Local Heart, Global Soul

September 18, 2009

The Hague: So just Who is Jantje ?

Jantje (Small)

(photo © kiwidutch)

“In Den Haag daar woont een graaf” is a very well known Dutch Nursery Rhyme the subject of which, some say is Jan I, (John I) the son of Count Floris V who was the Graafschap Holland (Count of the County of Holland between 1256 and 1296)

After Count Floris V was assassinated in 1296, his son Jan ( Jantje is an informal name for Jan) is said to have succeeded him to become the 13th Count of Holland. The boy was only 13 years old when this took place and after two years the pressure was too much and the title and country was handed over to his cousin John II. John took office in January, and in the same month that Jan apparently died.

It’s not known for certain if Jan I was indeed the specific person meant in the song, it may just be as simple as the fact that “Jan” in those days was very common Dutch name and that it conveniently rhymes with the dutch words for “basket” and “hand”, words also featured in the song.

Because The Hague was originally created as the Residence for the Count, this statue was commissioned by the Hague City Council to commerate the Hague’s 750th Anniversary as a City, and was sculpted in 1976 by artist Ivo Coljé .

It stands of the banks of the Lange Vijverberg ( the water that partly surrounds the Dutch Parliament, the Binnehof) and depicts a small boy in a hat with a tall plume and holding a basket pointing directly at the Parliament buildings (and by co-insidence or not) almost directly at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Although the author of the rhyme is unknown, the rhyme appears in literature as early as 1871, in a book called “Nederlandse Baker – en kinderrijmen”” (Dutch Nursery Rhymes) by J. van Vloten.

Officially, the function of Count disappeared with the abolition of the seigneurial rights in 1794 when the French invaded the area to “liberate” governor William V of Orange-Nassau.

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

The text in Dutch reads:

In Den Haag daar woont een graaf
En zijn zoon heet Jantje.
Als je vraagt: Waar woont je pa?
Dan wijst hij met zijn handje.
Met zijn vingertje en zijn duim,
Op zijn hoed draagt hij een pluim,
Aan zijn arm een mandje.
Dag, mijn lieve Jantje!

The literal English translation reads:

In The Hague there lives an count

And his son’s name is Jantje

When you ask him “where does your Father live?”

He will point to it with his small hand.

With his fingers and his thumb

On his hat he has/wears a plume

On his arm a basket

Goodbye my sweet/dearest Jantje

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

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