“When, lo! as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.”
– Robert Browning
We all know the fairy tales brought to us by the Brothers Grim, Robert Browning, and many others. Telling the tale of a pied piper whisking children out of town because he wasn’t paid for eradicating the town of their rat infestation. Could the tale actually have some truth to it?
The earliest known record of this story is from the town of Hamelin itself, depicted in a stained glass window created for the church of Hamelin, which dates to around 1300 AD. Although it was destroyed in 1660, several written accounts have survived, one states in Latin that “130 children were taken from the town by a piper dressed in many colours.”
The rats weren’t added until the 16th century, probably in relation to the Black Death. Several other theories have been thought up as the real reason to.the children’s disappearance, dancing illness, recruitment by the “Children’s Crusade,” pagan rituals, even immigration.
Today, on the street where the Pied Piper House is supposedly located (and where the children were supposedly last seen), music is banned as a sign of respect. But in the rest of the town, rat items are everywhere. An automated clock tower tells the tale three times a day, there’s a Pied Piper statue, Twice a day, bells chime the Pied Piper melody. Each year on June 26th the city celebrates “Rat Catcher’s Day”.