Brussels Folklore Stories: Manneken Pis, the Witch, the Duke and a City on Fire

Iz Elwood | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Manneken Pis is Brussels most beloved and popular little guy. Countless folklore stories and legends have been passed from generation to generation ever since the small bronze statue saw the light in the streets of the Capital. Here is my take on my favourite Manneken Pis tales I heard while growing up.

The Tale of the Witch and the Child

Once upon a time, the son of a Duke was playing in the streets of down-town Brussels. At some point during his play, the child felt an urgent need to pee. Far from home and in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, he decided to relief himself in front of the door of an old house, between Rue du Chêne and Rue de l'Etuve. Unfortunately, this was the house of an old and mean Witch. The Witch saw the little boy in action and got very upset "How dare you Manneken, you pee in front of my home! I'm gonna cast a spell on you. May you stay forever in this shameful position!”. Devastated by the loss of his only child, the Duke ordered a fountain to be made in honour of his son's memory. The statue to the little boy has stood at its center ever since.

An alternative ending suggests that an old man was living in the same street. He was as much adored as the mean Witch was hated. Witnessing the act of the little boy and the witch's mean words, the old man who carrying in his arms a stone statuette, took the boy away and placed a statue in his place instead.

© Photo Credit by Calexico Blue

The Young Duke and the Battle of Ransbeek

In the 12th Century, there was a battle between the forces of the local Duke of Grimbergen in Brussels. The Duke was very old and died, leaving his empire behind in the hands of avid invaders. Fortunately he had a son, but the young Duke was only two years old. How could he possibly defend his father's empire and lead his troops to the battle?** Feeling the son might bring them luck nonetheless, the troops ‘followed’ the young Duke towards the battlefield of Ransbeek. They tucked him away in his cradle and hung the cradle over an oak-tree overseeing the battlefield. Pushed away for the fourth time, the army was losing hope. As the enemy reached the Tree, the young duke woke up, and relieved himself on the enemy soldiers. The young boy’s army bursted into laughter! The giggles uplifted their spirits and gave them enough courage to fight back till the end. They won the battle and saved Brussels. To commemorate the victory, a fountain named "Manneken Pis" was built next to the oak-tree where the battle took place. The oak-tree was eventually uprooted. The young Duke, aka Manneken Pis, was renamed Godefroid III Le Barbu. The fountain of Manneken Pis still stands today on “Rue du Chêne” (Oak Tree Street).**

The Saviour of the City

A long time ago, Brussels was invaded by the Spanish. When the Spanish troops left the City, they only had one thing in mind: put the city on fire and erase it from the map to extend their Kingdom. Petit Julien, a little boy from the city, saw the troops leaving the city and lighting a fuse on fire. With just one jet, petit Julien put out the flame lit by the enemy. The little boy found shelter by the villagers who chased away the enemy. Since then, the statue of Petit Julien, or Manneken Pis in Brussels dialect, commemorates the remarkable story and victory.

Discover more legends about Petit Julien aka Manneken Pis at the Manneken Pis Museum and Maison du Roi (The King's Museum on Grand Place). Read the real story (not legends!) of Manneken Pis on my other article on Itinari: M[anneken Pis, symbol of Zwanze and Belgian humour.](

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