The obvious Dutch boy character that many Americans know of is Hans Brinker, but find that he is virtually unknown in the Netherlands. The Dutch writer Piet Prins authored many novels for young people in the 1950s-1970's having boy heros. One which has been translated into English is the story of a 13 year old boy in Holland during World War II who helped the Dutch Resistance hide downed RAF fliers from the NAZIs. In one scene, the author describes the hero as wearing shorts like all the other boys his age, "since the honor of receiving their first pair of long pants is accorded to boys on their 14th birthday." A popular book about a Dutch boy was "Ciske de Rat".
We have noticed several boy characters in Dutch literature, although we do not yet know a great deal about them.
The obvious Dutch boy character I know of is Hans Brinker. It will surprise most Americans that while Hans Brinker might be famous in the U.S., most children in the Netherlands have never heard of him. The American author Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905) wrote the story of this Dutch boy Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, a book that is not too accurate as far as the names of the children are concerned. Many of them have German names, but of course, the name Hans is common in both Germany and Holland, but Gretel is Grietje in Dutch, Ludwig is Lodewijk, etc.
Theo Thijssen (1879-1943), an Amsterdam elementary schoolteacher, wrote a
book that virtually every Dutch every boy (and girl) has read: "Kees de jongen" (Kees the boy). He wrote many other books and there is now a Theo Thijssen Museum in Amsterdam
Kruimeltje is another book about a Dutch boy. It was filmed in 1999. The orphaned Dutch boy and his fathful dog is one of the most beloved images to the people of the Netherlands. This contemporary film about an orphaned Dutch boy and his dog in the 1920s based on a book by one Chris van Abkoude, who also wrote Pietje Bell, the book every Dutch boy grew up with, that is before they all stopped reading and started playing computer games. The film was marketed in America under the English-language title Little Crum. Chris van Abcoude (1880-1964) wrote not only Kruimeltje, but was especially
known for his Pietje Bell series, about a real naughty boy. A movie was made of Kruimeltje, but I don't know if Pietje Bell got filmed also.
The Dutch writer Piet Prins authored many novels for young people in the 1950s-1970's having boy heros. One which has been translated into English is the story of a 13 year old boy in Holland during World War II who helped the Dutch Resistance hide downed RAF fliers from the NAZIs. In one scene, the author describes the hero as wearing shorts like all the other boys his age, "since the honor of receiving their first pair of long pants is accorded to boys on their 14th birthday." There was no one single boy hero, however, who emerged as a widely known boy character.
A popular book about a Dutch boy was Ciske de Rat. It is a book by the Dutch Piet Bakker. It was filmed twice. At first in 1955 featuring Dick van der Velde as Ciske,
and in 1984 featuring Danny de Munk as the same character. It is set in the 1930s and the boy is a real nuisance. Ciske was a bit different than jyst boyishly naughty, a border case criminal, actually. Bakker wrote novels as well and was a columnist for a major Dutch newspaper (De Telegraaf).
C. Johan Kieviet (1858-1931) was another author of Dutch children's books. He
created "Dik Trom", a very popular, good-natured, overweight farm boy in
De Witte is about a 14-year old Flemish farm boy who revolts against his
sourroundings by playing tricks on it. But he's bound in a society of church,
school and parents in a village. The book by Ernest Claes (1885-1968), a famous
Belgian/Flemish writer is autobiographical and went into a hundred editions. "De Witte", as the name suggests is about a boy with white hair. Claes studied Germanic languages, was wounded in the war and spent some time in a German prison camp in 1915-16. He fought for Flemish causes and wrote many books and articles in
Dutch and in German. Although no Nazi he was silenced for a while after World War II which brought on severe depressions. He later was rehabilitated. There are interesting depictions of 1920s clothing in De Witte. The book was made into two films. The first was made in 1934, featuring Jefke Bruyninckx. The second was made in 1979, De Witte van Zichem, featuring Eric Clerckx. This book was also very popular in the Netherlands.
Bob Evers is not a Dutch boy, he is American. But he is an American boy living in the Netherlands. He has two Dutch friends, Jan Prins and Arie Roos. They live in Amsterdam. Arie is a fat boy (always hungry) with ginger hair - he is also the genius who often figures out the solution for a problem. Jan Prins (and that is very interesting) is a boy who is almost similar to our friend Nip (Brian) Challons from the English Jim Starling series. He is concerned about both food and clothes. Another hilarious fact about Jan Prins is his fear about spending one penny to much for something. Bob (and especially Arie) do not have this fear. Sometimes Jan is talking to his two friends: "I tell you both.... you will die totally broken" Arie just raises his shoulders and says something like:
"Well, what is so bad about that? Should somebody be more happy when he dies as a rich man, after a life full of scraping pennies?. Whe have fun with our money, you just trouble. The point is: you don't own money; the money owns YOU". And Jan reacts like: "you know very well what I mean".
What makes a grinning Arie en Bob say: "Yeah, maybe TO well". A Dutch reader suggests that we should add Bob Evers to our Dutch list. "About Bob Evers. It is a good idea to pay some attention to it. You have to
know there is a mailing list about it in Holland where a lot of discussions
take place, concerning the advenures, the caracters and the author who had
the habit to give excisting people and (often hidden) really happend
incidents a role or a place in the stories. You could compare the popularity of Bob Evers in Holland (especcially in the
1950s) with Jennings or Biggles in England. There was really a regular
chaos when a new Bob Evers-title came out. Children were running to the
bookstore to be sure they won't come out with empty hands. I have not seen
it myself, for I am born in 1957 but this all is often written in newspapers and magazines. The same image was later to be seen in libraries. My mother spoke with a female librarian who sighed desperatly: "Only
Santa Claus is able to make MORE children coming in action".
Generally speaking, today reading books has become less of course, propbaly
due to the fact there is Internet now, DVD and so on... What Bob Evers is
concerning about, there are still "diehards", aged between 35 and 60 (and
sometimes older) and a new (smaller) young generation. This last group is
reading the Bob Evers-stories only because they became very curious why
their fathers are speaking so enthusiastically about this series. And sometimes there is a reporter who writes an article like: "Do you remember Bob Evers?" (Between 1949 and 1993 there were 5 million books published).
While the Dutch boy characters here are well-known in the Netherlands, they are virtually unknown outside the country. Ask forigners about a Dutch boy in literature and one name will come up--Nello. He is of course the poor little Dutch boy in Ouida's classic, A Dog of Flanders. There are many film versions, the first was Jackie Coogan's "A Boy of Flanders" (1924). Of course Nello is from Flanders, but he speks Dutch (Flemish) and dresses like he arch-typical Dutch boy.
There are many other Dutch authors of children's books, especially Annie
Schmidt who wrote Sheep Veronica.
Some readers believe that Flemish chracters should be included in our list of Dutch boy characters. Flanders borders the Nerhtlands, but is located in Belgium. The Flemish speak Dutch and thus some readers believe that their literature is part of the Dutch literary tradition. A Dutch reader writes, "You are right to put "De Witte" on the Belgian page (I didn't know you had one). On the other hand, since the book was written in Dutch I feel it would be appropriate to list it also in the Dutch section. In general Flemish authors are included in Dutch literature, like German-writing Swiss authors (Gottfried Keller and Johanna Spyri) belong to German letters (comparable to Steinbeck and Whitman who are part of English literary culture)." This is of course an interesting question as to whether a literary tradition should be defined by natioianality or language. The question is somewhat affected by the size of the country/language group. Even with the addition of the Flemish, Dutch is a rather small langiage group. Of course the Germans with or without the Swiss are a much larger group. Even still both groups live in contact with each other, living within a limited geographical area. English speaking people are much more widely distributed. The Atlantic Ocean was a huge barrier separating America and Canada from Britain for several centuries, not to mention coloinies like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. There is the added complication of non-British cultures such as Indians writing in English.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main national literary page]
[Return to the Main Dutch page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Movies]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]