What does Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet really mean? Is it racist? Or archetypes representing a bright and shadow part of ourselves?
Neurologist and pediatrician Hofman wrote 'Struwelpeter', a childrens book, in 1845. It was translated into English by Mark Twain and features one chapter with Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. How do you interpret this chapter?
The Inky Boys
As he had often done before,
The woolly-headed black-a-moor
One nice fine summer's day went out
To see the shops and walk about;
And as he found it hot, poor fellow,
He took with him his green umbrella
Then Edward, little noisy wag,
Ran out and laugh'd, and waved his flag,
And William came in jacket trim,
And brought his woollen hoop with him;
And Caspar, too, snatch'd up his toys
And joined the other naughty boys;
So one and all set up a roar,
And laughed and hooted more and more,
And kept on singing,--only think!--
"Ohl Blacky, you're as black as ink"
Now Saint Nicholas lieved close by,--
So tall he almost touched the sky;
He had a mighty inkstand too,
In which a great goose feather grew;
He call'd out in an angry tone,
"Boys, leave the black-a-moor alone!
For if he tries with all his might,
He cannot change from black to white."
But ah! they did not mind a bit
What Saint Nicholas said of it;
But went on laughing, as before,
And hooting at the black-a-moor.
Then Saint Nicholas foams with rage:
Look at him on this very page!
He seizes Caspar, seizes Ned,
Takes William by his little head;
And they may scream, and kick, and call,
But into the ink he dips them all;
Into the inkstand, one, two, three,
Till they are black, as black can be;
Turn over now and you shall see.
See, there they are, and there they run!
The black-a-moor enjoys the fun.
They have been made as black as crows,
Quite black all over, eyes and nose,
And legs, and arms, and heads, and toes.
And trowsers, pinafores, and toys,--
The silly little inky boys!
Because they set up such a roar,
And teas'd the harmless black-a-moor.