The Snowman As Political and Cultural Protest

So I was reading about the Miracle of 1511, which took place in Brussels, Belgium.

Apparently, the entire city built over a hundred snowmen to protest the current politics as well as some of the more “restrictive” social norms of 1511. The citizens were cold (six weeks of snow and freezing temperatures), dying (it was named the Winter of Death), and under attack from Netherlands marauders. Fearful of their future, the people of Brussels fought back with…snowmen, snow women and snow animals.

Diaries, official reports, and even poems tell of the snow knights, snow unicorns, snow wildmen, and snow mermaids festooning the streets of Brussels. There were even mythological characters like a snow version of Cupid pulling back a bow and a gloriously nude Hercules. Several snow people were involved in tableaux satirizing the edicts handed down by local government. Snow gamblers played dice and a snow boy urinated on a snow drunkard.

There was also snow porn. A snow couple made love in front of the town fountain and busty snow hookers enticed passersby in the red light district. The official city poet, Jan Smeken, wrote a poem about the event which included this line:

In the Rosendal a wonder was to be seen: a huge plump woman, completely naked, her buttocks were like a barrel, her breasts were finely formed…

The citizens of Brussels used their snow people to make fun of and chastise the reigning class system. Low class people made upper crust snowmen depicted in lewd or demeaning postures. Upper class citizens likewise created snowmen of the lower classes in unflattering settings. As a result, there was quite a bit of angry snow destruction–enough that the authorities stepped in with edicts forbidding the breaking of snow personage.

The free speech snow sculptures brought change to the city of Brussels. It gave the townspeople an outlet and a voice when they felt their lowest and most divided. The snowmen and women encouraged the people of Brussels to make a change in their government, reclaiming power for the public, and reforming the class system. Unfortunately, as with every snowman story, the sculptures melted with the Spring, but luckily the lasting change they engendered remained.

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Aidee Ladnier

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