I’m willing to bet we are all aware of the fable attributed by The Brothers Grimm about the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The story goes something like this: The German town of Hamelin had a rat problem, a very serious infestation. Of course the townspeople wanted these rats gone as quickly as possible, but they weren’t too sure as to how to deal with the issue; it didn’t seem anything they had tried had worked. Word spread that the town was searching for a solution, and that they were willing to pay; into the town walked a strange man who wore multi-colored (Pied) clothing. He promised the mayor to absolutely rid the city of their rat problem, for a fee. The Mayor eagerly agreed to the stranger’s large sum of gold, but he didn’t believe that the man could actually pull off such a ridiculously difficult job. The story says that the Pied Piper simply picked up his flute, and he lead all the rats out of town. The rat problem had been solved, but an even bigger issue was on the horizon.
When the mayor saw how effortlessly this stranger had rid his town of all the rats, he immediately regretted that he’d agreed to such a steep sum; the mayor simply refused to pay. The Piper then went to the townspeople, he pleaded with them to force the Mayor to make good on their deal. The payment would’ve come from the townspeople’s tax money, and it was far more money than they believed he deserved for playing his instrument. The Piper would only be given a small portion of what he was owed, and it was demanded that he leave the town of Hamelin at once; on his way out, the Piper swore that he would be back to exact his revenge upon them all. On June 26th of 1284, the man did just that; he returned and again walked through the town while he played his pipe. This time the man’s tune didn’t target the rodents, but nearly all of the town’s children; 130 of them followed the music out through the town’s east gate and up to the nearby mountain. These children were never heard from again.
Now you already knew that story, I’ve merely refreshed your memory, but you also know that I’m not in the business of recounting fairy tales. Did you know that there’s truth to the tale? The town of Hamelin, Germany is a very real place, and back in 1284 it was recorded that 130 of the towns children truly had gone missing. The earliest stories do not involved any rats, they were added on later, but what they do include is the Pied Piper. There was a stained glass window in the town’s Church which was sadly destroyed in 1660, I will include a painting of this window. The window showed a tragedy involving the town’s children, and it had to do with the piper. It was dated 1384 and stated, “In the year 1284, on the day of John and Paul, it was the 26th of June, came a colourful Piper to Hamelin and led 130 children away.”. Another piece of evidence: In the 1500’s a new gate was built in the wall around the town. It was inscribed with this, “In the year 1556, 272 years after the magician led 130 children out of the town, this portal was erected.”.
Chilling, right? So we know something happened, but the details are not very specific; we are left with a whole lot of questions. Had there been an actual killer in the town who had actually targeted the children? Or maybe illness was to blame, the plague would make an easy scapegoat. This could explain why the rats were later added to the story, but many have a significant problem with this theory: the Black Plague isn’t believed to have been a serious issue in this area until decades later, in the 1300’s.
Today the town of Hamelin has approximately 56,000 inhabitants, and the townspeople have incorpirated into their culture. They reinact plays of the Pied Piper, and it is still forbidden to play music or dance on the street in which the children had been lead out of town on. Though we will never have any direct answers, many believe that the Piper to have been a pedophile.
All of that having been said, it must be mentioned that Hamelin wasn’t the only German town to have a story such as this! If you take a look back through history you will see other cases in which masses of children had been lead away from home. In one case alone it’s said that more than a thousand children were taken, and many of the stories involved a man playing a musical instrument! It’s thought that these missing young people had been sent off to colonize areas such as Transylvania.