Art

Why Is That Swiss Sculpture Eating A Sack Of Babies?

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Imagine taking a pleasant stroll through Bern, the capital of Switzerland, then hearing a child gasp, "Mom, why is he eating that baby's head?!" You look up in horror to see that, indeed, there is a fountain sculpture of a man eating a sack of infants in the middle of the city. But... why?

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What's Going On?

Bern's infamous fountain sculpture, which was built in 1546, is plainly named the Kindlifresser, or "Child Eater," and it's one of the oldest in the city. Yep—this creepy killer has been terrorizing children for a long, long time. What's eerier than the depiction of a crazed man stuffing his face with babies? The fact that no one is quite sure how or why he's there. We needed answers, so let's explore three popular theories.

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The first theory has the statue representing Cronus, the king of the Titans in Greek mythology. Cronus swallowed his five children after his parents (Heaven and Earth) warned him that his kids would take his throne. Talk about a hothead!

Another common tale is one of familial jealousy. The statue, according to this tale, is of the older brother of Duke Berchtold, the founder of Bern. As the story goes, this older brother wasn't a fan of being constantly overshadowed by his younger bro, so he took out his rage on the town's children... and ate them. But it's strange that there isn't a record of the horrendous event anywhere.

Boogie Man, Is That You?

Here's one of the most likely and unfortunate theories of them all: the child-eating sculpture was meant as a warning for Bern's Jewish community. The Kindlifresser wears a yellow pointed hat that looks very similar to the Judenhuts Jewish people were forced to wear in that era.

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We want to believe Atlas Obscura's bizarre, yet significantly less disturbing explanation: "[the fountain] is simply a sort of boogie man from Switzerland's Fastnacht, or 'Night of Fasting' festival, a way to remind the Children of Bern to behave." Either way, Kindlifresser is the stuff of nightmares.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Salvador Dalí discovered what the locals called the "Park of Monsters" in 1938. 00:22

  2. Prince Pier Francesco Orsini commissioned the construction of the "Park of Monsters" in 1552 to chock visitors. 00:42

  3. Salvador Dalí made a short film about the "Park of Monsters." 02:41

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