More intriguing is a theory that points to the medieval phenomenon of “dancing mania”, driven by a succession of pandemics and natural disasters. Everyone knows the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who lured 130 children away by playing his pipe, but few people realise that the story is based on real events, which took place on the day of Saints John and Paul on 26 June in the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany in 1284. This piper promised to get rid of the rats in return for a payment, to which the townspeople agreed. However, the mayor r… They were responsible for organising migrations to the east and were said to have worn colourful garments and played an instrument to attract the attention of possible settlers.”. You may also be interested in:• The elusive hidden people of Iceland• Is it time to rewrite fairy tales?• How a German city changed how we read. While some historians believe that the youth emigrated to Transylvania, the German linguist Jürgen Udolph’s theory is most accepted. Desperate for a solution, the town mayor announced a prize of one thousand gold guilders to anyone who could free Hamelin of the rats. Historian Jürgen Udolph believes that many residents from Hamelin wound up in what is now Poland. And the 15th Century Luneburg manuscript, an early German account of the event, along with five historical memory verses, some in Latin and others in Middle Low German, all refer to a similar story of 130 children or young people vanishing on the 26 June 1284, following a pied piper to a place called Calvary or Koppen. An entry in Hamelin’s town records, dating to 1384, laments that, “It is 100 years since our children left.” The stained-glass window in the town’s St Nicolai church, destroyed in the 17th Century but described in earlier accounts, reportedly illustrated the figure of the Pied Piper leading several ghostly white children. A total of one hundred thirty children were lost that day. Folktales of rat-catchers are also abound in Germany. The inscription reads: “A.D. "The Pied Piper of Hamlin", a 16-foot long mural by American painter Maxfield Parrish, at Palace Hotel, San Francisco. The most common theory behind the tale is that the children died of natural causes such as epidemic, and the Piper was just an allegory of death. But the tale is much more than fiction. Barges full of corn and wheat arrived every day which was ground in the mills and made into bread and cakes in the bakeries. No music is played in this street today as a gesture of respect to the town’s lost children. Most pipers lived a vagrant life and were often troublemakers. Known as St Vitus’ Dance, the dancing plague is documented surfacing in continental Europe as early as the 11th Century. A less bloody theory: maybe the children were spirited away to local monasteries. Accounts of the tale began to appear in subsequent centuries, with the story remaining invariably the same. The original tale didn’t include rats. A town facing a rat infestation was visited by a piper, who promised to get rid of the rats in return for money. Photo credit: hydebrink / Shutterstock.com. and. In the 13th century, many Germans were persuaded, by offering rewards, to settle in Moravia, East Prussia, Pomerania or in the Teutonic Land by landowners. This time time it wasn’t rats or mice but the town’s children who came running and dancing towards him. After passing the Calvary near the Koppenberg they disappeared forever.”. The local restaurants plate a “rat tail” signature dish made from thinly sliced pork, and the bakeries do a brisk business in rodent-shaped breads and cakes. What happened to the missing children of Hamelin? The theory is also reinforced by evidence that the region, newly liberated from the Danes, was ripe for German colonisation. In German lore, there is a shape-shifting sprit called Katzenveit who once came to Tripstrille as an exterminator and claimed he cloud drive away the rats. Against the year 1384, the entry simply said, “It is 100 years since our children left.”. The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is well known. In a mid-15th century reference found in the Latin chronicle from the German town of Lunenberg, the piper is described as a handsome and well-dressed man about thirty years of age who entered Hamelin and “began to play all through the town a silver pipe of the most magnificent sort.”. The Pied Piper is a central figure in Hamelin today, although the dark elements to the tale are overlaid with a spirit of fun and merriment. But the theory does not explain why the story is set so firmly in Hamelin. For a long time, the legend of the Pied Piper was mere folktale kept alive by generation after generation of Hamelin residents until the tale started receiving broader audience through the retelling by the Brothers Grimm. However, after the piper succeeded in leading the rats away, the townsfolk failed to pay him. In addition, each year the city marks June 26 as "Rat Catcher's Day". Something so traumatic that it was transmitted orally for so long in the town’s collective memory, over decades and even centuries?”. In another legend, more than a thousand children left the city of Erfrut singing and dancing in the year 1257 and arrived at Arnstadt, where the citizens there took them in. This dark European folktale with unsettling themes of ingratitude and terrible vengeance has been told and retold for generations. Landlords often employed certain characters called “lokators” who roamed northern Germany trying to recruit settlers for this purpose. When the Pied Piper returned to the town square to collect his prize, the mayor laughed and gave him only fifty guilders. View image of Michael Boyer dresses up as the Pied Piper incarnate and leads tours of Hamelin, Germany (Credit: Credit: Mano Kors/Alamy), View image of Hamelin, Germany, still looks as though it belongs in a fairy tale (Credit: Credit: Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images), View image of Entranced by his flute, the transfixed children of Hamelin followed the Piper out of town (Credit: Credit: duncan1890/Getty Images), View image of Bakeries in Hamelin, Germany, sell rat-shaped pastries (Credit: Credit: Chris Howes/Wild Places Photography/Alamy), View image of Some theorise that the Pied Piper led the youth of Hamelin to their midsummer festivities (Credit: Credit: Kate Greenaway/duncan1890/Getty Images), sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter. And although each writer tinkered with the story, the basics remained the same: the Piper was hired by Hamelin to rid the town of its plague of rats. An inscribed plaque on the stone facade of the so-called Pied Piper house, a half-timbered private residence dating to 1602 – similar to an even earlier one etched on the building’s window – bears explicit witness to the mystery. More fanciful theories abound, too. But most people recognise him for what he is, the Pied Piper incarnate, appointed by Hamelin to impersonate its simultaneously favourite (at least commercially) and least favourite adopted son. Only a lame who couldn’t follow quickly enough, a deaf who couldn’t hear and a blind child remained behind.
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