Pages 293 pp
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Originally published 1872
Original language English
|Adaptations My Patrasche (1992), A Dog of Flanders (1935)|
Similar Ouida books, Fiction books
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 caught on to the phenomenon and built 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 (to 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 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 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: "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:
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.
None of the film versions, excluding the 1997 Japanese movie and Snow Prince (2009) uses 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, 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.
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.
There are three 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 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 Handschoenmarkt 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.