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Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean Portrait
Biographical information
Also Known As

Monsieur Madeleine
Monsieur Le Maire
Ultime Fauchelevent
Monsieur Leblanc
Urbain Fabre






1833 (aged 64)

Cause of Death

Old age/Grief


Jean Valjean (father)
Jeanne Mathieu (mother)
Unnamed brother
Jeanne (sister)
Unnamed nieces and nephews
Cosette (adoptive daughter)

Behind the scenes

see list

Jean Valjean is the main protagonist of Les Misérables.



Jean Valjean as Monsieur Madeleine

Valjean was born into a poor peasant family. His parents died when he was very young, leaving him with his older sister to fend for him. Unfortunately, his sister was widowed, having seven children to look after, the eldest being eight and the youngest being one year old. Valjean went into his father's line of work, getting a job in Faverolles as a tree pruner. While the job only paid the paltry sum of 18 sous a day, Valjean used his meager profits to do what he could for his family. However, when winter came there was no further need for tree pruners. As a result, Valjean was laid off and his family starved. In desperation, he broke the window of a baker named Maubert Isabeau in order to steal bread to feed his sister's children. He was sent to prison for five years for "burglary at night in an inhabited house". While Valjean only said he was given a wooden bed to sleep on when later describing his time in prison, in actuality he had to face much worse conditions as many of his fellow prisoners were dangerous felons and hardened career criminals, and diseases spread rapidly.

He entered the galleys in Toulon in 1796 and left in 1815. During his time there, he was known as Prisoner 24601. Upon Valjean's release, he is issued a passport jaune, or "yellow passport", which he is required to show for identification or present to the police lieutenant of any village he passes through. Valjean's yellow passport states he has been released from prison and a list of his convicted crimes, which is an effective mark of banishment. When Valjean attempts to book a room at an inn, he shows his yellow passport to identify himself, causing the owner and his wife to deny him service on account that they are law-abiding subjects of the Crown and God-fearing people who will not have anything to do with crooks. A woman sees him trying to find a shelter, and tells him to go to the church, where he encounters the bishop Monsieur Myriel of Digne who turns his life around by showing him mercy and encouraging him to become a changed man. While sitting and pondering on what Monsieur Myriel had said, he accidentally puts his foot on a forty-sous piece dropped by a young chimney-sweep named Petit Gervais. Valjean threatens him with his stick when he attempts to rouse Valjean from his reverie and retrieve his piece. He tells a passing priest his name, and the name of the young chimney-sweep, and this allows the police to charge him with armed robbery, a sentence  that, if he were caught again, would return him to prison with a death-sentence. However, the priest claims there was a mistake, claiming he gave forty sous to Valjean and gives Petit Gervais an identical forty sou coin. Satisfied that there was no robbery, the police drop the accusation, causing Valjean to seriously consider the bishop's recommendation.

Several years later, Valjean fulfills his promise to Monsieur Myriel and becomes a changed man under the alias Monsieur Madeleine in the city of Montreuil-sur-Mer. After a few years in the city, he is elected mayor and revolutionizes the city's economy, building many factories and creating many jobs. He became a very famous, influential, popular, and charitable man.

After unwittingly letting his foreman dismiss a factory worker named Fantine, he accidentally becomes wrapped up in the events that ruined her life, making her fall into poverty. After realizing the damage he had done, he had the former worker taken from the custody of Javert and sent to a hospital, where he swore to bring her child to her side.

Meanwhile, Valjean discovered that Javert, the police inspector who had recently began working under his supervision in the city, had recognized him as Valjean. He was visited by the inspector whose guilt over his accusations (that he was told to be false) made him wish for dismissal. After letting Javert remain at his post, Valjean set off to find the man who was to go to sentence in his place.

After admitting to being the convict, Valjean returned to Fantine's bedside, where he was confronted by Javert. After hearing Javert cry out Madeleine's true identity and the fact that her daughter was not present, Fantine lost her will to live and died of her illness. Valjean surrendered to Javert, but swiftly escaped to rescue Cosette, Fantine's daughter. Before finding Cosette, he was again recaptured but escaped by faking his death falling off a ship into the sea after rescuing an endangered sailor.

Valjean saved Cosette from the Thénardiers but was pursued by Javert. He and Cosette escaped into a convent and were offered shelter there by Fauchelevant, an old man whose life Valjean had saved while he was mayor. (he was stuck under a cart which Valjean lifted off of him) After smuggling Valjean in initially, Fauchelevent later had to smuggle him out in a coffin for him to stay officially. Valjean was accepted into the convent posing as Fauchelevent's brother with Cosette as his granddaughter.


Jean Valjean was an adventurous, brave and selfless man. This is shown frequently throughout the story. He: attempts to steal a loaf of bread to save his nephew, sends Fantine to the hospital when it was evident she was dying, went to save Cosette from the Thénardiers and hid them both from Javert at the heart of Paris, and he also did everything in his capability to keep Marius Pontmercy alive. He was highly intelligent and extremely perceptive; he could see past the Thénardiers' attempts to keep Cosette as a petty servant and also was able to determine Javert's fear of mercy. Due to his own fear of being made a slave again, Valjean suffered from extreme paranoia and desperation. His fear of going back to prison led him to be on the run for the rest of his life. It also made him fear for his own life and for the lives of those around him, particularly that of Cosette. However, Valjean made up for this with his enormous capacity for courage, shown in his heroic efforts to rescue Marius from the soldiers when the latter was seriously injured.

Valjean was extremely strong, much stronger even than the other inmates at the prison. He could carry incredible weight, including fallen masts and carts, with borderline ease and used his strength to fight off Javert in the hospital. He was also even more agile than he was strong, able to easily climb walls. He was a skilled marksman, as he severed two ropes holding up a mattress with one shot apiece and deterred the National Guard from posting watchmen by shooting their helmets off without killing them. His strength also gave him an edge in unarmed combat.



Act IEdit

Act IIEdit

External LinksEdit


  • Like in the novel and in the English musical production, Valjean's slave number is 24601. However, in the Spanish version of the musical it is 23623 and in the Swedish version it is 25601.
  • Jean Valjean doesn't know how to read.
    • However, during his time in prison, he learned how to read.
  • Jean Valjean's parents died, his mother died because of milk fever and his father died due to falling from a tree, possibly while pruning the tree.
  • Jean Valjean stole bread in 1795.
    • Jean Valjean was put to jail a year after he stole bread.
  • Jean Valjean was freed in 1815.
  • During his visit to jail, he got amnesia.
  • Valjean got his job as a tree pruner at age 25.
  • Valjean taught Cosette how to read and spell.
  • Valjean spent 23 francs at Thénardier's Inn


2012 FilmEdit


1998 FilmEdit

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