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Grinstein, A. (1953). The Boy and the Dike. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:265-270.

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:265-270

The Boy and the Dike

Alexander Grinstein, M.D.

In the spring of 1950 a statue made by the Dutch sculptress Grada Rueb was unveiled by the Princess Margriet in the presence of her royal mother, at Spaarndam, outside Harrlem, near the Woerder Lock. The erection of this statue was promoted by the Netherlands National Tourist Office. It is 'dedicated to our youth, to honour the boy who symbolizes the perpetual struggle of Holland against the water.' This boy is the anonymous 'Hero of Harrlem', in a story ('Lesson 62') written by Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865. The story, which has been translated into many languages, has made an indelible effect on generations of people in their general attitude toward the Dutch. Its effect upon tourists is particularly great, inasmuch as many of them constantly inquire about the location of the famous dike.

There are a number of variations of the story, but the essentials of it are that long ago a little Dutch boy, the son of a sluicer living near Haarlem, late one afternoon observed a tiny trickle coming from a small hole in a dike. He climbed up the dike and 'without hesitation' put his finger into the little hole, because he knew, 'as every Dutch boy knows', that if he did not do this the ocean would rapidly enlarge this hole and would quickly inundate the land. He remained in this position throughout the entire night. His finger became numbed with cold, then his hand, his arm, and finally his entire body. Throughout his vigil he felt that he was battling with the angry ocean. At dawn a clergyman (or in some versions the boy's father, parents, or neighbours) came to save him.

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