TCHANTCHÉS (FRANÇOIS)

Emblematic figure of the city of Liège in Belgium

As an old myth tells us, Tchantchès saw his first daylight in Liège (Belgium) on the 25th of August 760 in a very strange way: he was born amidst two paving-stones of the "Outre-Meuse" district, now called "Free Republic of Outre-Meuse".

Those who found him were very surprised to hear him singing right from his first day: "Hallow mother Gaspard, give me another glass". He was a chubby-cheeked and gluttonous baby, always laughing. But, only seeing a glass of water made him rebellious. By his foster-father he was fed with biscuits dipped in gin, as well as smoke-dried herrings, as a result of which our dear friend Tchantchès was very thirsty for the rest of his live.

As many of them who are destined to be famous, he had various disappointments. The day he was christened, he was so roughly pushed against the baptismal font that his nose became monstrously bigger.A few years later, he had the measles and was obliged to drink mineral water. Poor child of misfortune he was, he swallowed a piece of horseshoe that remained in his throat for the rest of his life. From that moment, he only could turn his head from the left to the right and from the right to the left. To search something on the floor, he had to lie flat on his belly and, to look at the sky, he had to lay on his back. With his big nose, he was too shy to show himself to other human beings, but his spirit of liberty predominated and at last he decided to go out. He was volunteer as "Saint Mâcrawe", which means that, soot-coloured, he was sitting on a sedan chair borne by the people of his district. This memorable event happened on the eve of Assumption 770. He came off very triumphant and learned that, in spite of ugliness, one can be loved for his common sense and kind-heartiness. He became the holy prince of "Outre-Meuse".

One fine day, walking along the Meuse, he met the bishop Turpin and Roland, Charlemagne's nephew. Roland was reprimanded by Turpin because of his miserable results in the latin language. Tchantchès, impertinently interrupted the conversation between master and pupil and made them agree with each other by telling: "Yes, Lord Knight Roland, latin is of no use, but it is useful". "Who is that clod hopper?" asked Roland. "Tchantchès, Prince of Outre-Meuse, at your service, Lord Knight". The bishop Turpin looked at our friend with sympathy. "Well, Tchantchès, I shall recommend you as host of the Emperor Charlemagne. In the future, you will be the companion of his nephew Roland". And that's why Tchantchès has been introduced to the Court of Charlemagne.

Than came the glorious spanish military expedition.

Interesting stories and anecdotes were told to show the degree of relations between Tchantchès and Charlemagne.

One day, when the Emperor was eating a fine meal in his tent, Tchantchès walked right in without hesitation. Charlemagne asked: "What do you want Tchantchès, let me eat my mussels". Another day, he served as chamberlain of the famous warrior: "Lord Emperor, the embassy of black negro king Marsile should like to speak to you". - "How many are they?" - "They are only one". - "Let them come in, two together, the last one closing the door". Tchantchès didn't leave one moment Charlemagne and Roland: day after night, at any occasion, at private meetings and on the battle-field, always he was there to help them with his advises and with his head-knockings, of which he was the champion of the district. His way of fighting is the following one: without lance, without spear and without sword. You can recognize him as he wears always a red scarf, a blue overall and a black silk cap that he puts quickly on his solid brain-case. He spits in his hands, catches the adversary on his shoulders and bang! right on his stomach he gives him a head-knocking, as a result of which the adversary is sent, with broken ribs, to another world. Even a solid cuirass cannot resist such a strong ram. The man attacked by Tchantchès is a dead man but our dear friend is invulnerable thanks to his blessed nose.

During the battle of Roncevaux, in spite of a great tiredness, Tchantchès had already broken the ribs of three thousand Sarasins. But the unwary Roland sent him to go to sleep. It was a big mistake! Our hero and Charlemagne were very sad, discovering the dead body of the daring Roland. To prove his sadness, he took off his cap pulled his hair (as a use in that epoch) and said: "Lord Emperor, your valiant cousin has had his finishing stroke, we shall revenge ourselves." Tchantchès accompanied his master to the siege of Zaragoza and crossed as first one the fortress of this town.

Back again to Aix, together with the Emperor's Court, he attended the capital punishment of the traitor Gamelon. This traitor was condemned to be quartered. But Tchantchès was against that idea. He preferred that the disloyal earl should be drowned in a barrel with distilled water. In spite of the various warnings of the Emperor, Tchantchès went back to his dear town Liège and deplored deeply having slept during the last stage of the battle of Roncevaux.

After a rich and good life, he died at 40 years old, suffering a spanish influenza and has been buried at the "Place de l'Yser" in Liège, where a statue has been built to his honour.

Regretted by the whole population, he is the example of the real "Liégeois": obstinate, loving good jokes, hard-headed, enemy of splendor and ostentation, very independent, but at the same time, great-hearted and always ready to fight for the good cause.


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Last Update: August 97
Henri-Pierre GARNIR <hpgarnir@ulg.ac.be>
David STRIVAY<dstrivay@ulg.ac.be>


©Oct 94, H.P. Garnir & F. Monjoie U.Lg.