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Hans Brinker expert may write book about American character

Fascinating sideline for skating enthusiast

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DRACHTEN, the Netherlands - A Dutch municipal official who as a hobby for forty years collected books about skating, could not resist starting another collection after running across a copy of Hans Brinker or the silver skates by American author Mary Mapes Dodge. The book fascinated him, especially after he became aware of its popularity and how widespread the children’s classic had been distributed throughout the world.

Retired administrator Hedman Bijlsma who owns 4,500 different books on skating, has 600 editions of Mapes Dodge’s book, published in 25 languages. The book about the boy with his finger in the dike is known everywhere, notes Bijlsma, except by and large in the Netherlands. In the village of Spaarndam, near Haarlem, a statue of Hans Brinker, with his finger in the dike, was erected a few years ago. A number of theatrical Hans Brinker films were shot on location in the Netherlands but the story as such has not resonated well.

The book collector since has researched the history of Hans Brinker and author Mapes Dodge, and has concluded that the character Hans Brinker was born in the author’s imagination who also used various sources among which a Dutch-born couple in the U.S., before she wrote the story. She had never visited the Netherlands. Hans Brinker made his entry in American literature in 1865, decades before the fascination with everything Holland, dubbed Hollandmania. The book was published in a Dutch translation as early as 1867.

This spring, Bijlsma will be exhibiting his Hans Brinker collection in the museum of an area school.

As the explorer of the world of Hans Brinker, Bijlsma now is considering to write a book about his study of the phenomenon.