Les Misérables

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Name: Les Misérables
Abbreviation(s): Les Mis, Les Miz, the Brick (refers specifically to the novel)
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, miniseries, etc.
Country of Origin: France
External Links: Original novel, musical, 2012 film and BBC miniseries on Wikipedia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

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. In contrast, much of modern fandom focuses on Les Amis de l'ABC, a student revolutionary group appearing in the latter half of the story, though Valjean and Javert are also large parts of the fandom.


The story is set in early nineteenth-century France and primarily follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean. Pre-canon, Valjean was imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. He is released on parole, but then steals from a bishop. When he is caught, the bishop shows him mercy and gives Valjean a chance at a life away from prison. Valjean breaks parole and, taking on a new identity, becomes the beloved mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He is under suspicion by his former prison guard, now the dutiful Inspector Javert. Valjean meets a woman named 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 Jean Valjean retrieves Cosette.

Meanwhile, in 1832 Paris, a group known as Les Amis de l'ABC prepare to demonstrate against the government of France. Key characters associated with Les Amis include Enjolras, the leader of the group; Grantaire, a cynic and alcoholic who reveres Enjolras; Éponine, one of the Thénardiers' daughters; and Marius Pontmercy, a law student who Eponine is in love with.

Marius sees Cosette and Valjean (who are now living in Paris), and falls in love with Cosette. He later sees them being ambushed by the Thénardiers (including Eponine), and notifies Javert, who is a police inspector in Paris. Valjean manages to escape before Javert sees him and Cosette, but he becomes paranoid about being discovered and 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. Over the course of the next day, the rest of Les Amis are killed by the National Guard.

However, Jean Valjean has found out about Cosette's love for Marius and goes to the barricade to rescue him. 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.

Fandom Overview

The Les Miserables fandom has been around for a long time [citation needed], and has changed throughout the years. In its modern form (post-release of the 2012 film), the fandom focuses primarily on Enjolras/Grantaire, and the rest of Les Amis de l'ABC. Javert/Jean Valjean is also a common pairing, though there is much less focus on it. However, one fan recalls:

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.[1]

Most of modern fandom is based around a combination of book and musical/film canon, likely because these are the two most popular versions of Les Mis.

Book Fandom

The novel, approximately 1900 pages long in its original French version,[2] 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"). Enjolras in particular is a popular character, and different interpretations of his sexuality is a commonly debated topic in fandom.

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.

It is noteworthy that many popular fandom tropes and headcanons come from book canon. This is partially because the musical gives almost no information about the members of Les Amis, who are more popular within modern fandom. One example of a book-specific trope is Grantaire's massive amounts of pining after Enjolras.

Musical Fandom

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. As of May 2020, Les Miserables is the largest theater fandom on AO3, with 21158 works, although the tag is for all media types.

2012 Film

The 2012 film version of Les Mis is an adaptation of the musical, rather than the original book. Its release caused a large increase in the fandom after the film. As with many Tumblr-era fandoms, much of this new activity manifested itself as gifsets.

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.[3] By April 2013, this increased to over 2,000 works.[4] 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.[5] As of January 24th 2014, makinghugospin is located on Dreamwidth.[6]

BBC Miniseries

The 2018-2019 BBC miniseries adaptation of Les Misérables, often called BBC Les Mis, reenergized the fandom for a period of time, though not as much as the 2012 musical film. The miniseries was also much less well received by the fandom, with many criticizing liberties taken from the source material as well as issues in characterization.

The title ’Les Misérables’ refers to us, the poor people watching this mess of a show.[7]

However, others have countered that the existing fandom's negative reaction is due to the extensive fanon that has been developed around Les Amis, and consider the miniseries to be more in line with the book.[citation needed]

Characters & Ships

There are (broadly) two categories of characters within the fandom - those introduced in the earlier half of canon, which includes Jean Valjean, Javert, and Fantine; and those introduced in the later half of canon - all of Les Amis de l'ABC, as well as Marius Pontmercy, Cosette, and Éponine Thénardier.

The most prominent ship of the first category of characters is Javert/Jean Valjean. Many fans enjoy exploring their antagonistic dynamic, as well as their contrasting worldviews. A common joke/meme about the ship is Javert's seeming-obsession with Valjean.

The second category of characters has many more ships, in part because there are many more characters. The most popular ship by far is Enjolras/Grantaire, also known as e/R. This is largely because of descriptions of Grantaire's adoration of Enjolras within book canon, which has been read by many to have homoerotic undertones. Other slash ships include Courfeyrac/Jean Prouvaire, Courfeyrac/Combeferre, and Bahorel/Feuilly.

The most popular femslash ship in current fandom 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 (which is semi-canon) and Cosette Fauchelevent/Marius Pontmercy/Éponine Thénardier, the latter of which solves an infamous canon love triangle.

Les Amis de l'ABC as a group is also a common gen ship.

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.[8]


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 environments. 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. [9]. 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.[10]
  • 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.


e/R (Enjolras/Grantaire)

Valvert (Javert/Jean Valjean)


Crack Crossover

The AO3 story Inspector Javert and the Eighth Wonder of the World crosses Les Misérables with King Kong!






Fandom Events

  • Barricade Day (5 June). Some fans celebrate Barricade Week so they can create more fanworks.
  • Barricades Con: A 2022 online Les Misérables convention.

Fan Interviews

See Category:Les Misérables Fan Interviews.

Links & Resources


  1. ^ Re: Les Misérables, comment at fail_fandomanon on Dreamwidth, 14 February 2018. (Accessed 17 February 2018.)
  2. ^ See Les Misérables#Novel form at Wikipedia. (Accessed 01 April 2013.)
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ As of April 1, 2013, there are 2316 works tagged Les Misérables - All Media Types.
  5. ^ makinghugospin's Les Mis Anon Kink Meme. Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, & Round 4. (Accessed 01 April 2013.)
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ A fan reaction to BBC Les Mis on Tumblr, January 20th, 2019
  8. ^ gavrockandroll on Tumblr about the Les Mis fandom, 2018
  9. ^ An incomplete listing was made on the fail_fandomanon meme (April 01 2013) with the title Please Punish Me, Monsieur le Maire: An Index
  10. ^ Making Amends at Archive of Our Own (accessed April 01 2013)