The Lange Wapper image 


"The Lange Wapper" is a legendary "shapeshifter" figure from the city of Antwerp. His origins are unknown, but there is more than a suggestion that there was a degree of supernatural involvement in his creation The piece starts with a representation of his boisterous, sometimes angry, sometimes capricious nature in the main “Shapeshifter” theme (Letter A).


 The Shapeshifter’s supernatural origins, birth and early childhood are represented in the section starting just before letter D, at which point, a lullaby theme is introduced.


As he grew up, the boy began to help people in need. One day, so the story goes, he saved an old woman who was attacked by a gang of youths (letter E).



The old woman thanked him by giving him magical powers, such as the ability to shapeshift and to make himself so tall he could move from one town to another with a single giant leap. These attributes appear musically at bar 188 (the supernatural influence), and from letter F, as he learns, slowly at first, to make use of his new powers. The “Shapeshifter” theme appears again at bar 207, and in subsequent sections it “shapeshifts” in tonality, direction of travel and so on.

One of these “shifts” begins to show a nastier streak he developed, playing tricks on people – annoying women, teasing children, chasing drunks and so on. In this piece, I concentrate on the way he annoys and terrorises drunks. This is presented from Letter J, when he hears the noise of people singing in a pub in the distance (bar 341)


He decides to investigate, getting closer to the pub as the song changes key and gets louder. We hear him becoming agitated in the flourishes which punctuate the singing (bar 360).  He hears another song from another pub (bar 381) and finally, after a couple of choruses, he becomes really angry (letter K) and follows a poor unfortunate drunk man, terrorising him (428 et seq) with his anger culminating around bar 484.

He’s still around, though, and we hear various motifs associated with him at this point. However, there is a happy ending for the citizens: they discovered that the Shapeshifter had a fear of the Virgin Mary and they pray to her for help in ridding the city of him, putting up many pictures of Mary to scare him away.


I like to think that he was driven into the river and drowned (bar 554) although who knows what his fate was.  Whatever, the joy of the citizens of Antwerp can be imagined, as represented in the final celebratory hymn from bar 549 to the end of the piece.

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