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Little Dutch Boy, The

by Peter Miller
Dutch legend has it that there was once a small boy who upon passing a dyke on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he were to be late for school, the boy pocked his finger into the hole and so stemmed the flow of water. Some time later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to effect repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak.

This story is told to children to teach them that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources can avert disasters. The fact that the Little Dutch Boy used his finger to stop the flow of water, is used as an illustration of self-sacrifice. The physical lesson is also taught: a small trickle of water soon becomes a stream and the stream a torrent and the torrent a flood sweeping all before it, Dyke material, roadways and cars, and even railway tracks and bridges and whole trains.

This tale originates from the American writer Mary Mapes Dodge and is in fact not a real myth, although many people believe it is. She published this tale in 'Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates' in 1865. The Little Dutch Boy is a very popular myth in the United States (and other countries), but is not well known in the Netherlands and has probably been imported there by American tourists.


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