Occupation: Senior VP for a development company
Residence: Pheonix, Ariozna
Date of Performance/Collection: 2022
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): N/A
(Notes-The informant will be referred to as MW and the interviewer as K)
Background info: MW is a father of 2 who grew up and now resides in Pheonix, Arizona. He lived in Belgium for a period of years, which is where he heard this story.
K: Ok! What’s the name of the story, where did you hear it, and what’s the uh…context of the performance?
MW: It’s titled “Tchantches” and I heard it from my friend Fish while I was uh staying in Belgium when I was like 19. I was just told it by Fish, but he said that he uh…was told it when he was like a child, like as an uh…campside or bedtime kinda story like to uh teach kids what they should be I guess. Kind of like a fable? Its hard to equate to an American story.
K: Ok, whenever you’re ready
MW: Ok so uh…this is a bit of a long one. So, the story goes that Tchantches was born way back in like…700 or something like that in Belgium between like 2 paving or uh cobblestones. His first words were demanding a Belgian drink called uh…God, I don’t remember (The informant pulled out his phone and googled it at this point) Peket! A drink called Peket
K: Is that like alcohol?
MW: Oh god yea, it’s the thing every Belgian drinks to get wasted *laughter*. Anyways, so he demanded Peket and his father, who adopted him, gave him like a cookie dipped in it. Then uh..later on at his baptism I think, the person dunking him in the water bumped his nose and it became all like messed up and disfigured and became like…it was used for carnival masks. Because of this, he became avoidant of going outside until a big crowd, because he had become beloved in this area, encouraged him to go outside during uh Saint-Måcrawe’s Day. He would come out smeared in like chimney soot on a chair escorted by a bunch of people, where everyone would get drunk *laughter*. There’s a moral in there somewhere, about how even ugly people can be loved which was kinda an odd thing. There’s a bunch of statues and stuff of him all over Belgium, and he’s famous for being a part of a puppet show! That’s where most kids hear the story for the first time.
K: Very ugly duckling meets Pinocchio
MW: Very. There’s also a part to the story where he meets I think Charlemagne’s nephew but that was added on later and is kinda dumb, I don’t even remember it. But he’s supposed to kinda represent the ideal Liégeois (Belgian). Rebellious, independent and could drink his body weight, but incredibly kind and willing to die for those he loves.
I really liked this story! I think, and the informant also agreed with me later on, that there’s a large element of Pinocchio In this story or a lot of similarities. A boy who is born in odd circumstances faces some major hardships, and with the help of people he loves and who love him, gets over those hardships and becomes a hero in a sense. I also would like to note how Tchanctes is supposed to be an ideal Liegois. He’s famous for being drunk pretty much all the time, from his first words demanding alcohol to, as the informant would later mention after this story was told, his dying words being for Peket. That obviously speaks volumes about what people idolize as a perfect man. Alcohol is a large part of so many cultures, especially in places like Belgium. In a sense, it’s definitely humorous, but it’s also serious. From the way the story was told to me, it was almost as if Tchantes was kind and good normally and when drinking. He is a character that you’re supposed to aspire to be like, and this is only reinforced by the statues and puppet shows and festivals held every year. It’s interesting to note how young children are told the full story. In American culture at least, many parts deemed inappropriate for children, like alcohol, are left out until they are older. In this story, children are told about alcohol as soon as they can comprehend it. Again, it speaks volumes about the importance of alcohol in Belgian culture.
For another version of this story, see: Sherzer, D. E., & Sherzer, J. E. (1987). Humor and comedy in puppetry: Celebration in popular culture. Popular Press.