Many would have heard the childhood tale of the Pied Piper who freed a town of rats by leading them away with his music and, when he wasn’t paid, he returned and led away the town’s children, who were never seen again. But few realize that this ‘fairy tale’ is actually a disturbing true story that took place over 700 years ago.
The story of the Pied Piper is set in 1284 AD in the town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony, Germany. The earliest known record of this story is from the town of Hamelin itself. It is 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.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Date: 1284. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock
The oldest comes from the Lueneburg manuscript (c 1440 – 50), which stated: “In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul on June 26, by a piper, clothed in many kinds of colours, 130 children born in Hamelin were seduced, and lost at the place of execution near the koppen.” A 1384 entry in Hamelin’s town records also grimly states “It is 100 years since our children left.”
The supposed street where the children were last seen is today called Bungelosenstrasse (‘street without drums’), as no one is allowed to play music or dance there.
The mystery of what really happened to the children of Hamelin has never been solved. The story also raises the question, if the Pied Piper of Hamelin was based on reality, how much truth is there in other fairy tales that we were told as children?
Read the theories behind the children’s disappearance in ‘ The Disturbing True Story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin’
Top image: Pied Piper of Hamelin. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock
By Wu Mingren