Legendary Mannekenpis

Meeting The Legendary Mannekenpis

If you have ever visited the Brusselers household, there's a good chance you've heard the "belching and farting song." My dad took every opportunity to break it out to embarrass, or impress, guests to the mortification or glee (depending on age and maturity level) of everyone else who knew exactly what that song was. Now I've peaked your curiousity, have a listen. And don't say I didn't warn you!

I've grown up believing that potty humour, or maybe just a distasteful, but genuine, interest in our basic bodily functions, is a Dutch trait. Our Dutch friends deny it, but it is true that the Dutch are known to be frank and if you are aquainted with any Dutch swears, you will know that they can be rather crude. For example, a swear I thought my dad made up - klootzak (scrotum) - turns out to be a real swear that I have overheard multiple times in public since moving to the Netherlands.

Anyway, it's just a fact of my life growing up that conversations around the dinner table, especially around the holidays, eventually came around to urination, defecation or some other unpleasant bodily function. I apologize, and totally understand if you decide to decline my next invitation!

With a name like Brusselers, it's very likely that my family at some point came from Brussels, though Dutch as far back as we know. I explain all of this so you will understand that what seems like an oddity of Brussels to most tourists is something of an emblem to my family. Mannekenpis is a small fountain statue of a little boy peeing.

There are many legends behind Mannekenpis. One tells how he was the young lord of troops fighting a battle and was placed in a basket hanging from a tree from which he peed all over the opposing troops. His side won the battle, of course.

Another tells a tale of a seige which was thwarted when a boy peed on the fuses of explosive charges threatening city walls, and thus saved the City of Brussels.

And yet another about a missing boy who was found urinating in a garden and immortalized as a gift of gratitude to the searchers.

Whatever the origin of the fountain, Brussels-ers love this little peeing boy. He has now ammassed a wardrobe of over 800 elaborate outfits, many gifted by other countries (including a handful from Canada). He appears in costume several times a week. He can also be hooked up to a keg for certain special occasions when he pees refreshment for the crowd.

I always thought Mannekenpis was kind of stupid, but he does have a kind of innocent trolling quality that endears me to him. Now having met the legend, it's truly impossible to resist smiling. Whether he saved Brussels in battle or under seige or brought people together in looking for a lost little boy, he is a reminder that we are all very much the same. From up there on Mannekenpis's perch, I bet the world looks smaller and our problems much more trivial.

One way to say that your food tastes great in Dutch is, "alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest." It means "as if an angel pisses on your tongue." (I know, the Dutch are gross!) For visitors to Brussels, Mannekenpis is that little guardian angel sprinkling the day with mischievious delight. Many commenters on TripAdvisor say, "what's the point?" Well, my friends, it's a reminder to indulge the rebellious peeing kid in all of us, and have a little fun out there.*

*(please pee responsibly)

~ Erica