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The Efteling – keeping fairy stories alive with the ‘Day of the Fairy Tale’!

Nearly every Dutch child has visited the famous Efteling park at least once and can therefore tell you what happens when you throw a piece of litter in the bins there….but more on that later! This coming Saturday marks the ‘Day Of The Fairy Tale’ for the fifth consecutive year, at this most legendary of Dutch theme parks.

The Efteling, which has always exhibited its own, unique character celebrated its 60th birthday on the 31st May this year. When the park opened in Kaatsheuvel (North Brabant) in the early fifties, it was intended mainly as a leisure park aimed at children under 12 years of age. The park had a very distinct style, in which the drawings of famous Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck played a pivotal role. For the first time, children could really imagine themselves in a living fairy story, thanks to a variety of life-size, moving fairy tale figures and a magical landscape incorporating an enchanting castle, typical Dutch houses, a pretty park, a playground, boating lakes and a teahouse. And the entire design, right down to the typography, were in a range of colours and font, specifically designed by Anton Pieck himself.

Today, Anton Pieck’s influence still retains an important place in the park, although several other styles have been incorporated over the years, such as the fabulous Thai designs and fascinating Aztec symbols. Nowadays however, the Efteling is not merely a children’s park, but rather an all-round amusement park where people of all ages can spend a fun packed day. The park also boasts a range of top facilities in keeping with such a modern and world renowned theme park, including flashy rides, a pancake house (where visitors can enjoy authentic Dutch pancakes), a theatre, a hotel and even a golf club. And visitor numbers prove that the Efteling remains as popular as ever. In fact, every year some 4 million people choose to visit this typical Dutch fairy tale park, hidden in the woods of North Brabant. For decades the Efteling has received a variety of prestigious awards too, including the Pomme d’Or for the “best recreation park in Europe” (1972) and the IAAPA Applause Award for “best theme park in the world” (1992).

Since 7th July 2007, the Efteling has organised an annual event known as ‘De Dag Van Het Sprookje’ (The Day Of The Fairy Tale). On this special day people are implored to read and listen to fairy stories, which the Efteling hopes will keep the captivating spirit of the fairy tale truly alive. The date 7/7 is chosen for a reason – the number seven frequently appears in fairy tales, including popular children’s stories such as The Seven Dwarfs, The Wolf With The Seven Young Kids and The Seven Mile Boots that featured in Tom Thumb and Puss in Boots .

So what exactly does happen when you want to throw litter into a bin at the Efteling? The litter bins are disguised as Holle Bolle Gijs (a Dutch nursery rhyme character), who is ready and waiting with his mouth wide open. He calls out to children in a deep, booming voice “papierrr hierrr!” (litter here!). And as soon as they’ve tossed their rubbish into his gaping hole of a mouth, they get his satisfied response: “dank u wel’ (thank you). This only encourages them to find yet more litter to throw away and acts as an effective way to keep the park clean and tidy!

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