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Beeldje van de jongen Nello en zijn hond Patrasche.

Nello and Patrasche

In the shadow of the Cathedral of Our Lady, a boy and his dog rest in an embrace. Only a blanket of cobblestones keeps them warm.

The statue on Antwerp's Handschoenmarkt is that of the poor farmer boy Nello and the faithful Patrasche. The inseparable pair play the leading role in A Dog of Flanders, a novella written in 1872 by the British Ouida. The writer got the idea for her book during a stay in Belgium. Ouida is appalled by the way dogs are treated and wants to denounce this injustice. The story takes place in and around Antwerp.

In 1908, A Dog of Flanders was translated into Japanese. The story quickly became a classic. Its popularity reached its peak in 1975. That year Studio Nippon Animation Co. Ltd. released an anime series about the duo, which had unprecedented success. 

It takes longer before the inhabitants of Antwerp also take Nello and Patrasche to their hearts. It is only from the 1980s onwards that the novella gains notoriety in Antwerp and Belgium. This is partly due to the efforts of Jan Corteel, who works for the Antwerp Tourist Office in this period and is responsible for promoting the story. Over the years Jan built up a Nello-and-Patrasche collection, with all kinds of merchandise and various editions of the book. He recently donated this collection to the MAS.

The success in Japan of an English novella set in Antwerp is a great history of exchange, grown around a modest friendship story. The Nello-and-Patrasche collection thus fits in nicely with the MAS collection, which tells of Antwerp in the world and the world in Antwerp.

Gachapon play toy Nello en Patrasche
Japan, approx. 2000

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