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"The Pied Piper of Hamelin" – mysterious and legendary

An unsettling event occurred in 1284, where the River Weser winds through pleasant hills and charming fairytales dot the river's banks like a string of pearls. A tale of deceit and revenge, with an almost unbearable culmination. No happy ending, no warm feeling when the final lines of the traditional story have been read – all you are left with is the "inexplicable" legacy of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.


The tragedy of this centuries-old story is not the plague of rats, but the disappearance without trace of 130 children. The victims were innocent and naive children, enticed away by a rat catcher. And at the heart of it all lies the Pied Piper, who in the beginning was only doing his job. He was supposed to rid Hamelin of the furry pests that crept out of every nook, cranny and alley; the disgusting rodents who boldly jumped onto tables and benches in broad daylight. And Bunting, or so he was allegedly called because of his colourful array, immediately took out his flute and the rats meekly followed its seductive playing. They are supposed to have drowned at the place where pleasure cruisers now call in at Hamelin. Squeaking and gurgling, they are supposed to have disappeared in droves in the waters of the Weser, never to be seen again.


The town's fathers themselves caused the story to acquire such a mysterious ending, with their miserliness and greed. Unsuspecting Hamelin refused to pay the piper his due and even drove him from the town. Deprived of justice, the Pied Piper returned to Hamelin on 26th June 1284 and reaped bitter revenge by robbing the town of its future – its children. He enticed girls and boys away from Hamelin with his entrancing flute playing. Lead astray by the sweet tones of his flute, they accompanied him unafraid through fields and woods, into the mountains, where they vanished into a hillside near Hamelin and were never seen again. Two children allegedly could not keep pace and returned to the town, but one was blind and the other dumb, so although the blind child could explain where the musician had taken them he could not point it out; and the mute had seen the place, but could only hint at what he had seen.


No-one knows whether this is what really happened, or whether it just originated from the pen of an inventive scribbler, or in the mouths of gossiping citizens. What lingers is the magic that has always surrounded Hamelin. The ancient legend makes Hamelin unique on Germany's Fairytale Trail, because the story of the Pied Piper isn't a nice, happy fairytale, but a dark story of lies and revenge, with no happy ending.


This mystery has made the town famous throughout the world. The Pied Piper is known as far afield as America and Asia. It's 725 years since the musician took up his flute, played, and the children left town. The legend of the Pied Piper has been inextricably entwined with attempts to explain and shed light on it for nearly as many years. Even experts are unable to say why the children went, and whence. Was it just a migration by Hamelin's youth, did the plague play a part, or was it even a children's crusade? It's up to you which version you believe. So far the children's tracks have remained lost in the mists of time.

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