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Gavroche (variant spelling: Gavrosh) is a character in Victor Hugo's 1860 novel, Les Miserables. His life story was brief. His parents, the Thenardiers, basically ignored his existence, and he spent most of his youth living on the streets, sleeping inside the hollow remains of an elephant-shaped fountain Napoleon had begun to build but never completed.

19th century literature is full of coincidences. Gavroche met up with two younger kids, and offered room in his "home." Unbeknownst to him, they were his younger brothers. Here is part of their conversation from the first night in the elephant.


“Yeah?” said Gavroche, who had just closed his eyes.

“What’s that?”

“It is the rats,” answered Gavroche....

“Monsieur!” he said again.

“Yeah?” said Gavroche.

“What are the rats?”

“They’re mice.”...


“Yeah?” replied Gavroche.

“Why don’t you have a cat?”

“I had one,” answered Gavroche. “I brought one here, but they ate her up for me.”

Gavroche can imitate the songs of birds, and sings several songs in the novel, including one with the chorus, "I have only one of everything: God, king, sou, boot."

On June 5, 1832, at the age of approximately 12 or 13, Gavroche fought alongside many Paris students in a revolt. He was able to reveal to the others there was a policeman-spy in their midst. At one moment in the fighting, when the ammunition was spent, the students began to argue over who would get the honor to risk their life by going to the other side of the barricade and collecting the ammunition from the dead enemy soldiers. Since the argument was going nowhere, Gavroche volunteered and was gathering the ammunition before anyone could stop him. He sang a song about the French philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau as he collected the bullets, amidst enemy fire. He managed to dodge the bullets for several minutes, but was ultimately hit, and fell before he could finish the song.

Gavroche today in French means street gamin, or a mischievous child. It isn't often that a fictional character embeds itself into a culture to the extent that his or her name takes on a meaning of its own. In the English language, Dickens' Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein come to mind.

Several organizations and companies use Gavroche's name. The Gavroche Association helps street children in Varna, Bulgaria. There are also several French restaurants across the world using the name Le Gavroche

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