History Of The 'Dutch Wife': Indonesia As The Only Nation That Sleeps With A Bolster
Photo illustration (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

JAKARTA - Did you know that based on literacy, pillows and bolsters as a complement to sleep actually only exist in Indonesia. Its presence that does not exist in other countries makes bolsters a unique item. Because it is so unique, sleeping with a bolster has been an attraction for travelers visiting Indonesia for a long time.

Indonesia's first president, Soekarno, was very proud of the existence of bolsters as one of the national identities. As Cindy Adams wrote in the book Bung Karno: Connect the People's Tongue (1965). He explained Bung Karno's view of glorifying Indonesians as a nation that lives in a feeling of vibrations.

"Indonesian people live with a vibrational feeling. We are the only nation in the world that has a kind of pillow that is used just for embracing. In every Indonesian sleeping place there is a pillow as a hulu and a small pillow called a bolster. This bolster is for us only to be held all night long. "

Not only Bung Karno. Achmad Sunjayadi, in the book Tourism in the Dutch East Indies 1891–1942 (2019) also raised the privilege of bolsters. He said that the English writer William Basil Worsfold, who visited Java in 1892, was very satisfied with the services of hotels in Java.

"In front of each room there is a veranda. The bed has a mosquito net to keep out the mosquitoes at night. On top of the bed is a pillow and bolster called the 'Dutch Wife.' "

The term Dutch Wife

It may be that Indonesians recognize a pillow that can be hugged while sleeping as a bolster pillow. However, during the Dutch colonial era, the pillow bolster was known as the Dutch wife, which etymologically means Dutch wife. The term was pinned not without reason, because there is a history behind the so-called Dutch wife.

Once upon a time, the bolster was a product that came from the habit of celibacy for soldiers and Dutch officials in the Dutch East Indies. The absence of European women is the cause. As a strategy to channel their libido, they tried a variety of ways.

First, for those who have a lot of money, it's easy to bring in a wife or lover from the Netherlands. Second, if the money collected is still small, then taking a native woman as mistress is an option.

Third, for those who have money and are lazy to take concubines, brothels are the right choice. Fourth, when they do not have much money, while libido is not restrained, the cheapest sleeping companions are the Dutch wife or bolster.

Haryoto Kunto & Deddy H. Pakpahan explained that in the Grand Hotel Preanger Century, 1897-1997 (2000), some Dutch people used a bolster to release their longing for a partner in the Netherlands. Then, through the bolster pillow they then fantasize as if this object is the woman they love.

"For Dutch youths and men who live in the archipelago, leaving their lover or wife far away in the Netherlands, they treat their homesickness by quickly going to sleep, fantasizing, while hugging the bolster tightly," he wrote.

The story of the Dutch wife was also presented by Pramoedya Ananta Toer in the book Tetralogy of Buru Island, Traces of Steps (1985). In one story, Pram described a humorous conversation between fellow medical students at the Javanese Medical School, School tot Opleiding van Inlandsche Artsen (STOVIA).

The story begins with a person named Wilam opening a funny conversation regarding the life of landlords in the Dutch East Indies. His fellow students, including Minke, also listened. "Do you know why there is no bolster in the dormitory?"

Wilam's question made the whole dormitory silent listening. He continued his story, "You guys listen carefully I tell you. Bolsters, what you like in that bed will not be found in other countries in the world. At least that's how my mom told me. I don't know the next ten years. "

Furthermore, Wilam explained that the existence of bolsters began when the Dutch and other Europeans came to the Indies without bringing women with them. As a result, they were forced to concubine.

“But the Dutch are known to be very stingy. They want to return to their country as wealthy people. So many also do not want to be concubine. As a substitute for their concubines, they made bolsters who couldn't fart. "

For that, Wilam dared to guarantee that the history of rolling would not exist in Javanese literature or Malay literature. "It is truly Dutch-made, the mistress is not farting. Dutch Wife. "

The rest of Wilam said that the person who first gave the name Dutch wife was the Governor General of the Dutch East Indies Thomas Stamford Raffles (1811-1816). This is proof that when Britain became the ruler of the Indies, the English also liked sleeping with a bolster too.

"When he came to the Indies here, first of all what he asked for was the Dutch wife, the fartless mistress. The Dutch consider the British to be stingy in the world, the most greedy and clumsy, (so that) the Dutch call back the Dutch Wife, British Doll, "wrote Pram.

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