A Dog of Flanders
|Author||Marie Louise de la Ramée|
|Published||1872 (Chapman and Hall)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
A Dog of Flanders is an 1872 novel by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée published with her pseudonym "Ouida". It is about a Flemish boy named Nello and his dog, Patrasche and is set in Antwerp. Despite being set in Belgium it's fairly obscure there. In Japan and Korea the novel has been a children's classic for decades and was adapted into several Japanese films and anime. Since the 1980s the Belgian board of tourism has caught on to the phenomenon and build two monuments honoring the story to please East-Asian tourists. There is a small statue of Nello and Patrasche at the Kapelstraat in the Antwerp suburb of Hoboken, and a commemorative plaque in front of the Antwerp Cathedral donated by Toyota.
In 19th century Belgium, a boy named Nello becomes an orphan at the age of two when his mother dies in the Ardennes. His grandfather Jehann Daas, who lives in a small village near the city of Antwerp, takes him in.
One day, Nello and Jehann Daas find a dog who was almost beaten to death, and name him Patrasche. Due to the good care of Jehann Daas, the dog recovers, and from then on, Nello and Patrasche are inseparable. Since they are very poor, Nello has to help his grandfather by selling milk. Patrasche helps Nello pull their cart into town each morning.
Nello falls in love with Aloise, the daughter of Nicholas Cogez, a well-off man in the village, but Nicholas doesn't want his daughter to have a poor sweetheart. Although Nello is illiterate, he is very talented in drawing. He enters a junior drawing contest in Antwerp, hoping to win the first prize, 200 francs per year. However, the jury selects somebody else.
Afterwards, he is accused of causing a fire by Nicholas (the fire occurred on his property) and his grandfather dies. His life becomes even more desperate. Having no place to stay, Nello wishes to go to the cathedral of Antwerp (see Rubens' The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent of the Cross), but the exhibition held inside the building is only for paying customers and he's out of money. On the night of Christmas Eve, he and Patrasche go to Antwerp and, by chance, find the door to the church open. The next morning, the boy and his dog are found frozen to death in front of the triptych.
The novel shares a reasonable notability in the United Kingdom and the United States of America and is extremely popular in South Korea and Japan, to the point where it is seen as a children's classic. It inspired several film and anime adaptations, including the 1975 animated TV series Dog of Flanders which reached an audience of 30 million viewers on its first broadcast. In Belgium the story is more obscure. Only in 1987 did it finally receive a Dutch translation and this happened only after the tale was adapted into a story of the popular comic book series Suske en Wiske. Since then monuments have been raised to commemorate Nello and Patrasche, but this is done more to please tourists. In 2007 Didier Volckaert and An van Dienderen directed a documentary about the international popularity of the story: "Patrasch, A Dog of Flanders - Made in Japan". It researches all available film adaptations of the story and interviews several British, American and Japanese people about what attracts them to this novel.
Film, TV and theatrical adaptations
The novel has been adapted for cinema and television in live-action and animation:
- A Dog of Flanders (1914), a short film directed by Howell Hansel
- A Boy of Flanders (1924), directed by Victor Schertzinger and starring Jackie Coogan as Nello
- A Dog of Flanders (1935), directed by Edward Sloman
- A Dog of Flanders (1960), directed by James B. Clark and starring David Ladd as Nello.
- Dog of Flanders (1975), a Japanese animation TV series produced by Nippon Animation
- My Patrasche (1992), a Japanese animation TV series produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha
- The Dog of Flanders (Japan, 1997), a remake of the 1975 TV series directed by Yoshio Kuroda
- The anime Pokémon references A Dog of Flanders. In the episode "Holy Matrimony" (1998), James is asked why he refuses to go to his parents' funeral to claim inheritance from one of the wealthiest families in the world. Not wanting to relive his past, he makes up a fake flashback using the plot of A Dog of Flanders, including the novel's tragic ending. He does not reveal his real past until "The Treasure Is All Mine!" (2009).
- A Dog of Flanders (1999), directed by Kevin Brodie
- Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), a South Korean satirical version directed by Bong Joon-ho
- Snow Prince (Japan, 2009), directed by Joji Matsuoka. (Japanese)
- A Dog of Flanders, 2011, Minoto Studios
None of the film versions, excluding the 1997 Japanese movie and Snow Prince (2009) use the novel's ending, preferring to substitute a more optimistic one. In Snow Prince (2009), the boy and the dog are found frozen to death under a tree. In one of the film versions,[which?] Nello and his dog go the village church, where the pastor covers them with a woolen blanket, thus saving their lives. Two days later, one of the judges comes. Because he thought Nello was the true winner, he asks him to stay with him. As years pass Patrasche dies, and Nello becomes a famous artist.
- Patrasche, a Dog of Flanders - Made in Japan (2007), a documentary film directed by Didier Volckaert and An van Dienderen.
Comic book version
The story was used as a plot device in the Suske en Wiske comic book series, namely the album "Het Dreigende Dinges" ("The Threatening Thing") (1985). The album was also translated into Japanese later.
There are two monuments built to commemorate the story. The first one was built in 1985 and can be seen in the Kapelstraat in Hoboken, Antwerp. Near the Antwerp Cathedral a fictional grave stone can be seen. It has text both in English and Japanese and reads: "Nello, and his dog Patrasche, main characters from the story "A Dog of Flanders", symbols of true and sternful friendship, loyalty and devotion."  On December 10, 2016, a new monument will be revealed on the square in front of the Antwerp Cathedral. A sculpture in white marble will represent Nello and Patrasche sleeping, covered by a blanket of cobble stones.
Controversy over location
In 1985 an employee of Antwerp tourism, Jan Corteel, wanted to promote "A Dog of Flanders". He presumed the village of the story to be Hoboken, even though this is never mentioned in the story itself. Ouida is believed to have visited Antwerp for four hours, and spoke of having seen a village near a canal, not far from a wind mill. This vague explanation was used to claim the story took place in Hoboken, but other people contest this.
- Matsuoka, Joji (2009). Snow Prince. Japan.
- Volckaert, Didier & van Dienderen, An (2007). Patrasche, a Dog of Flanders - Made in Japan. Belgium.
- "Do you know "A Dog of Flanders"?". Crossroads. 2006.
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