My Favorite Planet is Named After A Child-Eating Cannibal

Ransom Riggs

I was unaware of the dark side of the myth of Saturn (AKA Titan Chronus in Greek mythology) until I ran across a post on Atlas Obscura about a disturbing fountain in the middle of Bern, Switzerland. Atop the fountain is a statue of a man eating a baby, with two in a sack (he's presumably saving them for later snacking). The fountain isn't some controversial work of modern art; it's the oldest in Bern, dating from the 16th century. Bernians don't seem to know for certain the story behind their Child Eater, but there are two popular theories:

Theory A) The funny hat he wears resembles that which Jews were forced to wear once upon a time, and the statue is either a warning to Jews or some kind of deeply anti-Semitic propaganda regarding baby-eating.

Theory B) The statue is a representation of re-interpretation of the Greek God Chronus, AKA the Roman god Saturn, who, fearing his children would overthrow him, ate each one as they were born. (Nice.)

I kind of lean toward theory B, however, because the Child Eater statue reminds me of a painting by Francisco Goya called Saturn Devouring His Son. Actually, Goya never gave the painting a title -- he made it during his notorious Black Period, when he was an old man living in semi-exile in a Spanish villa named Quinta del Sorda, or Deaf Man's Villa, and was himself nearly deaf, an embittered and isolated genius tortured by paranoia and hysteria. The Black Paintings were all made around 1820 and painted directly on the interior walls of Goya's house.

It may have been inspired by Rubens' more refined version of the same scene, painted in 1636:

So there are three really disturbing works of art for you. Now every time I think about our solar system, this is what I'm going to be picturing. Thanks, Bern!

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