Exhibitions

Exhibition ‘The real story?’ in House of the book

Now on display | Till 01 September 2024

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The exhibition ‘The real story?’ can be seen from Friday 22 March through 1 September 2024 at House of the Book. The visitor goes on an expedition through the fascinating stories behind twelve famous and less well- known characters from world literature. On view are the different versions of Anansi, Bambi, Ferdinand the bull, the family from ‘The Little House of the Prairie’, Huckleberry Finn, Kantjil, Karagöz, the Moemins, Pinocchio, Max & Moritz, Heidi and the Little Mermaid. Over the years these stories make significant changes through the influence of politics, commercialism, changing pedagogical theories, fashion and gender roles. In this way the social criticism found in Bambi and Pinocchio disappears, Ferdinand becomes an icon for the LGBTIQ+ community and, to the amazement of many, in 2023 the role of the Little Mermaid is played by a Black actress. In the exhibition different questions are asked to inspire the visitor to think about these issues. In this way the museum offers a context for the sometimes heated discussions about changing the texts and illustrations of classic books. This is origin of a study of the different versions of the stories: from the date of publication up to the present day.

The exhibition is based on the recently published book Springlevend. Hoe klassieke boeken van betekenis veranderen (Alive and kicking. How the meaning of classic books changes) by Saskia de Bodt (Uitgeverij Hoogland & Van Klaveren). The author and the co-author, Annemiek Overbeek, are guest curators for the exhibition.

Is the original story sacred?

One of the reasons for making this exhibition from the book Springlevend is the controversy resulting from the decision by Disney to cast the Black actress Halle Bailey in ‘The Little Mermaid’ and that caused by changing the texts in books by Roald Dahl. With ‘The real story?’ House of the Book wants to provide a context for these discussions by showing the history of these characters and books. The visitor is brought into a world with countless versions of the books. Texts and illustrations change in the course of time: each generation adapts the characters and stories. Or do they appropriate the stories? Is that bad? Or is it proof of the power of these stories?

Anansi’ uit: Anansi Compan, Ronald King (artist) and Roy Fisher (poet),1992. Coll. Huis van het boek

Anansi’: Anansi Company: A Collection of Thirteen Hand-Made Wire and Card Rod-Puppets Animated in Colour and Verse, Ronald King (artist) and Roy Fisher (poet), London: Circle Press, 1992. Collection House of the book

'The little mermaid', 1903, collectie Huis van het boek
'The little mermaid', 1903. Collection House of the book
Original Pinokkio-drawing Rie Cramer, 1927, collection House of the Book

Original Pinokkio-drawing Rie Cramer, 1927. Collection House of the book

Original drawing Kantjil by Tjeerd Bottema, 1931. Collection House of the Book

Original drawing Kantjil by Tjeerd Bottema, 1931. Collection House of the book

Anton de Kom, 'Anangsieh tories', illustraties Brian Elstak Amsterdam Atlas Contact, 2022 (1ste druk). Collection House of the Book

Anton de Kom, 'Anangsieh tories', illustration Brian Elstak Amsterdam Atlas Contact, 2022 (first print). Collection House of the book