December 5, St. Nicholas Eve and a Bedtime Story

Advent Calendar - December 5th,  St. Nicholas Eve.

Today is a perfect time to share one of my favorite childhood books, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. The story takes place in Holland, a country that begins celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas in mid November!

The book I am sharing with you was published in 1924 and was given to my mother  as a Christmas gift when she was a little girl.  When I was a young girl, my mother read the book to me and many, many, many years later gifted it to me.

I dearly love this book and the story of Hans Brinker giving up his dreams of winning the silver skates in order to restore his father to good health.

I am sharing a tiny bit of the story today, but it is the beautiful illustrations I am most interested in sharing with you.  Magical images I never quite forgot.

The cover illustration is by Frank Schoonover, but all the story illustrations are by illustrator Louis Rhead.  Mr. Rhead illustrated many classics during his career including these you may recognize - Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, King Arthur and his Knights, Heidi, and Treasure Island.

Just look at this beautiful illustration of Dame Brinker waiting in the doorway for her husband to return home from his work at the dykes.

The opening words from this chapter fired a fascination with the country of Holland that never ended.  Imagine, a whole country below sea level! Possible only because of a fantastic and ingenious system of dykes that hold back the sea.

But sometimes they failed, and it was during one of these times that Raff Brinker, fell from the dyke and was seriously injured.

Wooden shoes are filled with straw and left on tables or by firesides to be filled during the night by St Nicholas.  Good children will likely find sweets, fruit and small gifts when they awake in the morning.

Enchanting. Notice the shoes have been pushed to the side to make room for all the gifts.

A small boy keeps the sea from rushing in by plugging a small hole in the dyke with his finger and waiting all night for help to come.  True story or not, we all believe it to be true.

Hans works very hard and saves money to buy a pair of metal skates which he is convinced will give him a better chance to win the silver skates in the annual skating races.  But when he believes there is a chance to restore his father's health, he gives a surgeon everything he has saved in the hope the doctor will heal his father.

The doctor and his assistant perform the operation in the Brinker cottage and Gretel, made to wait outside frightened and alone, is befriended by Hilda.  The operation is successful and her father is no longer an invalid.

Finally, Hans dream is almost realized. He is skating in the race and victory and the silver skates are almost his.  The third and final race is about to begin when he notices his friend's skate strap is broken.  Hans gives his friend is own skate strap and in this act of kindness, again gives up his dream of owing the silver skates.

But his little sister, Gretel, wins the women's race and she wins the silver skates.

Are your shoes set out for St. Nicholas yet?  There isn't much time left.  He will be here soon. Be sure to place a little straw or a carrot in them. His horse will be hungry!


what a lovely pictures,

what a lovely pictures, really dutch. We have now a disscusion of Hans Brinker , the statue of him that stands in a place must be replaced to somewhere else-S
Because that town don't like to be remembered and reminded only of Hans;-D
I don't like those stupid discussions. oooh and yeaah the fever of ice skating is really started-S
It's still freezing but not enough for the big event in Friesland.LOL
And the first ice skating games are started outside.
I know that in the nearby provincie that lay next Friesland (groningen) don't like this fever.LOL Perhaps not all of them.
My sis told me a story that a dutch citizen tried to explain this big event fever that everyyear is coming over us to an tourist. He couldn't understand it.LOL
i'm neither.LOL
but... i love the old story as well of Hans, it's not really the truth and happened.
But the floading is really still a problem, nowadays more from the inside then the sea it selfs.
Because some rivers are starting in other countries like the Rijn. So we have nowedays more troubles of floadings from the other countries next to us.
Every year there are parts that are floading under in the south part of Holland-S
The problems is that many small dike houses that are build next to the rivers must be destroyed when they will build higher dikes.
that's a big problem, and some ereas are nature resevates.
i'm glad that i don't be a politican.;-D
But because of the upwarming of the earth there must be done really soon about our strange water problems. Some dunes nearby my city are build higher with sand , because some where too low allready. A friend of mine told me that in her city Bergen by the sea, the house on the dune you can sea was first more iniside the dunes then nowedays. So the sea takes land back from us.LOL
That's the same with the Wadden islands, it looks like the are walking slowly in the Waddensea.;-D
One day i think Haarlem will be laying next to the sea.LOL
but that will be about a centuary more;-D
You know i love my country and all the silly historical facts.XD
I never had seen this part on your blog.
thank you so much for the beautiful drawings and pictures.
I really appriciated it for menioning me.XD
hey have a great weekend with some free time. xxoxoxoxooxoxoox's

I really enjoyed looking at

I really enjoyed looking at the pictures of the book. I was born in Holland and went back for the first time in 2006...over 40 years after I left. This brought back wonderful memories! Thanks!

I loved that story too. I

I loved that story too. I couldn't tell you how many times I read it as a girl. What a lovely memory.

I had that book as a little

I had that book as a little girl! (Santa gave it to me when we visited the Gingerbread House) Thanks for the memories!

Ahh, thank you for that! I

Ahh, thank you for that! I loved that story when I was little, and still do!