Over the course of this series I have reviewed the feckless and pitiable beast of Scotland, the twisted object lessons of Greek mythology, and the bloodthirsty child murdering perverts of Slavic and Germanic myth. Some were monsters worthy of the name, some cruel by circumstance, and others fearful only in appearance. The motivation of the Lange Wapper, the shape-shifting giant of Flemish legend, defy easy categorization. A little backstory.
The Lange Wapper was born in Wilrijk in the 16th century. And by born I mean a farmer found an enormous garden parsley and red cabbage in his bed, and when the farmer touched the abandoned produce it transformed into a baby. The farmer, a confirmed bachelor, gave the mysterious infant to his neighbor. The fact that the Lange Wapper was born as two separate vegetables that spontaneously changed into a single human baby is never mentioned again, and has nothing to do with his trademark shape-shifting and size changing abilities. He acquired those as a reward for thwarting a local youth gang’s attempt to throw an old women in the river.
Thus given the gift of changing to any size and any form the Lange Wapper spent most days as a giant, bounding from city to city, terrorizing drunks, ruthlessly beating child-abandoning old ladies, hustling children for candy, and flinging about ships in the harbor. We’ll get into the specifics deeds/misdeeds down below, but they were largely fueled by spite, boredom, and a insatiable thirst for breast milk.
Country of Origin:
The Netherlands, which contains Holland, and sometimes is called Holland, but not by the Dutch who live there…except in Holland. If this seems confusing feel free to consult a primary source written in one of the implausible, but real, official languages: Dutch, West Frisian, Low Saxon, or Limburgish. The people of Belgium, who I will not try to conjugate, also were big fans.
Is he Scary:
The only outright murderous behavior I could find came during Lange Wapper’s residence in Antwerp. After a long day of punting ships and pummeling the elderly, the Lange Wapper was normal sized and enjoying a pint at a corner pub. Two lagers in he caught wind of some juicy local gossip; there was a young woman of high standing that was indulging the attention of four suitors. For all of his intemperant perversion, the Lange Wapper was still a busybody, so he took it upon himself to test the devotion of each suitor. First transforming into the feminine object of their affection, the Lange Wapper invited all four beaus to join her for a late night rendezvous. At a graveyard. The following occurred (as recounted in amazingbelgium.be ):
“The first suitor had to prove that he loved her and had to sit on a big cross in the cemetery for two hours. The second suitor had to lie down for two hours in a coffin under the cross. The third one had to knock on the coffin and wait for them to pick him up. The fourth had to walk with a long metal necklace around the cross. When he did that he found the other three suitors dead. The first suitor was in shock and fell death from the cross when the second got into the coffin. The second died of fear when the third knocked on the chest and the third died when he heard the sound of the chain and thought that the devil was coming to get him. The fourth suitor went crazy, jumped into the river Scheldt and drowned.
Let me state up front, these men deserved to die. Two of them died of fright because they heard an unexpected noise, one died because he fell four feet off a cross onto grass, and the last one flung himself into the river instead of contacting the authorities. What sort of personal ad did this woman run to get four suitors of this, uncommon, temperament?
“Looking for fragile timid rube with zero self-esteem for no strings courtship. Must enjoy late night walks, theatrical displays of devotion, and the company of fellow duds. Inability to survive minor travail a plus.”
I am not absolving the Lange Wapper of wrong doing. We’ve all overhead chatter about toxic five-person relationships and wanted to intercede, but that doesn’t justify shape-shifting yourself into a woman and staging a prank show version of “The Bachelorette“. It’s an overreach and he was wrong to do it…but that was an eminently survivable situation for all parties. Worst case scenario should have been a sprained ankle and broken arm…it may have been a planned group suicide.
What does this say about the Dutch/Belgians
Another quote from AmazingBelgium.
Sometimes Lange Wapper can disguise himself as a small child to drink breast milk of a young mother. And if a parent wants to take the child to another room to care for and to put it in a crib, “Lange Wapper” can let himself grow so large that he does not fit in that room .
Let me say upfront I was never a twice-abandoned Parsley and Cabbage that somehow became a baby, and I cannot speak to the lingering trauma inherent to that situation, but this way more troubling then those four guys he killed. And let me assure you that this is not the only “Lange Wapper hustled some breast milk” story, but it is the darkest in implication. To answer what does say this say about the dutch, we first must answer: what happened after the Lange Wapper grew too large to be removed from the room?
Scenario One : The Lange Wapper is discovered by cagey swingers
The Lange Wapper has taken the place of the child whom he has hidden in a closet. His ruse is successful, he is fed and burped, and after growing to the size of a cow the genial pervert husband declares
Husband: “Oh Lange Wapper, once again you’ve snookered my wife tits dry. Let us retrieve my baby from the closet and drink schnapps and clog dance until morning.”
Scenario Two: The Lange Wapper’s ruse is entirely successful
The Lange Wapper has taken the place of the child whom he has hidden in the closet. Upon growing too large to be removed from the room the sleep-deprived new parents assume that this a normal occurrence for a human baby, and allow the Lange Wapper to suck the calcium from the wife’s bones until he grows bored and runs off to torment hapless suitors.
Scenario Three: The couple never had a child
The wife enters her home to find a hastily constructed nursery, over the bassinet is a sign reading “Real baby, not Lange Wapper, feed milk to keep small. As I grow so does trouble“. Do they risk calling the bluff of an unpredictable supernatural predator? Or do they nurse the faux baby, raise it to adulthood, and hope that once it leaves for college it has grown tired of the game, and doesn’t just turn back into a baby and make them start all over. I am beginning to regret my impassioned defense of the Lange Wapper in the last section.
What is the lesson?
If someone leaves a cabbage and parsley in your bed and it turns into a baby, ask some questions. Who put them there? How did they get into your house? Why is there a baby now? The answer to all of these question is: someone is fucking with you. Don’t just hand your problem off to the first child thirsty townies that you run into. I can understand wanting to roll with a miracle, but just because it’s magical doesn’t mean it is good. For every limitless basket of fish and bread there is a rain of poison blood-frogs that kill your first born son. Never assume that the gods are on your side, and maintain a healthy skepticism when presented with implausible gifts.