Study Guide

Uncle Henrik in Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry

Uncle Henrik

Time for a Shmoop vocab lesson. Henrik is what we in the dictionary-at-our-fingertips world like to call sanguine. Say it with us: sang-gwin. Basically, this means sturdily cheerful. Sounds like Henrik, right?

This guy is sure that things are going to work out in the end. He's the one who reassures Annemarie that she won't always be separated from her best friend: "'Someday you will find her again. Someday the war will end,' Uncle Henrik said. 'All wars do'" (16.54). And you know what? World War II does end. And while Ellen hasn't come home yet by the end of the book, we just have to trust—like Henrik does—that she will.

Doing Good

How is this guy so stinkin' cheery in the face of a war? It's not like life has been easy on Henrik. In fact, he risks his life every day to help people he doesn't even know. Every time he smuggles people across the sea from Denmark to Sweden, he puts himself in terrible danger. If the Nazi soldiers were to stop his boat and discover his cargo, the people he's hiding would quite possibly be dead—but so would he. Oh well, he thinks. The sea to Sweden is the best way out of Denmark. Henrik's got a boat. And that's that.

To learn more about what it meant to be a Resistance fighter, check out Peter's "Character Analysis"—we've got all the deets for you there.

Truth Be Told

As with all the characters, Henrik helps us better understand Annemarie. He is the one to teach her that "'it is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything. And so your mama does not know everything. Neither do I. We know only what we need to know'" (9.15-16). Annemarie is definitely set in her ways, but she is able to take Henrik's words and apply them to her situation. This is one mature little lady.

So how would the story be different if, instead of sanguine Henrik, Annemarie's uncle was harsh and pessimistic? How would Annemarie's experience with the war have been different? What lessons would she have missed out on?