Friday, October 17, 2008


In "The Day Of The Clown", the latest of 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', Ms. Smith and her young friends had to battle Elijah Spellman aka Odd Bob the Evil Clown, who also claimed that he had once been the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

His account of the legend matches that to be found in Wikipedia, and I quote:

In 1284, while the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation, a man dressed in pied garments appeared, claiming to be a rat-catcher. He promised the townsmen a solution for their problem with the rats. The townsmen in turn promised to pay him for the removal of the rats. The man accepted, and thus played a musical pipe to lure the rats with a song into the Weser River, where all of them drowned. Despite his success, the people reneged on their promise and refused to pay the rat-catcher. The man left the town angrily, but returned some time later, seeking revenge.

On St. John's Day while the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again. Depending on the version, at most two children remained behind (one of whom was lame and could not follow quickly enough, the other one was deaf and followed the other children out of curiosity) who informed the villagers of what had happened when they came out of the church.

Other versions (but not the traditional ones) claim that the Piper lured the children into the river and let them drown like the rats or led the children to a cave on Köppen Hill or Koppelberg Hill outside of Hamelin) or a place called Koppenberg Mountain and returned them after payment or that he returned the children after the villagers paid several times the original amount of gold.

The earliest mention of the story seems to have been on a stained glass window placed in the Church of Hamelin c. 1300. The window was described in several accounts between the 14th century and the 17th century, to have been destroyed in 1660. Based on the surviving descriptions, a modern reconstruction of the window has been created by Hans Dobbertin (historian). It features the colourful figure of the Pied Piper and several figures of children dressed in white.

This window is generally considered to have been created in memory of a tragic historical event for the city. Also, Hamelin town records start with this 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; they are absent from previous accounts.

This watercolor, which was based on a stained glass window from a local church of that time, is the earliest known depiction of the Pied Piper. And it too makes an appearance in Elijah Spellman's Museum of the Circus.
Toby O'B

(Everything floats down here....)

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