DID FLEMISH FOLKLORE OF GIANTS, DRAGONS AND FEARLESS FEMALES INSPIRE THE GAME OF THRONES?
Belgium’s long-standing Flemish communities have a lot to offer – from rich Flemish folklore to authentically Flemish voiceovers. But what makes the Flemish-speaking region of Flanders and the Flemish culture so different? There are many unique cultural aspects that help the Flemish-speaking regions of Belgium stand out- one of them most definitely being that of the fanciful Flemish folklore. Flemish Folklore that could potentially rival the tales of hit TV series, The Game of Thrones which featured a wide array of giants, dragons and fearless feminine leaders.
Fortunately, we need not travel as far and wide as to the mythical city of Westeros to indulge our imagination. We can spoil our sensibilities by simply travelling to Belgium and visit our Flemish speaking neighbours to soak up on their folklore. Folklore which may we add- can compete with even the bold storytelling of the Game of Thrones.
The Flemish-speaking region of Antwerp – a seemingly quaint area full of patisseries is the setting for our first Flemish folk story. Perhaps you have heard of the Antwerp’ speciality, the oddly shaped biscuits that nether-the-less taste delicious? Perhaps you have even noticed that they resemble the shape of a hand but dismissed it in favour of a devouring of these delectable treats?
There-in lies the origin of our first Flemish story, the story of a brave Roman soldier and a ghastly giant. Many weary travellers may have come across the Brabo fountain in Antwerp and perhaps wondered at the story behind the statue? Rest assured – it is a story worth telling.
In ancient time, Belgium’s River Scheldt was guarded by a greedy giant. A giant who demanded a toll from weary travellers wishing to traverse along his stretch of the river. Those who refused to pay faced the ultimate punishment… the dastardly giant Druon Antigoon would sever their hands and throw them into the river.
Only one brave Roman soldier- Silvius Brabo refused to meet Antigoon’s goon-like demands. Instead of cowering in front of this giant he returned the favour. He slayed the giant and threw his severed hand into the river. Unsurprisingly the city Antwerp is rumoured to originate from the word werpen, which when translated into old English literally means “to throw a hand”.
Still not convinced that Flemish-speaking Belgium is resonant with The Game of Thrones?
What if we told you of the Flemish fairy tale of The Dragon of Ghent, who similar to the unsuspecting dragons in The Game of Thrones was struck dead by a soaring arrow? The similarity is remarkable.
However, in the story of ‘The Dragon of Ghent’, the kind-hearted dragon with a plume of gold talons is unfortunately struck dead to fill the greed of materialistic merchants. A pity that such beautiful creatures must die for the sake of man.
Finally, the final Flemish tale is that of Dulle Griet or Dull Gret. Although Dull Gret is a famous 16th-century painting, it portrays a very Flemish folktale. A story of a fierce-hearted, brave woman, (lovingly dubbed Mad Meg) who led an army of her peers to the tormented underworld of hell and returned back unscathed. A woman who values empowerment and wishes to lead but is labelled as mad in return.
One could argue that Dull Gret is the Cersei Lannister of Belgian folklore, but then Dull Gret seems to have the upper hand when it comes to bravery. A woman who would storm down the gates of hell and battle an army of demons! Perhaps, however, this is merely a reflection of the feminine struggle for power and recognition at the time. A theme that runs through history as well as through the fantasy world depiction – The Game of Thrones.
Regardless, one thing is for sure…The Flemish-speaking regions of Belgium and its’ legends certainly live up to and even exceed some of our modern-day fairy tale telling. The Game of Thrones is certainly a story worth hearing but we think these fantastic Flemish fairy tales are equally exciting and awe-inspiring!