The True Story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin

The disturbing true story of the real Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Interested in an article from AncientOrigins com: "When, lo! as they reached the mountain-side, A wondrous portal opened wide, As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed; And the Piper advanced and the children followed, And when all were in to the very last, The door in the mountain-side shut fast." Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child’s Story.

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Many are familiar with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Few realise however, that the story is based on real events, which evolved over the years into a fairy tale made to scare children. For those unfamiliar with the tale, it is set in 1284 in the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany. This town was facing a rat infestation, and a piper, dressed in a coat of many coloured, bright cloth, appeared. This piper promised to get rid of the rats in return for a payment, to which the townspeople agreed too. Although the piper got rid of the rats by leading them away with his music, the people of Hamelin reneged on their promise. The furious piper left, vowing revenge.

On the 26th of July of that same year, the piper returned and led the children away, never to be seen again, just as he did the rats. Nevertheless, one or three children were left behind, depending on which version is being told. One of these children was lame, and could not keep up, another was Deaf and could not hear the music, while the third one was Blind and could not see where he was going. Historians agree that an event did occur in Hamelin, Germany around 1284 that resulted in the total disappearance of children from the town.

What they cannot agree on is, What caused such a mass disappearance to occur? The earliest known record of this story does come from the town of Hamelin itself and was even depicted in a stained glass window created for the church of Hamelin in the memory of the children, which dates to around 1300 AD. Although it was destroyed in 1660, several written accounts have survived. The oldest comes from the Lueneburg, manuscript (c 1440 - 50), which stated: "In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul on June 26, by a piper, clothed in many kinds of colours (that's what 'Pied' means), 130 children born in Hamelin were seduced, and lost at the place of execution near the Koppelberg Hill."

The pied piper story was passed on by word of mouth for centuries, and references to the account are mentioned occasionally in other works.

Walt Disney Silly Symphonies - The Pied Piper (1933) - The people of Hamelin, overrun with rats, offer a bag of gold to anyone who can rid them of their plague. A mysterious piper comes to town, and proceeds to rid them of their rat infestation with his music. When the townsfolk refuse to pay the piper his fee, because "all you did was pipe a tune", he lures all the town's children away to a magical land in the same manner.

However, the tale did not become popular until the Brothers Grimm (Jakob and Wilhelm) included it in their anthology of fairy tales. The disappearance of the children is held to be fact for a variety of reasons. The town's oldest record, dated 1384, states It's 100 years since our children have gone. There is also a long standing law dating back to medieval times that no music is allowed to be played and dancing is prohibited on the street in memory of those children that were.

At first, many historians focused on the rats. Believing the story described Hamelin's battle with the Black Death, also known the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague was one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history, striking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It was spread by rats, which carried fleas and which, in turn, carried the bubonic bacterium. When the rats died, the fleas turned to human hosts and infecting them as well.

Nevertheless, most researchers disregard this theory. This is due to the fact that the element of the rats was not added to the story until the 1500s. Furthermore, the plague did not reach Europe until the mid-1300s.The street where the children were last seen is today called Bungelosenstrasse (the street without drums), as no one is allowed to play music or dance there. The rats added to the story around the middle of the 16th century.

Moreover, the stained glass window and other primary written sources do not speak of any rats. If the children's disappearance was not an act of revenge, then what was its cause? There have been numerous theories trying to explain what happened to the children of Hamelin. For instance, one theory suggests that the Pied Piper was the personification of Death and the children were led out of town and drowned to prevent the adults from catching a plague prior to the Black Death or that the children ran away on their own to start their own colony or village.

The Pied Piper Tale is just a fantastical way of telling a gruesome true story about what was actually a maniacal paedophile who creeped into town at night and lured the children away from safety. This sounds like the most plausible version because if there really were no rats, what reason would some weird guy dancing around playing the flute have to lure kids away from town only for the kids to never be seen again.

SOURCE - Ancient Origins

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