This is the true story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Hamelin is a German milling town.
The story has a lot to do with a great plague which spread to Europe from China during the medieval era, as it does with the mysterious man who became known as the Pied Piper.
There were several specific strands of the plague but the Bubonic and Pneunomic became the most deadly and known as the black death.
The plague was believed by the people to be Gods punishment for wrongdoing and sin.
People believed in superstitions, folklore and occult which was contrary to the indoctrination of the catholic church.
One such occult was witchcraft and a witch was associated with a cat, a black cat in particular.
The Catholic Church saw the cat as the symbol of evil and ordered the killing of all cats in an effort to eradicate improper religious thinking and to stamp out witchcraft.
The plague was spread by fleas that lived on rats. The fleas also lived on humans.
The ignorance of the Catholic Church led to a drastic reduction in the cat population and a bipolar increase in the rat population which directly led to the spread of the plague to humans.
Once the plague had mutated, many millions of humans died in Europe, not necessarily because of the flea-infected rats but from air-borne bacteria spread by coughs of other infected individuals.
The symptoms of the plague were usually lumps under the skin, fever, coughing and vomiting of blood.
Hamelin was just one of the many medieval towns and cities across Europe which were affected by the plague.
The infection of the population of Hamelin by the plague forms the background to the story of the Pied Piper.
The Black Death clearly had social consequences to citizens of every European town and city during the medieval era.
What happened in Hamelin is not necessarily a unique one-off event but an event which was replicated across the continent.
The Pied Piper was an opportunist who took advantage of peoples desparation and need to be rid of the plague.
His sense of opportunity was for two areas of work. The first was to address the problem of the rat infestation inside the town. The second was to relocate children and other young people away from the place of extreme poverty to a new land of safety and security.
The Pied Piper was the ultimate ‘rat catcher’ who blew his pipe and all the rats of the town drowned in the town river. There is no evidence to suggest that the the playing of music from a pipe would entrance a rat, infected or otherwise, in being led to his death.
The Pied Piper was paid a thousand gilders for the job by the town Mayor and became a local celebrity.
This was not, however, the end of the story.
The plague had mutated and people were still dying from it in Hamelin town.
His second task was to return and escort the children to a ‘promised land’ where they could be free of disease, starvation and poverty.
All but three of the children, according to folklore, made that migration. One child was lame, another was deaf and a third was blind, so they remained in Hamelin.
Many stories have developed since that the Pied Piper was a paedophile abductor, that the children died of the plague, that they were led away to a nearby mountain or cave, never to return to the town.
The probable reality is that the children left the town of their own accord with parental permission and that the pied piper was recruited as an agent to seek out such children for a better life in a faraway land not infected by the plague.
It is also probable that he only took children who were not already infected by the plague and who were fit enough to make the journey.
The romanticised version of the ‘Pied Piper Story’ seems based on actual events and has been adjusted over time to suit the voice of the story teller.
One thing is however for sure. The superstition of the black cat lives on even if it is no longer connected to witches or the Black Death.
Supposedly, if a black cat crosses your path or if you even see a black cat, it is a sign of bad luck and you might be the victim of a curse.
Today, the folklore of ‘the Pied Piper’ has formed the basis for the town of Hamelin becoming a tourist attraction but still nobody is allowed to make music on the one street in the town along which the children were escorted for fear that history might be repeated.
According to folklore anyway.