Éponine Thénardier is a character in the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. She is the cynical but resourceful and street-smart eldest daughter and first-born child of Monsieur and Madame Thénardier.
Éponine and her younger sister Azelma are first introduced as toddlers in Montfermeil, France in 1818. Their parents Monsieur and Madame Thénardier run their own business as innkeepers. When Éponine and Azelma first meet Cosette, also a toddler, the three of them play together. After taking in Cosette, the Thénardiers abuse her, sell her wardrobe, make her wear rags and force her to work for the inn. At the same time, Éponine and Azelma are spoiled by their parents. The two sisters wear pretty dresses, own many toys, and amuse themselves all day by playing. Following their parents’ example, Éponine and Azelma also mistreat Cosette and at times ignore her.
In 1823, on Christmas Eve, Éponine and Azelma look at a very pretty and expensive doll on display in a Christmas fair. Cosette had also looked at it, but discreetly. Later that night, Éponine and Azelma are playing with their own doll together, but then abandon it on the floor to dress up a kitten instead. Cosette then sees the doll and takes it. Éponine and Azelma suddenly notice Cosette with their doll and tell on her to their mother. After Jean Valjean sees this, he briefly leaves the inn, comes back, and gives Cosette the doll from the fair, as he had left to buy it for her. This results in the two sisters to express jealousy towards Cosette for the first time.
Throughout the next eight years, the Thénardiers' inn goes bankrupt, and the family move to Paris. They become completely impoverished, and live in a dirty, run-down apartment at Gorbeau House. They also live under the surname "Jondrette." Éponine, now an adolescent, has become ragged, haggard, has a hoarse voice due to drinking, and is prematurely aging due to living in debauchery and poverty. She and Azelma help Thénardier to racketeer. Éponine falls blindly in love with her neighbor Marius, who lives next door to her and her family in the same apartment building. She first meets him at his apartment to give him a begging letter from her father. To try to impress him, she demonstrates her literacy by reading aloud a passage from a book and then writing a sentence, "Les cognes sont là" ("The police are here." "Cognes" is argot slang for "police"). She then opens up to Marius about her life and her hardships. He feels pity for her and gives her five francs, and she thanks him in argot.
Éponine then leaves to visit a nearby church to ask a philanthropist and his daughter to make a charitable visit to her family. Coincidentally, and unbeknown to Éponine, they turn out to be Valjean and Cosette. When they visit the Thénardier family, Marius recognizes Cosette. After Valjean and Cosette leave, Marius asks Éponine to find Cosette's address. Discovering that he is only in love with Cosette, she is unhappy with his request, but agrees to help him find her for him after making him promise to give her anything she wants as payment. Later that day, Valjean comes back to the apartment alone with rent money. He is ambushed by Thénardier (recognizing Valjean) and a gang called the Patron-Minette, and they attempt to rob him. Éponine and Azelma participate in the crime by keeping watch outside for the police. When the men decide to kill Valjean, Marius stops them by throwing Éponine's literacy note through the wall. Thénardier reads it and thinks Éponine threw it inside as a warning. Thénardier, Madame Thénardier and the gang try to escape, but are stopped and arrested by Javert. Éponine and Azelma are also arrested, but both are released after two weeks.
After Éponine is released, Babet assigns her to inspect a house. Discovering that it is Valjean and Cosette's house, she informs him the house has no worth. Éponine does not find Marius for six weeks. With the assistance of the churchwarden Mabeuf, she finds Marius in a park called "The Field of the Lark." With some reluctance, she tells him she found Cosette's address. Marius makes Éponine swear not to let her father know the address, and after some persuasion, she promises. She then tells Marius that she wants her payment, and he puts a five-franc coin in her hand. She opens her fingers and lets it fall to the ground, and tells him it is not money she wants.
After Éponine shows Marius the house, he watches it for a few days. Marius soon meets Cosette in the gardens of the house and the two profess their love to each other. They meet with each other there throughout the past few weeks, and Éponine secretly watches Marius every time he walks to the house. One night, during one of Marius' visits with Cosette, Éponine is sitting on the ground by the gates of the house. She suddenly sees her father, Patron-Minette and Brujon attempt to break into the house. Éponine prevents the men from doing so by threatening to them that she will scream, alert the police and wake up the whole area if they so much as touch the gates. Hearing this, the men leave.
The next day, Éponine disguises herself as a boy. She finds Valjean and anonymously throws a note to him, which tells him to move away. She also intercepts Cosette's letter to Marius so that Marius does not receive it (the letter includes Cosette's new temporary address and when Cosette and Valjean will leave France). The next day is the first day of the student uprising. Éponine, still in her disguise, hears about the barricades from Courfeyrac, and she comes up with a fatal idea: she and Marius will die there. She follows Courfeyrac to the barricades to learn its location, and then goes to Valjean and Cosette's house and waits. Marius arrives and discovers the house deserted. Staying hidden, Éponine lies to Marius by telling him that his friends are expecting him at the barricades. Devastated that Cosette is gone, and thinking she left the country, Marius goes, while Éponine goes back there as well.
Later that night at the barricades, Éponine sees a soldier from the National Guard about to shoot Marius. Wanting to die before Marius, she steps between him and the soldier and puts her hand on the front of the soldier's musket barrel, taking the fatal shot herself. After this, she calls out to Marius and tells him she is dying. She asks him to lay her on his knees and he does so. She then confesses to Marius her role in sending him to the barricades, and why she took the shot for him. She also decides to give him Cosette's letter, concerned that if she did not, he would hold the letter against her in the afterlife. Her final request to Marius is that after she dies, he kiss her forehead. With her last breath, Éponine confesses to Marius that she might have been "a little in love" with him, and dies. Marius kisses her forehead, as he sympathizes with her for her hard life.
Éponine is one of the musical's most beloved characters. In most productions of this adaptation, she is made to have a more romanticized, sympathetic, likeable and relatable presentation of her character and she is not as manipulative. In the novel, most of her beauty has been lost and she has a hoarse voice. In the musical, she is traditionally pretty and her voice is not hoarse, but she is still presented as ragged and poverty-stricken. She and Marius are also portrayed as friends. Her child self remains unchanged, but she does not sing or speak onstage.
In most productions, she is dressed in a dirty white/khaki colored sleeveless blouse, a brown belt, dirty deep brown skirt, a brown/red/black cap and brown/black boots/shoes. Her disguise consists of a khaki colored trench coat and dirty khaki colored pants.
- Look Down
- The Robbery/Javert's Intervention
- Éponine's Errand
- Do You Hear the People Sing?(2012 film)
- In My Life
- A Heart Full of Love
- The Attack on Rue Plumet
- One Day More
- Building the Barricade (Upon These Stones)
- On My Own
- A Little Fall of Rain
- Night of Anguish (silent)
- Valjean's Death
- In the musical, Éponine was one of the spirits (the other being Fantine) who greeted Valjean during his death. In the 2012 film, she is replaced by Bishop Myriel.
- The actress who plays Éponine in the stage version also plays one of the prostitutes in "Lovely Ladies" and in some productions one of the factory workers in "At The End of The Day"
- In some stage productions, the actresses who play young Éponine and young Cosette switch roles every other production to give them more range.
- Many film adaptations cut Éponine and her plotline, including the 1978 film and 1998 film.
- Polish and Czech form of her name is "Eponina"
- So far, Carrie Hope Fletcher is the only actress to have portrayed both Éponine as a child and adolescent onstage.
- 90's singer Shanice is the first black actress to portray Eponine on Broadway.
- Despite Eponine being portrayed by a black actress as a teen in the latest Broadway version, child Eponine was played by a white child actress.
- So far, Michelle Nicastro, Minako Honda and Miyuki Kanbe (who was originally going to play Eponine in 2007) are the only musical portrayers of Adolescent Eponine to pass away.
- Hayden Panettiere, Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, Emily Browning, Lucy Hale and Evan Rachel Wood all auditioned for the part of Eponine in the 2012 movie.
- Eponine is referenced in the video game Fire Emblem: Fates, through the character Nina (Éponine in the Japanese version). In the game, she is a thief who enjoys literature and stageplays.
Non Musical Adaptations and NovelEdit
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