The boy with his finger in the dike - Miniaturesandhistory

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The story of Hans Brinker or the boy with his finger in the dike

The Netherlands is largely situated below sea level. The sea is held back by dikes along the edges. If those dikes break, about half of the Netherlands will disappear. Dike surveillance is therefore of great importance. And actually our new miniature of february 2021 with the name Hans Brinker is based on that.

The story
In 1865 the book Hans Brinker and the silver skates appeared in America. The author was Mary Elisabeth Mapes (later Dodge). The book tells the story of a poor Dutch family. A sick father, a mother who can just make ends meet and brother and sister who have no money to buy new ice skates. That is the common thread through the whole story: an ice skate competition in which brother and sister want to participate.
The book tells many details about life in the Netherlands. Some are correct, others are almost unrecognizable for those living in the Netherlands. The source of the book was a series of books about the Netherlands that had been published in the US and possibly also stories in the family of the writer. One of her grandfathers was a Dutch immigrant who left for America in 1789. When Mapes wrote the book she had never been to the Netherlands. She wouldn't get there until after the book had become a big sales hit.
The story ends well. Father heals, the silver skates are won, they also appear to have a considerable capital and Hans later becomes a renowned doctor.
However, what does this story have to do with the boy who put his finger in the dike. This boy, the son of a lock keeper, saw a trickle of water running from the dike. That could be the start of a major dike breach. So what did he do, he put his finger in the dike and lay like that all night. With this he saved Haarlem (the story takes place in this city) and he became world famous. At least, famous through Mapes' book. In the book the silver skates this story is briefly told in a school class. The boy's name is Peter and that is almost all we learn from him. Because the main character in the book is called Hans Brinker, the boy with his finger in the dike has come to be called that. However, that is not correct, it is a story within a story and Hans Brinker was therefore not the boy who would have saved Haarlem.
Because "everyone" knows Hans Brinker by name as the boy with his finder in the dike, we have also named our figure that way.

Did it Really happen?
The story of the boy and the dike was unknown in the Netherlands before Mapes wrote about it. So it is not part of historical or folklore stories. And the general view among Dutch historians is that it was largely invented by Mapes herself. There are therefore no sources known in the Dutch archives that a boy ever prevented a dike breach in this way. And yet there is a possible link with a historical event: in the ecclesiastical archives of Spaarnedam (a place near Haarlem) the name of lock keeper Klaas Brinquer is mentioned. This Klaas had two sons. One of them with the name Johannes(Hans). And now let this Hans Brinquer be called as the boy who, at the age of 13, behaved extremely courageously during a near-dike breach in 1646 and who, together with a few others, was able to prevent worse. Could this be the basis of the story of Mapes, who even gave the leading role in her book to this Hans Brinker? We will never know.
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