The Pied Piper of Hamelin
A Strange Tale

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has a strange and long lineage dating back to 1284. Hamelin was a little town in north central Germany and only a couple dozen miles from Hanover.

Enter the legend of the Pied Piper. It is well documented that 130-children went missing in 1284, which was 700-years prior to George Orwell's 1984. The legend is based upon the issue of a rat infestation affecting Hamelin. The legend begins with a business deal between the Pied Piper (the word pied means many colored) and the townsfolk.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The Pied Piper promises to rid Hamelin of their plague-like problem with rats for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal is done, and he goes playing an undisclosed song, which rids Hamelin of the rodents. My personal theory is that song was a musical rendition of an early version of Michael Jackson's song, Ben. Regardless of the melody, the piper rids Hamelin of all but one rat by having the rats follow him to the Weser River where they drowned.

However, the people of Hamelin reneged on their promise to pay the Pied Piper. He was more than outraged with being dissed. This time, the Pied Piper plays another undocumented tune, which I believe could have been Marching to Pretoria. The Weavers explain the song's lyrics very well.

Regardless of the tune, all the children disappear from the town. As with the rats, all but three children disappear: a lame, a deaf, and a blind child. The lame child could not follow the piper, the deaf child could not hear the piper, and the blind child could not see piper.

Now, what were the components to the loss of the rats and children? There are dozens of theories and/or themes and variation of the basic legend.

  • Black Death. In Europe, the bubonic plague raged across all of Europe between 1348 and 1350. However, the plague occurred a half century after the children went missing. Additionally, the other issue is that the rats' infestation was not mentioned until the 1500s.

A plague that hit London

  • Pedophilia. Some people write off the legend as just a story of a pedophile. Like many things, once an unsubstantiated humor starts, the mere humor makes it a fact for many.
  • The Children's Crusade. In 1212, Nicholas of Cologne rallied children from France and Germany to go with him on what was called the Children's Crusade. Nicholas wanted to go to the Holy Lands and rid it of Muslims by peacefully converting Muslims to Christianity. While the dating is closer to the 1284, few if any scholars bought the notion that there ever was a Children's Crusade in the first place. Therefore, that means that since the Children's Crusade did not occur, Hamelin would not have lost any children who marched off a half century after the alleged crusade.

The Children's Crusade

  • The devil as the Pied Piper. Jobus Fincelius wrote Concerning the Wonders of his Times in the mid-1600s. It was Fincelius's contention that the Pied Piper was the devil.
  • Morality story. It could simply have been a morality story. Be honest and pay the piper, or else, you will surely pay the piper as a result. In this case, Hamelin paid with the loss of children.
  • Another theory relates to what is called in German, Ostsiedlung, which simply mean the out migration of German nationals who move into Eastern Europe. This Ostsiedlung was caused by all the family inheritances going to the oldest male child. Therefore, many younger males moved into less occupied areas further east into what is now Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus.
  • Another possibility related to Ostsiedlung was the need to repopulate Transylvania, which is part of present-day Romania. In the early 1200s, the Mongol invasion occurred in Central Europe. The two grandsons of Genghis Khan during the Mongol conquest of Transylvania killed many locals. The timeline of the loss of life and immigration fit the timeframe of the Pied Piper.
  • Still others believe that natural disasters like sinkholes, landslides, or flooding resulted in the loss of life in general and in particular children.

Whatever caused the legend of the Pied Piper has not been resolved nearly 750 years after the disappearance of 130 children, which occurred in Hamelin. Nonetheless, the legend remains. According to some who live in Hamelin today, when parades take place and the procession reaches Bungelosenstrasse, which is the street next to the Pied Piper's House, the music must stop until the parade passes the house and the street.

The Pied Piper's House

Additionally, the people of Hamelin still have a festival on June 26, which is called Rat Catcher's Day.

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