Water History

, Volume 11, Issue 3–4, pp 207–231 | Cite as

The story of the Dutch boy who prevented a flooding disaster: origin and variations on the theme

  • Bart SchultzEmail author


The tale of the boy who is said to have prevented a flooding by putting his finger in a hole of the (Spaarndammer) dike in the Netherlands, is well known all over the world. However, little is known about the origin of the story or about the wide range of variations that have been published and are still being published. This paper argues that the French author of children tales Rébecca Eugénie Rodrigues-Henriques (1796–1852) published the first version of the story under the pseudonym Eugénie Foa in French, with the title Le petit éclusier, “the little sluicer”. However, the story has been made famous by the American author Mary (Elisabeth) Mapes Dodge, who included the tale in her book Hans Brinker, or The silver skates. A story of life in Holland. The paper shows as well that this remarkable tale has found its way into a huge amount of books and other forms of information transfer in at least thirty-five languages. In more or less chronological order, this history will be described, focusing on how and in what variations the story has arisen, been retold and what significance we can assign to all the story variants.


Hans Brinker Spaarndammer dike Eugénie Foa Mary Mapes Dodge Haarlem 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus professor in Land and Water DevelopmentIHE-Delft Institute for Water EducationDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.LelystadThe Netherlands

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