Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven

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"Langenhoven" redirects here. For the Namibian rugby player, see Bratley Langenhoven.
South African author C.J. Langenhoven with his wife at the church in Oudtshoorn on the wedding day of their daughter Engela, 1926

Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven (13 August 1873 – 15 July 1932), wrote under the pen name C.J. Langenhoven and was also known as Sagmoedige Neelsie (Gentle Neelsie) or Kerneels. He had a formidable role in South Africa's Afrikaans literature, cultural history and his poetry and was one of the young language's foremost promoters. He is best known to have written the words for the original South African Anthem Die Stem (The Call).

Langenhoven was born at Hoeko, Ladismith, Cape Colony and later moved to Oudtshoorn where he became its most famous resident. In 1897 he married the widow Lenie van Velden. They had one child, a daughter named Engela, who was born in 1901. By 1914 he became a member of parliament (first as member of The House of Assembly, and later as Senator) where he took the struggle to have Afrikaans officially recognised, to the next level. He was also a founder member of the new Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger, and a Freemason.[1][2]

C.J. Langenhoven's most famous work is the original South African Anthem Die Stem, which he wrote in 1918. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, in 1973 the South African Post Office issued a series of stamps (in 4-cent, 5-cent and 15-cent denominations). Current analysts would describe his character as formidable. He is seen as the father of Afrikaans.


C.J. Langenhoven's most famous work is the original South African Anthem Die Stem (i.e., "The Voice / The Call of South Africa") which he wrote in 1918. Parts of this anthem have been worked into the new national anthem since apartheid was abolished.

Aside from this, his writing career spanned almost every genre, from poetry to ghost and alien stories. Langenhoven also translated several works into Afrikaans, amongst these was the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He created new Afrikaans proverbs and even wrote a love poem (albeit in nonsense verse) to his dog.

Langenhoven was instrumental in the movement for the acceptance of Afrikaans as a language, in general and as the first language in schools, instead of Dutch. This culminated in the language officially being used in parliament in 1925, and by 1927 was recognised as an official language of South Africa, together with English.


One of the most versatile writers in Afrikaans, he was a master of the short form of prose and is best remembered for his humorous and satirical works. Langenhoven was well known for his sharp wit and gentle manner. He owned an imaginary elephant named Herrie ("Harry") that appeared in many of his stories. He even carved its name onto a boulder next to the N12 highway near Meiringspoort (outside Oudtshoorn) in 1929. This boulder known as Herrie's Stone ("Herrie se Klip", in Afrikaans), has been declared a provincial heritage site.


  • The Stellenbosch University Student Center is named after him and is affectionately known as "Die Neelsie" ("The Neelsie").
  • South African filmmaker Manie van Rensburg made a light-hearted comedic television series based on Langenhoven's work in 1983, titled Sagmoedige Neelsie.
  • To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the South African Post Office issued C.J. Langenhoven stamps in 1973.
  • Langenhoven is regarded as one of the most prolific and most versatile Afrikaans writers still today, his Collected Works comprising 16 volumes. He is also fondly remembered and referred to for his quirky personality.
  • The place he and his family lived in, called the Arbeidsgenot, (meaning "the pleasure of work" or "the joy of labour") has been turned into a house museum. They lived there from 1901 until 1950.[3]
  • Nelson Mandela recounts that in 1964 while in prison he read a book by Langenhoven called Shadows of Nazareth about the trial of Christ Jesus that deeply affected him. Mandela describes how in Langenhoven's book Pilate agreed to judge Jesus, then offered the public a choice that freed not Jesus but the zealot Barabbas, and then how he, Pilate, finally ordered Jesus brought into the Roman court. "He gazed upwards and his eyes seemed to pierce through the roof and to see right beyond the stars," wrote Langenhoven. "It became clear that in that courtroom authority was not in me as a judge, but was down below in the dock where the prisoner was."[4][5]



External links[edit]

See also the Afrikaans link from which this translation was originally derived