Nello and Patrasche

Statue of Nello and Patrasche

A Dog of Flanders

Nello and Patrasche are the main characters in ‘A Dog of Flanders’, an 1872 novel by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée. She published it under her pseudonym ‘Ouida’. In Japan and Korea the story has been a children’s classic for decades. The Japanese adapted it into several films and anime.

Statue of Nello and Patrasche on Handschoenmarkt

Nello and Patrasche lived and died in Antwerp. Therefor, the city placed a commemorative plaque in front of the Antwerp Cathedral in the 1980s.

In 2016, the plaque was replaced. Today, you’ll find a marble statue in front of the Antwerp Cathedral by Artist Batist Vermeulen. He depicts Nello and Patrasche sleeping. They are covered by a cobblestone blanket.

The story of Nello and Patrasche

Nello lives with his grandfather in a small village near 19th century Antwerp. He sells milk in the city center to help his grandfather out. One day, Nello and his grandfather find a bleeding dog on their way back from the market. They take care of it and it recovers completely. They name it Patrasche. Nello and Patrasche become inseparable. Every day, Patrasche helps Nello pull the milkcart into town.

Nello dreams of becoming a painter like Rubens. He wishes to see Rubens’ The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent of the Crossthe in the cathedral of Antwerp. Unfortunately, the exhibition inside is only for paying customers and Nello doesn’t have enough money.

One day, Nello enters a junior painting contest in Antwerp, hoping to win the prize money. He receives a canvas, paint and brush from the city council.

Nello falls in love with Aloise, the daughter of Nicholas. He’s a well-off miller that doesn’t want his daughter to date someone poor. One night, there’s a sudden fire in the village. Nello helps extinguish it. However, Nicholas accuses Nello of starting the fire. Consequently all farmers refuse to give their milk to Nello the next day. For this reason, Nello cannot sell milk anymore. So he and his grandfather lose their income. His grandfather dies not long after that. Nello doesn’t win the painting contest either.

On Christmas Eve, he finds a moneybelt in the snow. It’s the moneybelt of Nicholas. Nello brings it to his house. Of course, the wife of Nicholas starts feeling guilty. She invites Patrasche and Nello in. Nello refuses, but asks her to take care of Patrasche. Nello heads to the cathedral where he finally sees the Rubens’s painting, because there is no entrance fee on Christmas Eve.

When Nicholas comes home, his wife tells him about Nello returning the money. They decide to go looking for Nello. Patrasche leads the way, but Nicholas can’t keep up. Patrasche eventually finds Nello in the cathedral. Both weakened, they die on the floor of the cathedral that same night.

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