Things weren’t going well for the fishermen of Ameland: they hadn’t been catching a lot of fish for quite some time. Fisherman IJe Hekkens didn’t give up hope, though. Then, one day, a large shoal of herring swam straight into his nets.
IJe alerted the other fishermen, and a period of plenty followed: from then on the ships returned home fully loaded every day, and the islanders became richer and richer.
Prosperity, however, made the men complacent and haughty. The youths on the island got bored and one day they started hitting the herring with sticks, while the fish were still swimming close to the shore. Then the panic stricken fish swam off.
The next day when the fishermen threw out their nets, they didn’t catch anything. And this didn’t change in the following days: the herring were nowhere to be seen. Gradually the island fell back into poverty. The fishermen occasionally still catch a few herrings. You can still see the welts from the sticks on their backs.
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The folk tale ‘Herring’ is rather a strange story. Why do the reckless youths hit the fish with sticks? But if you think about it, the story is still very relevant. Everything in life is aimed at making a profit, which is often at the cost of natural resources, and when people become too comfortable they get bored and do foolish things.
About the herring: I read that herring never return after their spawning grounds have been fished out, so in the end humans are, in fact, depriving themselves. This is happening on a large scale these days.
About the animation: I’ve tried to keep it small, so that the storyline would stand out more, and I worked intuitively: I started off with the shoals of fish, and the rest followed from there. I enjoy working in this manner, although the outcome is kind of uncertain. I just let it happen.
Arnold Veeman’s beautiful music was added in the same way, and the sound-effects by Matthijs van der Veer really create the sense of being at sea.
It’s wonderful to see how everything comes together, without having been carefully directed. It’s a privilege to be able to work this way.