Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Lost Children of Hamelin

It is 100 years since our children left.
        - 1st entry in the Public Records of the city of Hamelin (1384)

The Pied Piper, Stained Glass Window, located at Baylor University

Located along the banks of Germany’s, Weser River, the city of Hamelin was originally founded sometime in the middle of the 9th century as a monastery where cloistered monks farmed, made beer and contemplated the eternal face of God.

Goethe & Wolf, Der Rattenfanger

Over the centuries a settlement grew around the friars, and Hamelin emerged as an active trading point along the river expanding by the 12th century into a successful medieval town. Even now, the pretty Saxony city stands proudly along both banks of the deep, winding river. A short distance east of Hamelin, the remains of the Coppenbrugge forest covers a few small acres, giving only a sense of the huge expanses of trees that once blanketed the area, dark and hot, a place of hidden groves and long forgotten secrets.

Medieval print featuring the Piper

Yet, Hamelin’s secret is not forgotten, can’t be forgotten, that terrible truth of 1284 which moved to legend, then fairy tale myth, the children went away.

Kate Greenaway - The Pied Piper

The rats weren’t there.

An amended horror they first appear in 1559.

But he is.

Right from the start.

He is there.

Another beautiful Kate Greenaway drawing of the Pied Piper of Hamelin

Smashed almost 400 years ago the piece of stained glass produced some 50 years after the event is where our modern world first sees him. The bright man playing his happy tune and the children, all dressed in white walking behind, dancing, laughing, following.

In a prayer book from 1384 the Pipers story is first written down, translated his story reads

In the year 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul
On 26 June
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colors
And lost at the place of execution near the koppen.

What happened to the children isn’t known.

If they died or were killed, if they were taken away or if Browning was right and they went on to be the founders of Transylvania, we will never know.

We only know they were gone.

Who was the Piper?

Religious leader, magician, monster, again we will never know.

Perhaps the Piper is a member of what Alan Moore describes as "The Blazing World", that dark place between fact and fiction where magic might be real, and the mundane fades into the shadow of fantasy? The reality of what happened to the children of Hamelin and who or even what the Piper was, has been so supplanted by the myth that the legend is now the truth.

Somewhere in the limbo of time, the lost children of Hamelin walk in the mist, following along on their eternal dance to the Pipers tune, never to be found.

1 comment:

  1. Neil Gaiman used parts of the Pied Piper legend in his Children's Crusade storyline in Vertigo Comics. I remembered it as coming out just a couple years ago but it's almost 20.