The Pied Piper of Hameln (Hamelin)

The pied Piper of Hamelin is an almost universally known fairy tale. But there is some evidence that while the fairy tale isn’t true, that there may have been someone who did in fact take the children away.

In the very real town of Hamelin, Germany, that evidence can be found out in the open, even today. A stone memorial at what is known as the ‘Piper’s House’ dates back to 1602 and reads: “A.D. 1284 on the 26th of June, the day of St. John and St. Paul, 130 children born in Hamelin were led out of town by a piper wearing multicolored clothes. After passing the Calvary near the Koppenberg they disappeared forever.” The Koppenberg is a hill in Belgium, and also a mountain peak in South Eastern Germany. It could also simply be referring to ‘the hills’ all of which further complicates things. Then there is an entry into Hamelin’s records in 1384 which reads: “It is 100 years since our children left.”

There are also several manuscripts still existing in Latin and Low-Middle German which relate the story of 130 children who all vanished on the 26th of June, 1284, and that they were all following a piper in multi colored clothes.

We will never know the end of this story, as the clues hereafter are mostly supposition. It may have been due to a number of things, some of which include:

  • Children removed for a better life in the east
  • Children recruited for military use
  • Removed to keep safe from the plague or other spreading illness
  • Dance mania
  • Pagan celebration of midsummer.
  • Then the most likely: relocated to new German lands in the east.

The Dance mania may sound odd to some of you, but it has been a very real occurrence from time to time. Dance Mania, also known as St. Vitus’ dance, is a type of mass hysteria that afflicted people to the point of utter exhaustion, and sometimes even death. But in reality, the dance craze affects adults as well as children, and afflicted people don’t just disappear, especially en-mass. Having them dance away to some unknown fate would likely have been so odd an occurrence that there would have been some reference to the dancing.

The most likely occurrence is that the children were relocated to the east to what would have hopefully been a better life, or at least better opportunities for them than they may have had in Hamelin with a colorfully dressed piper leading them along the way. Whatever really happened, it was such a unique occurrence that a story of their disappearance has lived on in to this day.

Dieser gutschein wird von unserer Kammereikasse eingelost er verliert seine gultigkeit eine monat nach mufkungdigung in den hamelner ortsblatterns - This voucher is redeemed by our chamber fund and loses its validity one month after it has been announced in the Hamelin local newspapers
Anno 1284 am dage johannis et pauli war der 26. juni dorch einen piper mit allerley farve bekledet / gewesen cxxx kinder verledet binnen hameln geboren to calvarie bi den koppen verloren - In 1284, on the date of [the saints ] John and Paul, June 26th was covered in all sorts of colors / 130 children born in Hamelin were misled by a piper clothed in many colours to Calvary near the Koppen, [and] lost their heads. - The word ‘Koppen’ meaning a knoll or domed hill, which may refer to the several hills surrounding Hameln.
Below is a set of Pied Piper Notgeld from Hameln.

The front of each note is identical, and so is shown only once.

Dieser Gutschein Wird Von Unserer Kammerei Kasse Eingelotst Er Verliert Seine Gutligkeit Einen Monat Nach ANkundigung In Den Hamelner Ortisblattern – This voucher will be issued by our chamber cash register. It will lose its validity one month after it is announced in the Hamelner Ortisblatter
Zu hemeln war einst grosse not viel ratzen gabs und wenig brot die frassen alles kurz und klein das macht den burgern grosse pein. – There was once a great need in Hamelin, there was a lot of rats and little bread, they ate everything short and small, which caused great pain for the burgers.
Zussammen komt weisse rat und sucht nach hilfe fruh und spat ein fremdling bietet rettung an soll dafur gold und silber han. – Together the white council comes and looks for help, early and late, a stranger offers rescue and in return gold and silver are given.
Da Fand sich ein der wundermann mit bun ten kleidern angetan pfiff ratz und maus zusamm ohn zahl er sauft sie in der weser all. – Then one of the miracle men found himself dressed in colorful clothes, rat and mouse whistled together without number and he drank them all in the Weser.
Der rat will ihm dafur nicht geben was ihm ward zugesagt soeben sie meinten das ging gar zu leicht und war wohl gar ein teufulsstreich. – The council doesn't want to give him what was promised to him in return; they said it was too easy and was probably a devilish prank.
Da tat der fremde grimmen eid ich bring euch grosses herzeleid irh habt gebrochen euer wort jetzt fuhr ich euer liebstes fort. – Then the stranger swore a grim oath that I would bring you great heartbreak. You have broken your word. Now I will continue your love.
Er kam und pfiff zusamm geschwind wohl auf einhundert schone kind verloren sind sie an dem tag zu ihr er eltern weh und klag. – He came and whistled together quickly, probably for a hundred beautiful children, they were lost that day to them, their parents mourned and complained.

Here below is a set from Hameln in 1922 featuring the Pied Piper’s tale in a six note set. The front is identical to all notes.

Notice the rats and the vegetables on the inner boarder
Der rattenfanger von Hameln   - The Ratcatcher (Pied Piper) of Hameln Die rattenplage  - the Plague of rats
Rattenfanger beiter dem Magi strat seine hilfe - Pied Piper lends his help to the magistrate
Auszug mit den ratten aus Hameln - Exodus with the rats from Hamelin
Der Rattenfanger fordert seinen Lohn Vom Magistrat - The Pied Piper demands his wages from the magistrate
Rattenfanger entfuhrt Die Kinder - Pied Piper kidnaps the children
Fluch der Rattenfangers - Curse of the Pied Pipers

Perhaps the best we can derive from this old story is that we must keep our promises – to be honest and fair – or suffer the consequences of our greed.