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A Dog of Flanders

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A Dog of Flanders
AuthorMarie Louise de la Ramée
GenreRomance, Drama, Tragedy
Published1872 (Chapman and Hall)
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages80 pp

A Dog of Flanders is an 1872 novel by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée published under her pseudonym "Ouida". It is about a Flemish boy named Nello and his dog, Patrasche, and is set in Antwerp.

In Japan, Korea, Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines, the novel has been a popular children's classic for decades and has been adapted into several Japanese films and anime.[1] Since the 1980s, the Belgian board of tourism noticed the phenomenon and built two monuments honoring the story to attract 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,[1] that was later replaced by a marble statue of the two characters covered by a cobblestone blanket, created by the artist Batist Vermeulen.


Children selling milk from a dogcart, Belgium, ca. 1890

In 19th-century Belgium, a boy named Nello becomes an orphan at the age of two when his mother dies in the Ardennes. His impoverished grandfather, Jehan Daas, who lives in a small village near the city of Antwerp, takes him in.

One day, Nello and Jehan find a dog that was almost beaten to death, and name him "Patrasche". Due to the good care and kindness shown to him by Jehan, the dog recovers its health, and from then on, Nello and Patrasche are inseparable. Nello is forced to work as a milk seller, because Jehan's unnamed, crooked landlord demands that he pay more rent money or face eviction. Patrasche helps Nello pull his small milk cart into town each morning.

Nello falls in love with Aloise, the daughter of Baas Cogez, a well-off man in the village, but Baas objects, as he 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 of 200 francs per year; however, the jury selects a different winner.

Sometime later, a fire breaks out on Baas's property. To escape responsibility for neglecting the property, the landlord lies and suggests that Nello was responsible for the fire; Baas then tells Nello that he is never to see Aloise again. Later, Jehan dies, and the landlord promptly evicts Nello and Patrasche. With no home, they are forced to wander the streets.

Distraught and miserable, Nello decides that he wants to go to the cathedral of Antwerp, to see Rubens' The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross — but the exhibition in the cathedral is only for paying customers, and he has no money left. On the night of Christmas Eve, Nello and Patrasche find that the door to the church has been left unlocked. They go inside, and the next morning are found dead of hypothermia in front of the triptych.



The novel shares a reasonable notability in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is extremely popular in Ukraine, Russia, Japan, Korea and the Philippines to the point where it is seen as a children's classic. It inspired 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.[2]

In Belgium, the story is more obscure. Only in 1987 did it receive a Dutch translation; this happened after the tale was adapted into a story of the popular comic book series Suske en Wiske. Since then, monuments were raised to commemorate Nello and Patrasche to please tourists. In 2007, Didier Volckaert and An van Dienderen directed a documentary about the international popularity of the story: Patrasche, 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.[2]

Film, TV and theatrical adaptations

Nello and Patrasche

The novel has been adapted for cinema and television in live-action and animation. Many of the film versions, excluding the 1997 Japanese movie and Snow Prince (2009), replace the original ending with a more optimistic one.

For its authentic 19th century buildings, the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk, Flanders was used as scenery for the 1975 and 1992 anime and the 1999 film.[citation needed]

In one of the film versions (1959),[which?] Nello and his dog go to 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.

Documentary film

  • Patrasche, a Dog of Flanders – Made in Japan (2007), a documentary film directed by Didier Volckaert and An van Dienderen.[10]

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 translated into Japanese.[11][2]

Location and monuments

Nello & Patrache outside the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

In 1985 an employee of Antwerp tourism, Jan Corteel, learned of the popularity of A Dog of Flanders in East Asia and attempted to develop a tourist itinerary for it. He presumed the village in which the majority of the story takes place 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 windmill. This vague explanation was used to claim the story took place in Hoboken, but other people contest this.[12][13] Corteel attracted funds for a monument, which was built in 1985 in the Kapelstraat in Hoboken.[14]

A second monument, now removed, was donated by Toyota in 2003 in front of Antwerp Cathedral. A mock gravestone, it had text in English and Japanese that read: "Nello, and his dog Patrasche, main characters from the story A Dog of Flanders, symbols of true and sternful friendship, loyalty and devotion."[15]

On 10 December 2016, the gravestone was replaced by a new monument. A sculpture in white marble represents Nello and Patrasche sleeping, covered by a blanket of cobble stones. The sculpture is made by Belgian artist Batist "Tist" Vermeulen.[16] The removal of the gravestone was accompanied by a noticeable decline in the number of Japanese tourists, the reason for which is unclear.[17]

Additional information


Similar stories:


  1. ^ a b "Nello and Patrasche – the Antwerp's story of the Dog of Flanders". Beneluxguide.com. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "ARGOS centre for art and media". Argosarts.org. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  3. ^ "A Dog of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  4. ^ "A Boy of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  5. ^ "A Dog of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  6. ^ "A Dog of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  7. ^ "The Dog of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  8. ^ "A Dog of Flanders" – via www.imdb.com.
  9. ^ Matsuoka, Joji (2009). Snow Prince. Movies Yahoo! Japan. Archived from the original on 30 December 2009.
  10. ^ Volckaert, Didier & van Dienderen, An (2007). Patrasche, a Dog of Flanders - Made in Japan. Belgium: n/a. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  11. ^ "Het dreigende dinges - Suske en Wiske no. 201". Suskeenwiske.ophetwww.net. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Foute hond, fout district". Gva.be. 5 December 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  13. ^ Morris, Paula (2017). False river. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0143771647.
  14. ^ Cloetens, Brecht. "Yvonne Bastiaens - Nello en Patrasche". Standbeelden.be. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  15. ^ "ACE Animal Care España - Nello and Patrasche". Ace-charity.org. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Zo zal het nieuwe standbeeld van Nello en Patrasche op de Handschoenmarkt er uit zien". Gva.be. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  17. ^ Gaioni, Jack (2 November 2022). "A Story Within a Story— (Within yet Another Story)". Brussels Morning Newspaper.

Further reading