Little Dutch Boy Trope

The trope that I chose for this assignment was The Little Dutch Boy. What is funny about this story is that it is not from Holland, but was written by American writer Mary Maples Dodge in 1865. In fact, most people who live in Holland do not even know what the story is about or even that it exists (easyscienceforkids.com). Nevertheless, it is still a trope that is used quite often in American advertising to show how a product will “save the day” just as Hans, the little Dutch boy, saved the dike. 

One example of this trope being used is through this political cartoon by artist Peter Kuper. When I first saw this, I chuckled because 2020 was a hell of a year and this cartoon is the perfect portrayal of it. Former president Trump is depicted as the little dutch boy and he is clearly under a lot of pressure. America is about to explode from all the leaks caused by COVID-19, the BLM movement, lockdowns, and the economic recessions… just to name a few problems. It looks like he is kind of just standing there, pitching a fit and fussing instead of doing anything about the leaks, not like he would fix them anyway. There are six leaks in the wall and he’s only got two hands with a forefinger on each. I think that’s where the title of the piece comes from: “You stop or else!!” It is like he is taunting the issues instead of taking action and combating them. So instead of being the hero like the little dutch boy was, he was a villain.

This next example is an advertisement for Dutch Boy House Paint. It shows a happy family, their freshly painted house, and then the little Dutch boy painting a model of their house below with the daughter. Personally, I think it is redundant to have a doll of the little Dutch boy and then him actually sitting there with the daughter, but it’s a design choice I guess. The text below goes into detail about how you can use the paint both outside and inside the house, how it is easy to apply, and the different colors they have. Essentially the advertisement is saying that if you use Dutch Boy paints, you will be overall happier and satisfied with its result. But you can see at the bottom right corner of the advertisement that the paint is affiliated with the National Lead Company, meaning that the paint has lead in it, which is not exactly  ideal as there are many harmful effects from long exposure to lead. The little Dutch boy in the story saved the town of Haarlem by sticking his finger in the dike, but Dutch Boy paint harms those who decide to use it. Obviously, people at the time this advertisement was printed (1954) didn’t know there were problems with exposure to lead. So it’s just ironic that this paint company is promoting happiness and satisfaction when in actuality they are going to be the source of unhappiness for a lot of people in the future.

 

The last example of tropes in the world/media is this statue of Hans Brinker (the little Dutch boy) which is located in Spaarndam, Netherlands. It depicts him kneeling to plug the hole in the rock with his finger and is made out of some sort of metal, slightly turning green with age. There is also an inscription below the statue, like a dedication. I thought that it was strange that the Dutch went through with creating and putting up this statue even though it is an American story. The “American tourists were [persistent in wanting] to see the dike and Hans Brinker so … in 1950, the Dutch Bureau for Tourism decided to place a statue of Hans Brinker by the sculptor Grada Rueb at Spaarndam” (windowstoworldhistory.weebly.com). Also, a lot of the time statues are constructed to commemorate real people, dead or alive, who made a difference. This statue probably convinces a lot of people, especially those who are children, that Hans Brinker was a real person, when that is not the case.

I knew of this story prior to this assignment, but had never actually read it, and had no idea that it was not originated in Europe. I was also unaware of its symbolism in regards to American advertising and political matters. I found it interesting that in the political cartoon, it represented something bad and in the paint advertisement, it was for something good. Just because a story has a happy ending does not mean that it should be used to show that something is happy. It can be used to represent the opposite too.

 

 

Works Cited

“Fun Little Dutch Boy Who Saved Holland Facts.” Easy Science For Kids, 31 Aug. 2018, https://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-the-little-dutch-boy-who-saved-holland/. 

Goyjer, Jim, et al. “Spaarndam: Adopted Home of Dutch Legend, Hans Brinker.” DutchReview, 31 Aug. 2021, https://dutchreview.com/culture/history/spaarndam-story-of-hans-brinker/. 

Kuper, Peter. “Cartoon: The Little Dutchboy 2020.” Weekly Humorist, Peter Kuper Https://Weeklyhumorist.com/Wp-Content/Uploads/2018/04/WH-Color-Logo-Pattern-B.png, 19 June 2020, https://weeklyhumorist.com/cartoon-the-little-dutchboy-2020/. 

Warnes, Kathy. “Hans Brinker, the Dutch Hero Who Isn’t Really Dutch!” WINDOWS TO WORLD HISTORY, https://windowstoworldhistory.weebly.com/hans-brinker-the-dutch-hero-who-isnt-really-dutch.html. 

“Weekend Event – Houses: 1954 Dutch Boy.” LiveJournal, https://vintage-ads.livejournal.com/9295621.html.