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- “See the finest girl in France
Make an entrance to entrance
Dance la Esmeralda... Dance!”
- ―Clopin introducing Esmeralda
Esmeralda is the deuteragonist of Disney's 1996 animated feature film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Esmeralda is a Romani woman residing underneath Paris, France, in the hidden catacombs known as the Court of Miracles. She is a member of the Romani culture, led by Clopin, and works as an entertainment performer, or more specifically, a dancer, both on the streets and during more professional events, such as the Festival of Fools. She is regularly accompanied by her goat, Djali, who acts as her pet, confidante, and assistant during her performances.
- “You saw what he did out there. Letting the crowd torture that poor boy? I thought if just one person could stand up to him then...”
- ―Esmerelda to the Archdeacon
Esmeralda is verbally powerful, street-wise, cunning and morale. She was the sole individual in all of France to downright rebel against Frollo during his reign and was openly against the judge's accusations of claiming the Romani culture to be a gang of thieves who engage in unholy practices of witchcraft. Due to this, she was often the target of arrest, but as mentioned above, Esmeralda is a cunning, independent character, who was shown to have the talent of outsmarting and evading Frollo's grasp time and time again, despite the amount of odds against her. This would only erupt Frollo's tyranny further, but Esmeralda was not one to sacrifice her freedom for the sake of Frollo's suppression. Even when she isfinally captured, and seconds away from death, she remained fiercely defiant, knowing her worth, and refusing to degrade herself by surrendering to Frollo.
Aside from this fiery nature, Esmeralda is ultimately a kind, loving selfless soul underneath. She was the only human character in the film, for the first half, to ever show kindness towards the deformed and naïve Quasimodo. While Frollo and the rest of France viewed him as a monster, based on his appearance, Esmeralda felt otherwise, in spite of the initial shock in response to his appearance. Instead, she treated him as an average person, though with even more patience and kindness, due to his innocent, gentle, and selfless nature—so much so, that her actions can be mistaken for romantic affections. However, this is not the case, as Esmeralda's love towards Quasimodo were strictly platonic, proving that forms of deep love and care don't always have to relate to romance. In reality, her love is Phoebus. The reason she chose Pheobus over Quasimodo was not because Quasimodo was deformed, but because Quasimodo hadn't fully matured, and his blind adulation for her may have led to him becoming overly reliant on her.
Though she seems to be a sultry and free-spirited person, the song "God Help the Outcasts" shows that Esmeralda cares about God and religion, as she turns to God in prayer at one point, praying for justice for the less fortunate and downtrodden. However, Esmeralda is not a fanatic, as Frollo is—For one, she does not get into a personal crisis by her falling in love with Phoebus, and for another, lyrics during the song include "I don't know if you can hear me, or if you're even there", referring to God, showing that she is not totally convinced of his existence, but still hopes to be heard, nevertheless.
Esmeralda goes barefoot in the first film (but wears black flat shoes in the sequel), and she has brown skin, raven-black hair, an hour glass figure and striking emerald green eyes (in fact, a possible reason is that "Esmeralda" is the Spanish and Portuguese word for "emerald"). She is designed to be very attractive, as Phoebus and Frollo are both immediately attracted to her. Her hair is tied back with a pink ribbon. Esmeralda wears a white top with a teal and gold bodice, along with a purple sarong and white petticoat. She is often barefoot, and wears a golden hoop earring on her left ear, a golden bangle on her left wrist, and matching bracelet and anklet on both her right hand and right ankle.