This symbol has been the coat-of-arms of Munich since the 13th century. The figure portrayed was originally a monk (or friar) holding a book, but by the 16th century it evolved in different portrayals into the figure of a small child wearing a pointed hood, often shown holding a beer mug and a radish. It has been theorized that the name for the city of Munich (München in German) comes from the term "Kloster von Mönchen" or "Cloister for Monks" due to the Imperial Abbey of Tegernsee--a Benedictine Monastery near which the original town of Munich was built.
The image in its different configurations has appeared on countless different objects, from atop the city hall in Munich to manhole covers and even beer steins. The gender of the figure has also changed over the years: from a clearly male, to a gender-neutral child, to a small girl. Nowadays when the kindl is portrayed by a person - for instance, as a mascot for Oktoberfest - it is usually enacted by a young woman. It is possible that the Münchner Kindl was the inspiration for the Munchkins in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.