A long, long time ago, while the ships were still mostly navigated with paddles and sails, the majority of men living on Texel Island were somehow related to the maritime business. They would wake up early in the morning and spend the whole day in their boats, fishing at sea or repairing them at the shore. This story starts on one of those early cold winter mornings. It was as foggy as it could only get on the islands. And the only person outside of his house was a young man dressed in a thick grey coat, walking alongside the beach. His walk was suddenly interrupted when he tripped over something. That was a wooden board sticking out of the sand. And then, when he turned around himself, he saw the shore was covered entirely with them. Boards, ropes and other parts of the ship. There must have been a shipwreck during the night. Curious as he was, he came closer and noticed a huge chest…
This is just a beginning of one of the numerous stories and legends from the Dutch island of Texel. Legends that were told by generations there. And that became a source of inspiration to Dutch artist Lotte Keijzer, who created a series of illustrations inspired by Texel Island’s legends.
Art inspired by Texel Island’s Legends
I remember seeing one of Lotte’s illustrations inspired by some of those Texel’s legends for the first time and being immediately pulled into the tale. The colours of the illustration were the same as I could remember from my trip to Texel a few years ago. And I could feel the magic of the story just by looking at the illustration.
I’m always amazed by seeing the art that’s clearly inspired by specific destinations, cities, or in this case, by local legends. There is something magical in travel and the way you can get connected with the local culture in that way.
There is something even more mysterious and fascinating about the islands. They are somewhat isolated, and often the legends related to them, are becoming a part of the local identity, as well. That’s why I’ve found Lotte’s art inspired by those Texel’s legends being even more appealing.
Texel is an island in the northern part of the Netherlands, and definitely one of the most beautiful areas of the country. With its unique nature and animals living there, it’s no wonder it’s home to one of the Dutch National Parks, as well. While I was cycling around the island, it felt like the time was passing a bit slower there. And while walking through its forests, I could imagine groups of kids sitting at the circles and telling some of those Texel legends to the youngest members of the group. With its ever changing nature and diverse landscape, you can understand why it became a setting for numerous legends.
Lotte’s art inspired by Texel Island’s legends
Ever since I’ve seen some of Lotte’s illustrations inspired by Texel’s legends, I wanted to learn more about them. And about her inspiration and the stories, she was surrounded with while growing up at Texel. So, here is what she’s told me.
# – How was growing up at Texel Island for you?
Texel is a beautiful island with lost of nature and cute little villages. I grew up on a farmhouse which used to be a small German hospital during the “Russenoorlog” or “The Russian war” which started at the end of the second world war on Texel. My parents rebuilt the whole place with friends, and it was fantastic growing up with lots of space to run around and go on adventures.
Many houses on Texel are named after what they were used for or what happened in them. The place I grew up at is called Veldheim.
Growing up on the island felt very safe and free. Later on, when I got older, it felt small and boring, but now I love and appreciate it again.
# – Were you surrounded by some of those legends as a child?
I moved quite a bit over the island when I got in my teens because of my parents divorcing. So I lived in a couple of houses that also had a story about them. I was always intrigued by those.
# – What is your favourite of Texel’s legends?
There’s a lot of stories on the island, and I absolutely love a good story.
My favourite legend was told to me by a jutter (beachcomber) called Maarten Boon, who sadly passed away a few years ago. He was a great storyteller. I think it was a story about his great-granddad or someone related to him who was also a beachcomber. There was a shipwreck (of course, I believe most beachcomber stories start like that), and heavy barrels washed up on shores. He dragged one of them to the dunes and hid it there cause it was illegal to claim stuff from these wreckages. He found out there was alcohol in them, so he would fill up a bottle of the strong stuff and take it home to enjoy with family and friends. After doing this a couple of times, he couldn’t get more alcohol out of them, but the barrel was still heavy and full of something. So he opened it up and found a dead monkey in it. The barrels weren’t full of alcohol but formaldehyde which kept dead animals preserved. I love that story because of this unexpected surprise and how disgusting it is.
# – Are there actual places in Texel related to some of those legends?
The north of Texel, where the lighthouse is, was the area for that last story. But there are stories all over the island. We have a lot of fishermen and farmers with stories, some legends, some personal. I also lived on a farm in the forest called ‘De Worsteltent” (The wrestling place). It’s a restaurant with a hotel now, but that name came from two brothers fighting over a girl.
# – What was your motivation to start working on a series of illustrations related to those legends?
So far, I have only illustrated one of the legends, which was the story of “De Strooppot”, a house where I lived for a short while. I grew up with these stories, and I think it’s worth sharing them with people outside of Texel. There are so many great stories in west Friesland, some are in books, and some are just word of mouth. But as far as I’m aware almost none of them have been put illustrated. So it felt like that could be my contribution.
Even if I only drew one of the legends so far, I constantly use my youth experiences as an inspiration in my other paintings. And I might make more of the legend stories with time.
# – Which of those illustrations is your favourite?
From “De Strooppot” series, my favourite is the 3rd one, where the beachcomber is walking off the beach and inside his jacket you see him going to his house. I think it tells a lot in one image. If I make more legend-based paintings, I think I will make it with fewer images. One can be enough, as long as the memory of that story lives through it.
Have you been to Texel Island? Do you know more of these legends? Share them with me in the comments!