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Hans Brinker, also known as "Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates" and "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" is an 1865 children's novel written by American author Mary Mapes Dodge.
Hans is a 15-year-old boy who, together with his younger sister Gretel, yearns to participate in a great ice-skating race on the canal. The main prize is a pair of silver skates. Unfortunately, they come from a very poor family with a father who is unable to work since a fall from a dike. The father became a short-tempered alcoholic as a result and the children have to work to support the family. After Dr. Boekman is persuaded to examine their father, the doctor concludes that Father Brinker could be cured by a risky and expensive operation involving trephining. Despite saving money to buy himself some steel skates, Hans offers the doctor everything he has. This touches Dr. Boekman so much that he offers to provide the surgery for free, thus enabling Hans to buy good skates and participate in the race. Gretel wins the girls' race, but Hans lets a friend--who is worse off than himself--win the boys' race. The operation is a success and from now on, Dr. Boekman is a much kinder man who helps Hans into becoming a succesful doctor.
A lot of common misconceptions are attributed to this novel:
- The best-known part is the scene where a boy plugs a dike with his finger and thus prevents a large flood from happening. This tale is actually only a Story Within a Story. Hans reads about it in class. It has nothing to do with Hans Brinker himself.
- Never in Dutch history has a small boy ever prevented a flood by sticking his finger inside a hole in a dike. Nor did Mary Mapes Dodge think it up. It already circulated a few years earlier and is clearly a legend.
- Neither story is part of Dutch folklore. In fact, the story is hardly known in the Netherlands themselves. The only reason you can find statues of a boy plugging a dike in Madurodam, Harlingen and Spaarlingen is to please tourists.
- Abusive Parents: Hans and Gretel's father is a violent drunk.
- The Big Race
- Children Are Innocent
- Completely Different Title: The story is sometimes shortened to "Hans Brinker" or "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates", while the original title is actually "Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates".
- Did Not Do the Research: Partly subverted. The author did bibliographical research about the country and received firsthand information about Dutch life from her immigrant Dutch neighbours. Yet she didn't actually visit the Netherlands until after the publication.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A poor brother and sister named Hans and Gretel? Hmm...
- The Great Flood
- Happy Ending
- Have a Gay Old Time: A little boy sticking his finger inside a hole in a dike? To prevent a "flood"? Meaning the dyke is being fingered? Errrr...
- Heel Face Turn: Dr. Boekman, who was gruffy and sympathetic at first, but was so touched by Hans and Gretel's innocence and unselfishness that he changed his ways.
- Kid Hero: The "Hero of Haarlem" and Hans himself as well, of course
- Lemony Narrator: Most of the book was written with standard narration. In a few places it lapsed into Lemony Narration, such as when the narrator pondered why Santa Claus didn't visit the destitute Brinker household on Christmas. Most jarring, however, is the ending, when the narrator declared that the reader didn't care whether Hans or Peter won the race.
- MacGuffin: The skates
- No Budget: Hans and his sister have no money to pay for their father's operation.
- No Name Given: The dike-plugging boy is never named but is simply called "The Hero of Haarlem".
- Small Role, Big Impact: The tale about the boy with his finger in the dike, which is only a small Story Within a Story, is actually more famous than Hans and his skates.
- Story Within a Story: The story about the dike-plugging boy is actually read to Hans Brinker in class.
- That Didn't Happen: The finger-in-the-dike story wasn't an actual historical event, nor is it part of Dutch folklore.