The Bizarre Story of The Pied Piper

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Ayla Faullin

We are all familiar with the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Hamelin is a town infested with rats, the townsfolk promising a great reward to anyone who can get rid of them. The pied piper appears, dressed in brightly colored clothing, and plays his magical pipes. All the rats follow him to a river and quickly drown. However, when the piper returns for his reward, the greedy townsfolk refuse to pay him. The piper swears revenge and plays his magical pipe again. This time, all the children follow him to a cave, where they disappear, and none are ever seen again. 

It is a bizarre, straightforward story with a simple moral. Pay the piper or suffer consequences. The pied piper is a dark symbol, representing something that led away from the 130 children of Hamelin long ago. 

According to Brother’s Grimm, who crafted the tale, after the townsfolk refused to pay the piper, he swore his revenge on June 26, 1284. In the actual town of Hamelin, Germany, there is a town chronicle dated June 26, 1384. And it simply and chillingly reads, “It is a hundred years since our children left.” Historians have pondered what this could mean and what the pied piper represents.

There are a variety of theories, but the most commonly believed one is that the pied piper symbolizes death. He is a brightly-clothed Grim Reaper, and those 130 children died, though how and why is unknown. Some believe a landslide killed them, hence the story saying they disappeared into a cave. Another interesting theory is the ‘dancing plague,’ which spread across Europe around that time, causing hallucinations and hysteria, people dancing until they dropped dead. Although the timelines don’t quite add up, some believe it may have been the Black Death, so it seems unlikely.

Some theories portray the pied piper as a recruiter for the Children’s Crusades, in which Hamelin’s children fought and perished. A stained glass window in the town’s Market Church once depicted the colorful piper and ghostly white children following him. 

Whatever the case, historians still ponder over what took place in Hamelin hundreds of years ago, and it perhaps will forever remain a mystery. All we know is real children vanished one day in 1284, and we should never forget to pay the piper, or we may lose more than we ever thought possible.