The story of a boy named Manneken Pis

November 8th, 2020

On the corner of a cobblestone street in the heart of Brussels, Belgium, is a fountain statue of a boy having a wee. The 61cm ‘tall’ boy could easily be missed, yet you’ll see thousands of tourists tracking him down daily. 

You may wonder: what’s so significant about a little boy urinating into a fountain? 

Dating back to the 15th century, the Manneken Pis survived centuries of adventures, including but not limited to being abducted, saved, destroyed and revived. He was gifted by notable figures of the past and boasts a record-breaking collection of over 900 costumes. 

Many moons ago, Manneken Pis was clothed in expensive outfits that were gifted by lords and kings. Today, his costume schedule is managed by a non-profit organization called Friends of Manneken Pis. The organization selects and schedules costumes that are submitted by the public, some of which often relate to modern day festivities, movements and public holidays worldwide. 

The original sculpture, which dates back to 1618 or 1619, was moved to the Brussels City Museum for safekeeping. The current statue was replicated in 1965, which is what you’ll see on a street corner near Grand Place today. 

If you research it, you’ll find countless legends and tales that have been told and twisted over the centuries. Some are believable and others are pretty bizarre. These seem to be the most famous:

  • It is told that in the 14th century, Brussels was under attack. The enemy pretended to retreat, but instead, plotted to blow up the city walls. A little boy named Julien, who was spying on them, saw a burning fuse, peed on it and saved the city.
  • It is also believed that a two year old lord was hung from a tree in a basket during battle. The gesture was meant to bring his troops luck, and as he urinated on the enemies they lost the battle.
  • There’s another a tale with a whimsical twist about a witch who caught a little boy urinating on her doorstep. She cursed him so he would urinate forever, and turned him into a statue.

At a glance, the Manneken Pis may seem unimpressive, but it’s stories have been passed on for centuries, contributing to folklore and traditional culture in a non-perishable way.

To this day, the true story behind Manneken Pis remains a mystery, but “the little peeing boy” will forever be known and celebrated as the most loved symbol of Brussels: a reminder that what may seem small and insignificant to one can mean the world to another. 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: Brussels, Belgium: A nightmare called Covid in the city of dreams

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8 thoughts on “The story of a boy named Manneken Pis

  1. Super intersting post! I had absolutely no idea these were the legends and story behind this underwhelmingly small statue! I know there is also a girl version of it, but I still haven’t seen it, which is a shame considering I’ve been living in Brussels for over a year now… 😅

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I know right, I was too curious about why this little guy is so famous. Loved reading up about it so I just had to share it here 🙂 The girl version is called Jeanneke Pis, I wish I had known about it when I was there as I’d be keen to see her as well – you’ll have to go hunt her down sometime!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, so much fascination around a kid taking a piss don’t you think Nadia?

    I came across this statue as a kid and later in a video game, and I like the stories that really come with it especially the one involving the witch.

    I wonder what would happen if the public started gifting him costumes again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He’s got a few fun facts lined up, doesn’t he!? So the gifting of costumes is still happening, the schedule is available online. I would have liked to see him in a costume, I was actually quite disappointed he wasn’t wearing a mask haha

      Like

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