Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Pied Piper of Hamelin Research...

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the subject of a legend concerning the departure or death of a great many children from the town of Hamelin (Hameln), Germany, in the Middle Ages. The earliest references describe a piper, dressed in pied (multicolored) clothing, leading the children away from the town never to return. In the 16th century the story was expanded into a full narrative, in which the piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizenry refuses to pay for this service, he retaliates by turning his magic on their children, leading them away as he had the rats.

The story may reflect a historical event in which Hamelin lost its children. Theories have been proposed suggesting that the Pied Piper is a symbol of the children's death by plague or catastrophe. Other theories liken him to figures like Nicholas of Cologne, who lured away a great number of children on a disastrous Children's Crusade. A recent theory ties the departure of Hamelin's children to the Ostsiedlung, in which a number of Germans left their homes to colonize Eastern Europe.

A number of theories suggest that children died of some natural causes and that the Piper was a symbolic figure of Death. Death is often portrayed dressed in motley, or "pied" clothing. Analogous themes which are associated with this theory include the Dance of Death, Totentanz or Danse Macabre, a common medieval type. Some of the scenarios that have been suggested as fitting this theory include that the children drowned in the river Weser, were killed in a landslide, or contracted some disease during an epidemic.

Others have suggested that the children left the city to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children's crusade (which is said to have occurred in 1212, not long before) but never returned to their parents. These theories see the unnamed Piper as their leader or a recruiting agent.

William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire proposes that the Pied Piper was a psychopathic pedophile.


  1. Hi Ethan

    I used to live in Hamlin when I was young (Odd I know). I can tell you first hand that the town is pretty obsessed with the Pied Piper myth.

    If you look up Hamlin (Hameln) town check out the clockwork telling of the Pied Piper myth told when the town clock strikes on the hour.

    Also, there is a lots of local folk art based on the myth which could help you define a style. Hamlin is big on things like decorated / sculpted candles, wooden Pied Piper toys, food, as well as making 'bread' versions of the rats.

    When you get back in September I'll give you a full run down on the town.

  2. Oh...the main clock is called "Hochzeitshaus" btw. It means wedding house.