the meme is on its fourth round, with a cumulative total of approximately 150 pages of comments. As of January 24th 2014, makinghugospin is located on Dreamwidth.
Prominence of Modern AU
After the film adaptation brought in a large amount of new fans, Modern AU fanworks became so common that they were considered the norm in certain parts of the fandom, particularly on Tumblr and AO3. The phrase Canon Era became widespread to differentiate between the two, with Les Misérables being the second most common fandom for the Ao3 tag, just after fandom that coined it.
tbh one of the more subtly chaotic fandoms was les mis, because modern aus became so common they stopped being labelled all the time because it was just Assumed it’d be a modern au. but there were still original time period works scattered in so you’d have a fucking schrodinger’s cat situation where everyone is both in 1800’s and the current day until someone whips out a cell phone.
Common Fic Tropes
Several categories of fic have appeared or grown greatly in popularity as compared to the pre-movie fandom. Some of these are:
- Modern AU, mainly centered on the Les Amis. Frequently, the student rebellion group and the other young characters are moved from the canon setting to US or UK university enviroments. They might be interested in social justice, though more general student-life fics also appear.
- Reincarnation AU, generally focused on Les Amis, with the characters in a modern setting becoming aware of their deaths on the barricade. Sometimes they are aware of each other before they gain awareness of their past lives, others include them getting to know each other after the fact. Often this is used to encourage the Enjolras/Grantaire pairing, as their death scene is one of their most shipper-friendly scenes.
- Punish Me, Monsieur le Maire-fics have become a trope of their own for the Valjean/Javert pairing. . They are centered on the scene in which Inspector Javert asks for Jean Valjean, in his guise as Mayor Madeleine, to punish him for the infraction of reporting "Madeleine" to the authorites. Because another man has been arrested and is believed to be Valjean, Javert feels he has done a gross infraction. They often contain a combination of dubious consent, identity porn and informal BDSM. The sub-genre is clearcut enough that it has spawned at least one parody fic.
- Post-Seine. A type of fixit fic, where a character (usually Valjean) saves Javert from the river, and they then often end up in a relationship together. This category of fic existed before the movie. Often contain some amount of hurt/comfort.
- Apollo by lannisterrss, a popular Enjolras/Grantaire college AU
- College Boys and High School Girls by defying3reason, a lengthy college AU with social justice overtones and some controversy.
- Paris Burning by thecitysmith, a Enjolras/Grantaire fic in which Grantaire is the personification of Paris, which has spawned countless spinoff works.
- Talk Revolution to Me, Baby by truethingsproved, a light-hearted Les Amis-centric college AU
- World Ain't Ready by idiopathicsmile, a high school AU set in the early 2000s where Enjolras and Grantaire pretend to date.
Valvert (Javert/Jean Valjean)
- and see before the night descends by plumedy, a post-Seine fic based off the 1998 movie canon
- A Reflection of Starlight by AutumnGracy (Brick-based), a slow burn, WIP, canon divergence, post-Seine longfic where Valjean saves Javert from suicide.
- Her Favorite Color by Pygmy Puff (ppuff), a canon divergence AU where Valjean agrees to stay in prison if Javert takes care of Cosette. Angsty with MCD and only slash if you squint.
- Life After the Seine by Esteliel, a post-Seine adventure.
- Our Manager Must Learn by TheLifeOfEmm, an angsty Phantom of the Opera crossover. Content warning for torture.
- The Man You Take Me For by scioscribe, a mostly gen angsty what-if based on the idea of what would happen if Valjean had not given himself up to save Champmathieu.
- The Resignation of Inspector Javert by Wraithwitch (Brick-based). A post-Seine scenario, where Valjean saves Javert. The fic successfully pastiches Victor Hugo's narrative style.
- Toil Until the Old Colours Fade by drcalvin, a Javert-focused Groundhog Day AU.
- Two Ships Passing by Carmarthen, a 5+1 Things AU. 5 universes where Valjean and Javert never meet, and the one where they do.
- Three Days (or The One Where Javert and Valjean Take a Road Trip Through France and Raise a Child) by zamwessel (2012 movie-based). Three Days uses a What if? scenario where Javert choses to follow Valjean to Montfermeil and they end up rescuing Cosette from her abusive situation. It was one of the first long-fics in the post-movie fandom for the ship and remains widely recced.
Links & Resources
- Les Misérables - All Media Types at AO3
- Les Misérables (novel) & Les Misérables (musical) at FanFiction.Net
- makinghugospin, an anonymous kink meme
- ExR-cache, a tumblr for fanfic recs
- Re: Les Misérables, comment at fail_fandomanon on Dreamwidth, 14 February 2018. (Accessed 17 February 2018.)
- See Les Misérables#Novel form at Wikipedia. (Accessed 01 April 2013.)
- According to the Les Misérables - All Media Types tag, sorted by date posted. (Accessed 01 April 2013.) See also the archived version of the page, taken by the Wayback Machine in April 2012, showing 68 works.
- As of April 1, 2013, there are 2316 works tagged Les Misérables - All Media Types.
- makinghugospin's Les Mis Anon Kink Meme. Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, & Round 4. (Accessed 01 April 2013.)
- gavrockandroll on Tumblr about the Les Mis fandom, 2018
- An incomplete listing was made on the fail_fandomanon meme (April 01 2013) with the title Please Punish Me, Monsieur le Maire: An Index
- Making Amends at Archive of Our Own (accessed April 01 2013)