Hero 240 central figure in children’s book Hero

September 15, 2021

In the year 2003 Orca Book Publishers published an English children’s book called Hero. Author Martha Attema, who was born in Friesland and later emigrated to Canada, relates the adventures of a boy called Izaak and his favourite stallion Hero during the Second World War. The book is based on the true story of Held 140. Read here how Coby Kruis and Johanna Faber accidentally got involved and inspired by this extraordinary story.

Based on historic facts

The book revolves around young Izaak who, from his safehouse in Amsterdam, is brought to Friesland in the late days of World War II because he was in danger. At his new safehouse in Friesland, a farm in northern Friesland, he becomes friends with the magnificent black stallion Hero (Held 140 Preferent) and together with the family of his safehouse he does everything in his power to keep the stallion safe from the German occupier.

Keeping Held 140 in hiding

The book took off when in 2000, Martha Attema’s father gave her some newspaper clippings. These were articles about her own great-uncle Jan, who was in fact Jan Hoogterp from Deersum, breeder and owner of the KFPS stallion Held 140. This stallion was born in 1928 out of a pairing between Clasina (Paulus 121) and Arend 131P and stood stud from 1931 through to 1950. Held 140 became Preferent at a young age. During the wartime years his owner anxiously kept Held 140 hidden from the occupiers because the Germans were very keen on confiscating big, strong horses. This worked for a long time but in the last month of the War, when many Germans fled to North Holland to escape from the advancing Allied Forces, the Germans seized the horse after all. Andries Hofstee, regular farm-hand of the Hoogterp family went with him. Held 140 pulled the farm waggon packed with Germans, their weaponry and food supplies across the Afsluitdijk towards Amsterdam. After delivering their passengers horse and driver managed to escape and many weeks later finally made their way back to their home in Friesland all safe and sound. This is a true account of what happened and this is also how it is described in the book Hero, albeit in a slightly romanticised version.

Now available in Frysk

The actual reason for re-publishing the book, in the Friesian language this time, was the author’s friend Saakje van der Meulen-de Roo. Martsje de Jong recently translated the book for Afûk and it was reprinted. So now the book is available in two languages combined in one print. The first part is in Friesian and followed by the same text in English. The first print of 750 copies has nearly sold out by now and Afûk is making preparations for a second edition.

Wytse 462 as cover model

Via KFPS, Afûk Publishers got in touch with Johanna Faber for a photo of a good-looking Friesian horse to be used for the cover of the Friesian version. Sifting through the archives, photos from a shoot with Wytse 462 came closest to what the designer had in mind. The Kruis family and Johanna Faber are proud to have been able to make a modest contribution to this book. ‘I think it’s truly beautiful and actually feel quite proud. I do somehow recognise Wytse in Held 140 and how great is it to find out that Held 140 even appears in Wytse’s pedigree!’, Coby Kruis says. Johanna too says it’s all down to coincidence. Last year when she was busy with preparations for the Grote Brabantse Friezenquiz she stumbled upon the story about Held 140 and became intrigued by it. ‘I had absolutely no idea that Martha Attema’s book Hero was based on the story about Held 140. Quite frankly, I didn’t look into it at the time. All I did was supply a photo and did not give it another thought. Now that I have heard that Hero is in fact Held 140 and even appears in Wytse 462’s pedigree I find it even more special. Just like Coby I read the book in one go.’

How to order

The Frysk/English version of the book is for sale in book stores, but can also directly be ordered from Afûk via this link.

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