The original story “A Dog of Flanders” was written by a British-French author named Ouida, also known as Marie-Louise de la Ramée (1839-1908).
There is a bench in front of the cathedral of Antwerp honors the story of Nello and Patrashe with an explanation in English, Dutch and Japanese.
But most tourists just don’t understand what dog of Flanders is all about, except the Japanese. Japanese people might not be too Familiar with Belgium but Flanders immediately reminds them of the “A Dog of Flanders” story. In Japan everyone knows exactly what happened to Nello and Patrasche in the cathedral of Antwerp on a cold winter night.
The opening theme of “Furandasu no Inu” – The dog of Flanders
A small statue of Nello and Patrasche now stands in front of the information centre in Hoboken. Visitors can enjoy a walk to a rebuilt model of a six metre-high windmill and to a church where according to the book the boy and his dog were buried together. Many Japanese tourists take the 20 minute tram ride from Antwerp to see where their favorite dog of Flanders story took place.
In the cathedral of Antwerp, tourists can now see the famous paintings by Rubens, “The Elevation of the Cross,” and “The Descent from the Cross” from The dog of Flanders story but they still need to pay an entrance fee.
The Story of the dog of Flanders
Nello was a poor orphan living in Hoboken, a small village south at the borders of Antwerp. His mother died when he was two years old and we do not know anything about his father. He stayed with his grandfather John who was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars.
Every day he helped his grandfather transporting the milk from the farm to the city. One day, they found an abused and exhausted working dog that was abandoned by its master. Nello and his grandfather took in the dog and from that day on they treated him as a part of the family. An incredible bond of friendship emerged between the boy and dog, which they named Patrasche. Wherever Nello went Patrasche followed, they were inseparable. While Nello and Patrasche enjoyed life and youth, the grandfather felt his strength slipping away. The dog would now help with transporting the milk from the farm.
During their visits to the City, Nello would visit this cathedral and he became fascinated with the paintings of the famous Rubens, whom he admired. He was disappointed when he found out that Rubens’ main work was hidden from the public and could only be seen after payment. He was sure that Rubens wouldn’t have appreciated.
The dog of Flanders Trailer
One day Nello met ‘Alois’, the daughter of the local miller, and they fell in love. However the miller didn’t appreciate the friendship between his daughter and the poor stray who didn’t have two pennies to rub together.
The only thing that boy did was dream about becoming a famous painter and although he appeared to be a gifted painter this was not a serious enough vocation. One day, Nello heard about a painting competition and he decided to give it a try and make his dreams come true. Poor Nello could not afford beautiful color paints like the other candidates and was only able to submit a drawing made with charcoal.
The Story of the dog of Flanders – The Fire and the wallet.
It was a cold winter that year, and Nello’s grandfather died on the 23rd of December. The next day there was an accident and the mill burned down to the ground. The miller accused Nello and kicked him out of the house that was his home for the last 15 years. Despite Alois’ attempts to reason with her father.
It was Christmas Eve and, not knowing what else to do, Nello and dog of Flanders were wandering around the ashes of the burned mill. And they would have continued if Patrasche had not found something in the wreckage. It was a purse, a purse containing a wallet full of money. Nello recognized it immediately as belonging to Alois’ father. Although Nello was poor and had been treated unfairly he was honest and it did not even occur to him to keep the Milers money.
He went to the miller to return the wallet. The miller was stunned and maybe slightly ashamed of his actions so invited Nello to celebrate Christmas with him and his daughter. But Nello, being too proud, refused and only asked to speak with Aloise for a second. Once they were alond, Nell gave Aloise a portrait depicting her sitting on the banks of the river Scheldt. The young girl accepted with tears in her eyes and Nello left on his quest to find his place in the world and a better life.
The Story of the dog of Flanders – The Results of the Contest.
He set off with his devoted dog for the city center to find out the result of the contest. He was devastated to find out that he didn’t win. He lost a drawing competition that he had so much hoped to win. But it was such a beautiful drawing and he had put so much effort into it that it seemed terribly unfair that he did not win the prize. Nello was overwhelmed with sadness and only Patrasche was able to comfort him…Desperate because this was Nello’s last hope, they went to the cathedral.
The snow started to fall. It was quarter to midnight and the mass just ended. The church doors were wide open and candles were everywhere. The famous paintings were unveiled and for the first time in his life he could see the hidden master pieces of Rubens. He kneeled in front of the altar and his dog lay at his feet. The snowflakes that covered the streets under a white duvet stopped falling and the moon hid behind the clouds.
At midnight a ray of moonshine entered via the colorful windows the cathedral and fell on the forehead of Christ which reflected the light on Nello and Patrasche. That very moment cold, starving and abandoned, the boy and the dog, inseparable, died together.
The next morning a priest found them chained to each other on Christmas day. The boy and his dog were buried in a nameless grave. One day later, the contest chair cancelled the results because of proven fraud and announced that they were now looking for an unknown but brilliant painter. Unfortunately it was too late for Nello and Patrasche. Aloise never found out what happened to them but she never forgot them and entered a monastery.
Today, in winter time when the snow falls on Christmas Eve, we sometimes see the footsteps of a boy and his dog leaving the cathedral.