A short story within the novel has become well known in its own right in American popular culture. The story, read aloud in a schoolroom in England, is about a Dutch boy who saves his country by putting his finger in a leaking dike. The boy stays there all night, in spite of the cold, until the adults of the village find him and make the necessary repairs.
In the book, the boy and the story are called simply "The Hero of Haarlem". Although the hero of the dike-plugging tale remains nameless in the book, Hans Brinker's name has sometimes erroneously been associated with the character.
This small tale within Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates has generated numerous versions and adaptations in American media. Poet Phoebe Cary — at whose New York City literary gatherings Dodge was a regular guest — wrote a lengthy poem about it called "The Leak in the Dike", published posthumously in 1873, which has been widely anthologized in books of poetry for schoolchildren. Cary also gave the boy a name: Peter.
The tale has also inspired full-fledged children's books of its own, which include:
The Hole in the Dike, by Norma Green (1974)
The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, by Lenny Hort (1987)
(Hans Brinker - legend from a previous event)