We went to Bern, Switzerland for one reason. We were traveling in Europe, doing the whole mid-college obligatory backpacking trip thing, when my good pal Dan the Man saw a wild photograph. It was of an ogre with a rotund, powerful belly; the ogre was adorned with a green and red smock (the type Santa Claus would maybe wear in the off-season when the demons possess him), and the ogre had the head of a toddler in his mouth. The ogre was consuming it alive, and within its other hand and filling his pockets were more babies, all crying and terrified, presumably there for the feast as well. An odd picture. An odd statue. Who would make such a thing and display it before the world? We had to know. So Bern is where we went.
For all their international pacifism, the Swiss provide sanctuary to a very dark creature: the Baby Eater. In fact, to experience Bern, a gentle and offensively beautiful town surrounded on three sides by the river Aare, is to feel a deep, peaceful calm. That is, until you see the Kindlifresser, or “Child Eater”, and then you can’t shake the feeling that this town has secrets. This town is up to something vile.
So what’s the story on this monstrosity? Well, as it happens, no one really knows. According to Curious Expeditions, however, there are some popular theories. Three, in fact. One is that the ogre depicts the Greek Titan, Kronos, who was a snobby brat of Greek Mythology. Kronos was jealous of his father, Uranus (God of the Universes) and so, with the encouragement of his twisted and terrible mother, removed his father’s “nether regions” with a sickle. Karma is a bitch, however, and Kronos soon learned that he was fated to have a similar end. To circumvent his destiny he tried to eat all of his children. One of them, Zeus, got away, and poisoned Kronos. The poison caused Kronos to expel his eaten children (think a terrible case of food poisoning), who happened to gods like Hades and Demeter, before dying.
The second theory involves another dark story, this one not from mythology but our own terrible past. Some believe the ogre was constructed as a warning to Bern’s Jewish community. See, the hat the ogre wears is reportedly similar to a hat the Jewish community was forced to wear during that time.
It isn’t satisfying hearing of such a cumbersome history a statue that should have gone down in the record books. One thing’s for sure, laying eyes on the Child Eater is reason enough to visit Bern, if to only to be reminded of how strange the world can be.
By Bryan Schatz