Kindlifresser, or “Child Eater” stands in the middle of Bern, Switzerland, with a baby half stuffed into his mouth, and a sack full of three alarmed tots slung over its shoulder.
The terrifying sculpture is one of the oldest fountains in the city of Bern in 1546, but strangely nobody knows exactly for sure why it is standing there.
There are four main theories:
- The first and most unfortunate possibility is that the Kindlifresser was built as a sort of warning to the Jewish community of Bern. The Kindlifresser wears a hat that is strikingly similar to the yellow pointed Judenhut that Jews were forced to wear at that time.
- The second theory is that the terrifying Ogre is a depiction of Kronos, the Greek Titan. Kronos has arguably one of the most disturbing stories in Greek Mythology. Long story short, Kronos eats all his god children to keep them from taking over his throne.
- The third theory is that the Kindlifresser is supposed to be the older brother of Duke Berchtold, the founder of Bern. Apparently the jealousy of being overshadowed by his younger brother for so many years caused him to go mad, eventually sending him into a rage where he collected and ate the town’s children. (It would seem likely that this event would have been recorded in the towns history books, which it is not.)
- The final theory is and probably the most plausible is that Kindlifresser represents a fabled character. Mothers would tell their children to behave and come inside and be quiet or else Kinderfresser, or child eater, would come and eat you. It took on a whole new meaning during the 30 years war, when famine ran rampant and oftentimes, people turning to cannibalism was prevalent. Children, dead, and captured soldiers would go missing in the towns, as they were being eaten by other people, who were without cattle, horses, grain, rats, cats, and dogs to eat anymore.
It may of course be none of the above, and 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. Whatever the Kindlifresser represents, it has terrified Swiss children for nearly 500 years, and hopefully, will be there to terrify them for 500 years more.