Growing up one of my favorite books was Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. For whatever reason the book struck a chord in me and I made it a tradition to read it every year for many years running. As an adult I have collected several copies.
The book's main characters include Hans Brinker and his little sister Gretel, Peter van Holp and Hilda van Gleck. Even though the book is titled Hans Brinker, large parts of the book don't really have anything to do with him and focus on other's perspectives. A large bit is a travel log through Holland (written, amusingly, by an American author who had never been to Holland). The climax of the book is a big skating race. The book concludes with an epilogue chapter that gives brief descriptions of the various characters later life. Here is what I always read growing up about Gretel:
The story of Hans Brinker would be but half told if we did not
leave him with Gretel standing near. Dear, quick , patient
little Gretel! What is she now? Ask old Dr. Boekman, he will
declare that she is the finest singer, the loveliest woman in
Amsterdam. Ask Hans and ...., they will assure you that she is
the dearest sister ever known. Ask her husband, he will tell you
that she is the brightest, sweetest little wife in Holland.
While Hans's wife is identified two paragraphs before (I have cut her name out of the quote -can you spoil a 150 year old book?) Gretel's husband is not identified, nor is there a love interest in the book that would be the obvious choice. I always kind of liked that her husband was someone outside the narrow confines of the book.
One day I had a bit of a shock, I was leafing through one of my various editions that I had acquired over time and saw printed on the page this:
Ask her husband, --him who wore the red cap on the day of the grand skating race: you will learn that she is the brightest, sweetest little wife in Holland.
Huh? Where did that come from. She married who?!? I don't approve. The boy in the red cap is a silly show off and clearly not worthy of Gretel.
The mystery is why is it not in any other version of the book that I have. The book that contains the extra line is not the oldest one I have. So did some editor just up and decide the book was incomplete and declare that Gretel's husband just had to be identified? Or did it get dropped along the way and this book is actually correct? I am clearly hoping for the former.
I have been trying to get a first edition, which is the only way I think to solve the mystery of Gretel's husband. I ordered one online but it turned out to be out of stock. Still looking.
This post has been one I have been meaning to make on my rarely updated blog for a while. I finally got around to writing it because of all the comments on the Harry Potter epilogue I have been reading and the info it leaves out. I wonder if some enterprising editor will eventually insert a longer epilogue in it.