For the Parisian love of carousels

For the Parisian love of carousels.

The French love the carousel, the merry-go-round: le carrousel, la manège. And I love them too. 

The turning-rides and round-abouts may have been around since Roman times, but the English word ‘carousel’ originated from the French word. It originated from an eccentric 18th century Frenchman, Guillaume Joseph Roussel (1743-1807), known as Cadet Roussel. He was a bailiff in the city of Auxerre, where, it is said, he lived in a small, curious house or three. This inspired the lengthy, mocking, childhood folk song, written in 1792, about him, which is sung to the tune of Gaspard de Chenu’s song Jean de Nivelle. The first verse is: 

Cadet ROUSSELLE has three houses, 

That have no beams or rafters,

It’s to house the swallows.

What will you say about Cadet ROUSSELLE?

Ah! Ah! Ah! but really,

Cadet ROUSSELLE is a good child.

And so, visitors to Paris may wonder why the Carrousel Garden in the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement is so called. There is a carousel there, but it was called the Carousel Garden because of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – the triumphal arch of the Carrousel. The Corinthian arch, built between 1806-1808 commemorates Napoleon Bonaparte’s military victories, as a sort of mini version of the famous Arc de Triomphe nearby. Specifically, it commemorates Napoleon’s victory of France at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 against the troops of the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire.

But, as I said, there is a small, illuminated carousel there, called the Carousel of the Tuileries Garden, almost hidden in the trees. It even plays the music to the song ‘Cadet Roussel.’ 

Moving to the Trocadero in the 8th arrondissement, is the Carousel at Trocadero, affectionately called the Troca, on United Nations Avenue. It is close to the Eiffel Tower, so sitting on a galloping horse, children have a stunning view. The carousel itself is gilded with Romantic décor. Very retro, as all carousels are.

There are many carousels in Paris, and in fact, there are several in the Tuileries and in the Troca, as well as in other arrondissements.

However, my favourite is the Dodo Manège – the Dodo Merry-go-round – in the garden of plants, Jardin des Plantes, in the 5th arrondissement. It’s in the same grounds as the Natural History Museum, which may explain why, instead of galloping horses, it has prehistoric extinct animals and endangered ones. Which of course is a lesson in natural history as children go round-and-round.

A scientist created the Dodo Manège in 1992. The endangered animals include a gorilla (my favourite), a giraffe, and a panda. The extinct animals include a dodo (my favourite), the thylacine, a triceratops, a horned turtle, a glyptodon, a sivatherium, and an aepyornis. 

Everyone knows of the dodo, the big pigeon-like, duck-like, flightless bird that was endemic to Mauritius. Most children know the triceratops, the dinosaur, whose name means ‘three-horned face.’ The meiolania is much smaller and known as the horned turtle. The glyptodon is a massive armadillo with big teeth. 

A good proportion of people would have heard of the thylacine, but in its common name, the Tasmanian Tiger, from Australia. It looks like a striped dog, a bit like the dingo. 

The least well-known animals on the Dodo Manège are the sivatherium, a giraffe-like animal, and the aepyornis, another flightless bird.

Most carousels in Paris move anti-clockwise, but one in the Tuileries moves clockwise. Take a look at one in your country or your city – does it move clockwise or anti-clockwise?

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