Discover the folklore surrounding Manneken Pis, Belgium’s famous bronze fountain statue in the heart of Brussels.
The folklore surrounding Manneken Pis, the bronze fountain statue of a naked boy urinating, is so much grander than its height of just 24 inches!
The legend of the statue
The most famous legend claims it was fashioned after two-year-old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, he was placed in a basket on a tree to encourage his soldiers to fight for him. From there, he urinated on the enemy troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
Other legends include:
- a little boy relieved himself on a witch’s door who then turned him into a statue,
- a wealthy merchant’s son went missing and was later found urinating in a small garden,
- a little boy was walking by a hole in the dam that protected the city from floods and saved the day by sticking his private area in it,
- and a little boy was awoken by a fire and prevented the king’s castle from burning down by using the only weapon he had on hand.
Brussels under siege
My favourite fable might be when Brussels was under siege by a foreign power in the 14th century and attackers planned to place explosives at the city walls. Legend has it that a little boy happened to be spying on them so he quickly urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city from ruin. I have two boys so this one’s slightly believable.
Over 800 costumes
Alas, my Discover Belgium teacher told me not to believe any of these tales– Manneken Pis is just a fountain statue with over 800 costumes (many are gifts from foreign dignitaries), is visited by tens of thousands of people annually, has been stolen seven times and, on occasion, is hooked up to a keg of beer so cups can be filled, from the flow, and given out to people passing by. Sounds a little unbelievable to me!