Lange Wapper

There are myriad 16th-century legends surrounding Lange Wapper, the water devil, but all agree he lived near water. That's why a bronze statue of this famous demon trickster, built by Albert Poels, was placed by the Scheldt River in front of the Steen Castle, now the National Maritime Museum.

Lange Wapper could change his size—he could make himself as small as a baby or as large as a giant. As a formidable giant, he would stand with a foot planted on either side of the canal and frighten drunks during the night. Many men who stayed too long at the bars used Lange Wapper's antics as an excuse for lateness.

Virile and cheeky, he garnered the reputation of a fertility god—it's claimed that young women who visit the statue after marriage go on to bear many children. Himself a philanderer, he used every ploy possible to get close to women. One story tells how he turned himself into a newborn baby and waited on a public bench. A woman who had just given birth pitied the foundling and proceeded to breast-feed him, only to receive the fright of her life when he transformed into a grown man!

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