In the novel, Esmeralda's real name is Agnes. She is the daughter of Paquette (later known as Gudule). Gudule becomes a recluse after she losses her daughter. Gudule hates gypsies because they have stolen her daughter.
Esmeralda then grows up to be a fifteen-year-old gypsy. She has an emerald on her neck that she believes it will lead her to her mother. She dances on the road with her goat Djali who can perform tricks with tambourine.
She enchants the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo, who then commands Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, to steal her. Officer Phoebus de Chateaupers comes to stop the riots. Esmeralda immediately becomes mad of him.
Esmeralda is kind and helpful, but also shown naive. When Clopin the King of Beggars want to hang a poet named Pierre Gringoire for trespassing the Beggars' territory, she is willing to be his counterfeit wife to save his life. But she idolizes Phoebus.
When Quasimodo is punished in the pillory because of kidnapping Esmeralda, Esmeralda gives him water. He starts to fall in love with her.
Esmeralda once is brought to Gondelaurier houses, invited by the friends of Phoebus' fiancee Fleur de Lys. In the house, Fleur snatches Esmeralda's bag until the alphabets inside it fall. Djali uses the letter to spell Phoebus. Fleur calls her a witch before Esmeralda runs away.
Then, Phoebus flirts and deceives Esmeralda with romantic, false words. He never wants to marry Esmeralda. He is only enchanted with her beauty. In fact, he wants to marry Fleur only for money.
Frollo who sees Phoebus kissing Esmeralda gets jealous and stabs Phoebus. After that, he escapes. Esmeralda then is blamed for murder.
In the jail, Frollo gives her two choices: love him or death. Esmeralda refuses to love him, then goes to be executed. Quasimodo right away saves her to the Notre Dame and claims "Sanctuary".
Esmeralda is protected safely with Quasimodo. One day, she desperately wants Phoebus. Quasimodo tries hard to bring him to Esmeralda but Phoebus kicks Quasimodo. He actually does not care a little bit for her.
Frollo once wants to come to the Notre Dame, but Quasimodo is ready to protect Esmeralda. He almost kill his master before he knows that he is Frollo.
When Frollo watches that Esmeralda is happy with Quasimodo, he becomes more jealous. He makes a plan with Pierre to make Esmeralda out of the cathedral. In fact, he still wants to make Esmeralda be with him. Frollo gives her the same two options again, but Esmeralda has the answer: she won't be with him.
Finally he tells Gudule to hold Esmeralda while he looks for guards. Esmeralda has a chance to talk about her loss mother. The mother and daughter then unite. When guards, including Phoebus, come, Esmeralda is hidden by Gudule. However, silly Esmeralda who thinks Phoebus will help her, shows herself. She is then pulled to go to he scaffold.
Esmeralda finally dies, seen by Quasimodo on the Notre Dame tower.
Years later, it is found that Quasimodo's bones are with Esmeralda's bones.
In Disney's version, it is never known who Esmeralda's mother is or what her real name is. Esmeralda is also a gypsy girl with Djali the goat.
Esmeralda meets Quasimodo in the Festival of Fools. She opens Frollo's cruelty there which makes Frollo angry, but she successfully disappears from Frollo.
At first, Esmeralda is not in a good relationship with Phoebus. She does not like him because she thinks that he might want to catch her, too.
However, Esmeralda is kind to Quasimodo and becomes good friends. Quasimodo secretly loves her.
Meanwhile, Frollo is also enchanted by Esmeralda. He wants to find the gypsy girl but he also intends to kill her because she is though to have witchcraft. He burns houses along the way.
When Esmeralda sees that Phoebus refuse to follow Frollo's order, she begins to change her opinion about him. Phoebus is badly injured that Esmeralda brings him to the safest place, Notre Dame.
She asks Quasimodo to guard him. When Esmeralda is caught and almost burnt, Quasimodo saves her. Quasimodo then fights with Frollo that Frollo falls from the balcony to death. Quasimodo who also slips is caught by Phoebus. Finally Quasimodo lets Esmeralda be with Phoebus and Quasimodo is not feared by town people anymore.
Esmeralda before she leaves Notre Dame
Esmeralda saves Phoebus
Phoebus is brought to Notre Dame
Quasimodo unbinds Esmeralda
Esmeralda and Phoebus and Djali