Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates

Hans Brinker tying on his sister Gretel’s ice skates, in an illustration by Théophile Schuler from the 1876 French translation of the novel

Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates (full title: Hans Brinker; or, the Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland) is a novel by American author Mary Mapes Dodge, first published in 1865. The novel takes place in the Netherlands and is a colorful fictional portrait of early 19th-century Dutch life, as well as a tale of youthful honor.
The book’s title refers to the beautiful silver skates to be awarded to the winner of the ice-skating race Hans Brinker hopes to enter. The novel introduced the sport of Dutch speed skating to Americans, and in U.S. media Hans Brinker is still considered the prototypical speed skater.[1]
The book is also notable for popularizing the story of the little Dutch boy who plugs a dike with his finger.


1 Overview
2 Plot
3 Film adaptations
4 Popular culture: the legend of the boy and the dike

4.1 Statues of the boy and the dike
4.2 Origin of the story of the boy and the dike

5 See also
6 References
7 Footnotes
8 External links

Mary Mapes Dodge, who never visited the Netherlands until after the novel was published, wrote the novel at age 34. She was inspired by her reading of John L. Motley’s lengthy, multi-volume history works: The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856), and History of the United Netherlands (1860-1867).[2] Dodge subsequently did further bibliographical research into the country. She also received much firsthand information about Dutch life from her immigrant Dutch neighbors, the Scharffs,[3] and Dodge noted in her preface to the 1875 edition of the book that the story of Hans Brinker’s father was “founded strictly upon fact”.[4]
Full of Dutch cultural and historical information, the book became an instant bestseller, outselling all other books in its first year of publication except Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend.[3] The novel has since been continuously in print, most often in multiple editions and formats, and remains a children’s classic.[5]
In Holland, poor but industrious and honorable 15-year-old Hans Brinker and his younger sister Gretel yearn to participate in December’s great ice skating race on the canal. They have little chance of doing well on their handmade wooden skates, but the prospect of the race and the prize of the silver skates excites them and fires their dreams.
Hans’ father, Raff Brinker, is sick and amnesi