23 September 2009

The Pied Piper was probably not a pedophile

Most people are familiar with the legend of the Pied Piper, but many don't know that it is based on a historical event.
The earliest written record is from the town chronicles in an entry from 1384 which states: "It is 10 years since our children left."

Although research has been conducted for centuries, no explanation for the historical event is agreed upon. In any case, the rats were first added to the story in a version from c. 1559 and are absent from earlier accounts.
Wikipedia has a compilation of theories regarding what really happened:
William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire suggests that the Pied Piper was a psychopathic paedophile

A number of theories suggest that children died of some natural causes and that the Piper was a symbolic figure of Death....

Others have suggested that the children left the city to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children's crusade…

The theory with the broadest support is that the children willingly abandoned their parents and Hamelin in order to become the founders of their own villages during the colonization of Eastern Europe… Added speculation on the migration is based on the idea that by the 13th century the area had too many people resulting in the oldest son owning all the land and power, leaving the rest as serfs…

It has also been suggested that one reason the emigration of the children was never documented was that the children were sold to a recruiter… selling off illegitimate children, orphans or other children the town could not support is the more likely explanation…offering rich rewards to those who were willing to move to the new lands. Thousands of young adults from Lower Saxony and Westphalia headed east.

A World Lit Only By Fire is an outstanding book, but the other theories about the piper seem more logical. More at the link.

The image is the oldest picture of the Pied Piper, copied from the glass window of the Market Church in Hamelin Germany (c.1300-1633), via Uncertain Times.

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