is one of the mood-lightening characters in Victor Hugo
's Les Miserables
(book and musical). When Fantine
must go out on her own to earn money, she leaves her only daughter, Cosette
, to the care of M. Thenardier and his wife. The two own a local tavern
and inn. They take pleasure in cheating people with "mixed meats" and watered down wines.
During Cosette's stay at the inn, the married couple beats her and makes her do all the work, while they pamper and spoil their own daughter, Eponine. They act as though Cosette is a burden, until Jean Valjean comes to take her away. Now, Cosette is a valuable asset, and they request ample compensation for letting her go.
The one word that best describes Thenardier, in my opinion, is "sleazy." He cheats people at the inn, and reverts to pulling out gold teeth from fallen soldiers later in the story. Though he's one of the less virtuous characters, he and his wife add a lot to the musical version of this story. In between all the depressing songs and deaths, the Thenardiers are always there to add liveliness and goofiness to the scene.