Monday, 16 November 2015

Manneken Pis




          
                 She was shocked! The waffle she was nibbling on had just been pissed on. The others had giggled and run to escape the trajectory while she looked at her sodden waffle sheepishly. He only had his cherubic looks to thank for the adulation he received despite the unpardonable antic. And the fact that he was just 24 inches tall. And that he was in bronze.

                                         

    He gets away with the mischief for the many life saving legends behind his existence. The soldiers loyal to Duke Godfrey III of Leuven, a two year old toddler, had him put in a basket which was hung from a tree to inspire them in their battle against the troops of Berthouts. As would happen to a toddler blissfully unaware of the grim games the adults play, the young lord relieved himself from where his basket was suspended from the tree. It is said that the jet fell on the enemy soldiers who then lost the battle. 

   Then there is the story of the rich merchant who had come visiting with his family. His young son went missing and a search party was formed which finally found him relieving himself in the corner of a street. As a token of gratitude, the merchant had the fountain statue built for the townspeople. 

   Another version is that Brussels was under siege. To break the resilient defenders, the enemy had planted explosives on the city walls. A little boy urinated on the fuse and thus saved the city and it's people.

                                                   


   Interesting lessons we learnt on the uses of the leak. Walking down the Rue Charles Buls from the Grand Place, the aroma of waffles greeted us from the many kiosks. The eyes feasted on the delicate Belgian laces from the other side of the glass windows. That was all the price tags allowed us to indulge in. We lusted and sighed  at the exquisiteness, keeping our waffles behind us as some of the windows instructed us not to savour it along with admiring the laces. Tourists were slowly making their way to a nondescript looking corner.

   A creation of Heironimus Duquesnoy the Elder, the Manneken Pis was originally sculpted in 1619. Despite the more exotic neighbours like the  Grand Place and its Town Hall with all their architectural grandeur, the little guy is the symbol of a Belgian's  characteristic rebellious spirit and of self mockery. His famous urinary trajectory is traced back to the sixteenth century when he played an important role in the city's distribution of drinking water. Relinquished of that function long since, the adorable toddler was adopted as the city's humour mascot. Having been stolen many times, the original statue rests safely in the City Museum, housed in the Breadhouse, along with his wardrobe of more than nine hundred costumes accumulated over the centuries. I suppose that could give any woman a complex. The  costumes are donated by various organizations and nations. The manneken is dressed in different costumes to either honour an organization, nation or to attract attention to an issue.

                                 




    A crowd had gathered around the little fella. It was time to have his costume taken off at the end of the day. He was stopped from urinating into the fountain basin. A small ladder went up against the pedestal and his guardian ( an appointed employee of the municipal)  stepped up. The ceremony  culminated with an affectionate peck on his cheeks for a good night's rest. The poependroeger costume he was wearing for the day was taken off slowly, folded and kept aside. Incidentally, according to a folklore poependroeger is the group that carries the giants during the Meyboom parade, an ancient tradition where a tree of joy is planted to commemorate the victory of Brussels over a beer tax dispute with Louvain.


                                               




     That was when he decided to let go on the onlookers, the waffles and the fries people were munching on. He doesn't get naughty everyday so you maybe safe and dry. If you are lucky to be visiting on special occasions, you may be served with cups of beer or other beverages or simply get your munchies soaked in  whatever he decides to relieve on that day. 

14 comments:

  1. Ha ha, how creatively you weave history and humor together. I wouldn't mind the audacity of this cherub, even if it means nibbling soggy chips. Or biscuits.

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  2. He is very cute and adorable despite his naughtiness! And thank you for the lovely words.

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  3. I had read him up once before.
    Reading again was fun. :)

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  4. What a mischievous little rascal :) This was a very interesting read, Ilakshee! Who knew this fun little fountain has so much history behind it!

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  5. Thanks Indrani, it was fun writing about the guy.

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  6. Hema, he is an adorable rascal which lot of legends under his chubby folds. Thank you for reading :)

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  7. What a cute mascot.Interesting tales behind it.

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  8. Always fun to read history, and you've narrated in such an interesting way. :)

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  9. Thank you Indu! Stories make statues alive.

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  10. thank you Leena. I am glad you found it interesting.

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  11. What a delightful travelogue you've written, Ilakshee!

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Your words keep me going :)