5 Of The Most Fascinating Dutch Myths You’ve Never Heard Of

Our history books are full of myths and sagas about interesting creatures and events from far away land like Greece, The Roman Empire, Scandinavia, and old Asian ones. But for a fact I know, that the Netherlands, the country that I was born in and living in right now, has a couple of fascinating myths as well.

Here are five of the most exciting myths from the Netherlands that you’ve never heard of.

The ‘Witte Wieven’

This folklore is pretty common in the rural parts of the Netherlands.

The literal meaning of the term ‘Witte Wieven’ is ‘White Women’ and can be compared to many phenomena in other countries as well. They’re often seen as some kind of spirits or witches.

This myth goes back to the time of old farmers in the Germanic lands.

The ‘Witte Wieven’ would appear on farms and on the lands of farmers to scare the people, and would always scream while doing this. Typically, children were scared by these tales.

The explanation for these ‘white women’ was frequently described as mist or fog that would fade over the farmlands.

‘Grutte Pier Gerlofs Donia’

Pier Gerlofs Donia, a folklore hero from Frisia, is often referred to as ‘Grutte Pier’ which means Big Pier.

By Pieter Feddes van Harlingen — Pierius Winsemius, Chronique ofte Historische geschiedenisse van Vrieslant, 1622 Collectie Fries Museum, Public Domain

He would be best described as a mix between a pirate and a Viking. He led rebellion groups in the area at the time of oppression of the house of Habsburg in the Germanic area.

Pier fought many battles, on land and on the water. Often in the ‘Zuiderzee’.

The thing that made ‘Grutte Pier’ so famous was the large number of ships that he conquered.

Pier was remarkably large for the time he lived, even though he was Frisian. Some even argued that he would be some kind of superhuman.

The Poem of Beatrice

This poem was written by a Dutch author in the 14th century. It’s about a woman that lives with her husband and two children for seven magical years.

When things are getting worse, and he leaves her, she turns to prostitution and lives seven bad years of sin.

Did I mention she was a nun?

By This media file is from the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, part of which is available on Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain,

One day she sings the ‘Ave Maria’ and Mother May appears and tells her to return to her monastery.

As children in middle school, we had to read this book/poem and made sense of the old Dutch language in which it was written and translate it for a part, which was fun.

The Tale of Mad Meg

First, a disclaimer. This isn’t really a Dutch legend or myth, it’s Flemish, so close enough to consider it relevant for this article.

Mad Meg or as the Dutch call it: ‘Dulle Griet’, meaning mad girl, is a story from the Middle Ages that originated in what we now consider Belgium.

This story is based on a painting, made by Pieter Brueghel de Oude.

Door Pieter Bruegel de Oude — Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Publiek domein,

There isn’t much factual information known about this tale, other than this lady is doing bad things for hell. As you can see in the picture, she’s acting rather mad.

The Flying Dutchman

This is actually one of my favorite stories. Especially because it appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies and other films.

The Flying Dutchman is a ship that’s part of the Dutch East India Company fleet, the first company to ever be listed on the stock market and the richest company in history.

But then there’s a twist to this ship. It’s a ghost boat.

By Frank R. Stockton — Round-about Rambles in Lands of Fact and FancyTransferred from en.wikipedia by ronhjones, Public Domain

The story behind this ship, like in the movies, is that it shall always sail over the seven seas and its crew and captain could never set foot on land.

It’s said to be cursed because, in the Dutch version of the tale, the captain mocked the word of God.

Originally Published on Medium by me (Bryan Dijkhuizen)

Sources & References

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