Church Monuments Society



By CMS in Heritage

Sophie Oosterwijk has sent us this original take on monumental sculpture.


Funerary art need not always be a grave matter. This is evident in the Dutch fantasy-themed amusement park ‘De Efteling’, situated on the outskirts of the village of Kaatsheuvel (North Brabant), which opened in 1952. The core of the park was the Sprookjesbos (Fairy Tale Forest), designed by the famous Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck (1895-1987), which includes structures such as the castle of Sleeping Beauty and the cottage of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother with animated figures and sound effects. The park and its Sprookjesbos are still expanding and hugely popular.

One of the original features of the park was the device of a ‘paper gobbler’ based on the Dutch nursery rhyme character Holle Bolle Gijs (Hollow Bulging Gijs). This ever-hungry man can swallow large pieces of food – even a cow and a calf, a whole horse and a half, an ox and a bull, seven barrels of beer, a boat full of sheep, and is still not be able to sleep because he still feels famished. However, at De Efteling our Gijs favours a different menu.

Anton Pieck designed the original Holle Bolle Gijs paper gobbler, a fat figure with an open mouth and a suction device that enables him to ‘gobble up’ all the rubbish he is being offered by delighted children. He continuously cries out ‘Papier hier!’ (Paper this way!), thereby asking to be fed with paper and other rubbish, and then expresses his thanks for each new mouthful.

This wonderful device has proved so effective in helping to keep the park tidy that the figure of Gijs has gradually multiplied to include the same figure yawning while reclining in bed. He has furthermore been given an extended family, including a mother with hungry twin babies and a huge ravenous infant:

However, a real stroke of genius is the weathered-looking tombstone of Opa Gijs (Grandpa Gijs) inside a small derelict cemetery. The bald-headed, bearded effigy is ‘carved’ in high relief and placed within a gothic-style recess with a trefoil arch decorated with fleurons. His broken shield hanging from his right arm aptly shows a sausage and a fork as the family’s heraldic device. (It is curious that the shield is suspended from the right arm with a strap: presumably Grandpa Gijs would have been using his left hand to handle his fork!) The round cheeks and open mouth make him an unmistakable member of the family. Above the arch is his epitaph in ‘incised’ gothic textualis letters. The two lines read:


            Opa Gijs is ’t die hier leydt / Honger raakt hij nimmer kwijt

            (It is Grandpa Gijs who lies here / He never gets rid of hunger)


Naturally Grandpa’s voice from the grave still calls out for rubbish. The finishing macabre touch is the crow on top of the tombstone. Unfortunately the entire Gijs family must now be truly famished as De Efteling is closed due to lockdown.

Sophie Oosterwijk

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The tombstone of Grandpa Gijs: photo (c) Sophie Oosterwijk

800px Geeuwende gijs

from Wikimedia Commons:

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