Pier Gerlofs Donia, “Grutte Pier”: Legendary warrior, video game hero, my ancestor?

Pier Gerlofs Donia was a sixteenth century warrior in Friesland, best known as Grutte Pier (Big Pier).

A tower of a fellow as strong as an ox, of dark complexion, broad shouldered, with a long black beard and moustache. A natural rough humorist, who through unfortunate circumstances was recast into an awful brute. Out of personal revenge for the bloody injustice that befell him (in 1515) with the killing of kinsfolk and destruction of his property he became a freedom fighter of legendary standing. (Pier Gerlofs Donia).

Grutte Pier just might be an ancestor. He fought for his home in Friesland, the northern Dutch province where my folks came from. I visited Friesland in 2000. It is a pastoral province, with rolling fields and cows and churches, a lot like Prince Edward Island in Canada. It is natural that Pier began his life as a farmer. His home was destroyed and his family killed by the Black Band, a violent military regiment. Pier led a rebellion. “Leaver Dea as Slaef” (rather dead than slave) (Battle of Warns).  Pier was legendary for his height and strength, wielding a massive long sword that could take down many enemies with a single stroke.

Braveheart. Gladiator. It is time to tell the story of Grutte Pier. Cross of the Dutchman is an upcoming video game by Triangle. Amused by my remote ancestral connection and sharing an interest in warrior sports, I made a small donation to the project. My Friesian name, Miedema, will appear in the end credits.


  1. Brian

    Judging from your physical description of Grutte Pier, John, it can only be assumed that you share the same DNA!!

    • johnmiedema

      Uncanny isn’t it, Brian. Towering height. Well my siblings, brothers sisters are tall. I’m not so tall, but it’s in the family, right? Dark complexion, well I’m fair, prefer to wear a straw hat in the sun. But the black hair! OK, I’m blonde, um, was blonde when I had hair. Other than that, he’s got to be like my great great grandfather.

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