Saturday June 26, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
On this Day:
In 1284, according to the Lüneburg manuscript, a piper led 130 children of Hamelin away.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the titular character of a legend from the town of Hamelin (Hameln), Lower Saxony, Germany. The legend dates back to the Middle Ages, the earliest references describing a piper, dressed in multicolored (“pied”) clothing, who was a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizens refuse to pay for this service as promised, he retaliates by using his instrument’s magical power on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. This version of the story spread as folklore and has appeared in the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, and Robert Browning, among others.
There are many contradictory theories about the Pied Piper. Some suggest he was a symbol of hope to the people of Hamelin, which had been attacked by plague; he drove the rats from Hamelin, saving the people from the epidemic.
The earliest known record of this story is from the town of Hamelin itself, depicted in a stained glass window created for the church of Hamelin, which dates to around 1300. Although the church was destroyed in 1660, several written accounts of the tale have survived.
In 1284, while the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation, a piper dressed in multicolored (“pied”) clothing appeared, claiming to be a rat-catcher. He promised the mayor a solution to their problem with the rats. The mayor, in turn, promised to pay him for the removal of the rats (according to some versions of the story, the promised sum was 1,000 guilders). The piper accepted and played his pipe to lure the rats into the Weser River, where they all drowned.
Despite the piper’s success, the mayor reneged on his promise and refused to pay him the full sum (reputedly reduced to a sum of 50 guilders) even going so far as to blame the piper for bringing the rats himself in an extortion attempt. Enraged, the piper stormed out of the town, vowing to return later to take revenge. On Saint John and Paul’s day, while the adults were in church, the piper returned dressed in green like a hunter and playing his pipe. In so doing, he attracted the town’s children. One hundred and thirty children followed him out of town and into a cave and were never seen again. Depending on the version, at most three children remained behind: one was lame and could not follow quickly enough, the second was deaf and therefore could not hear the music, and the last was blind and therefore unable to see where he was going. These three informed the villagers of what had happened when they came out from church.
Other versions relate that the Pied Piper led the children to the top of Koppelberg Hill, where he took them to a beautiful land, or a place called Koppenberg Mountain, or Transylvania, or that he made them walk into the Weser as he did with the rats, and they all drowned. Some versions state that the Piper returned the children after payment, or that he returned the children after the villagers paid several times the original amount of gold.
The Hamelin street named Bungelosenstrasse (“street without drums”) is believed to be the last place that the children were seen. Ever since, music or dancing is not allowed on this street.
The Lüneburg manuscript (c. 1440–50) gives an early German account of the event, rendered in the following form in an inscription on a house known as Rattenfängerhaus (English: “Rat Catcher’s House” or Pied Piper’s House) in Hamelin:
anno 1284 am dage johannis et pauli war der 26. junidorch einen piper mit allerley farve bekledet gewesen cxxx kinder verledet binnen hameln geborento calvarie bi den koppen verloren
(In the year 1284 on the day of [Saints] John and Paul on 26 June 130 children born in Hamelin were misled by a piper clothed in many colours to Calvary near the Koppen, [and] lost)
According to author Fanny Rostek-Lühmann this is the oldest surviving account. Koppen (High German Kuppe, meaning a knoll or domed hill) seems to be a reference to one of several hills surrounding Hamelin. Which of them was intended by the manuscript’s author remains uncertain.
Somewhere between 1559 and 1565, Count Froben Christoph von Zimmern included a version in his Zimmerische Chronik. This appears to be the earliest account which mentions the plague of rats. Von Zimmern dates the event only as “several hundred years ago” (vor etlichen hundert jarn [sic]), so that his version throws no light on the conflict of dates. Another contemporary account is that of Johann Weyer in his De praestigiis daemonum (1563).
Some theories have linked the disappearance of the children to mass psychogenic illness in the form of dancing mania. Dancing mania outbreaks occurred during the 13th century, including one in 1237 in which a large group of children travelled from Erfurt to Arnstadt (about 20 km), jumping and dancing all the way, in marked similarity to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, which originated at around the same time.
Others have suggested that the children left Hamelin to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children’s crusade (which is said to have occurred in 1212) but never returned to their parents. These theories see the unnamed Piper as their leader or a recruiting agent. The townspeople made up this story (instead of recording the facts) to avoid the wrath of the church or the king (per WIkipedia).
First, a Story:
Suddenly, he gazes upon the most beautiful bronze statue of a siamese cat. He asks the store owner how much he wants for the statue. The store owner replies “It’s $100 for the statue and $1000 for the story that goes with it.”
The man replies “I really don’t care about the story, but I do want the statue. As the man is paying for the statue, the shop owner says “All right, but I guarantee you will be back for the story.”
The man walks out of the shop and starts down the street carrying the cat statue. When he comes to the crosswalk, he happens to glance behind him and sees 3 or 4 cats sitting about 10 feet away, looking at him. He shrugs it off and crosses when the light changes. He goes several more blocks and, at another crosswalk, looks behind himself again. This time there are about 30 cats sitting there looking at him. The man starts to get a little nervous and picks up his pace when the light changes. By the time the man reaches the pier at the end of the street, he has now been running for several blocks. He was running because every time he turned around, there were more and more cats behind him. He looked like the pied piper. When he got to the end of the pier, he turned around once more and saw at least 10,000 cats sitting there looking at him. There were so many cats that there was no way to get off the pier without going through them and he knew there was no way he was going to do that. In a panic, he turned toward the water and heaved the statue as far as he could. Amazingly, all of the cats ran right past him and jumped in the water after the statue and drowned.
The man, still shaking from his ordeal, immediately started running back to the shop. As he burst through the door, the shop owner saw him and said “I told you that you would be back for the story.” The man replied “The hell with the story, gimme a statue of a politician!”
Second, a Song:
Crispian St. Peters (born Robin Peter Smith, 5 April 1939 – 8 June 2010) was an English pop singer-songwriter, best known for his work in the 1960s, particularly hit songs written by duo The Changin’ Times, including “The Pied Piper” and Ian & Sylvia’s “You Were on My Mind”.
Robin Peter Smith was born in Swanley, Kent, and attended Swanley Secondary Modern School. He learned the guitar and left school in 1954 to become an assistant cinema projectionist. As a young man, he performed in several relatively unknown bands in England. In 1956, he gave his first live performance, as a member of The Hard Travellers. Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as undertaking National Service, he was a member of The Country Gentlemen, Beat Formula Three, and Peter & The Wolves.
While a member of Beat Formula Three in 1963, he was heard by David Nicholson, an EMI publicist who became his manager. Nicholson suggested he use a stage name, initially “Crispin Blacke” and subsequently Crispian St. Peters, then promoted his client as being nineteen years of age, shaving off five years from his actual age of 24. In 1964, as a member of Peter & The Wolves, St. Peters made his first commercial recording. He was persuaded to turn solo by Nicholson and was signed to Decca Records in 1965. His first two singles on this record label, “No No No” and “At This Moment”, proved unsuccessful on the charts. He made two television UK appearances in February of that year, featuring in the shows Scene at 6.30 and Ready Steady Go!
In 1966, St. Peters’ career finally yielded a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart, with “You Were on My Mind,” a song written and first recorded in 1964 by the Canadian folk duo, Ian & Sylvia, and a hit in the United States for We Five in 1965. St. Peters’ single eventually hit No. 2 in the UK and was then released in the US on the Philadelphia-based Jamie Records label. It did not chart in the US until after his fourth release, “The Pied Piper,” became known as his signature song and a Top 10 hit in the United States and the UK.
Although his next single, a version of Phil Ochs’ song “Changes,” also reached the charts in both the UK and US, it was much less successful. In 1967, St. Peters released his first LP, Follow Me…, which included several of his own songs, as well as the single “Free Spirit”. One of them, “I’ll Give You Love,” was recorded by Marty Kristian in a version produced by St. Peters, and became a big hit in Australia. St. Peters’ album was followed by his first EP, Almost Persuaded, yet by 1970, he was dropped by Decca. “You Were on My Mind” was featured in the 1996 German film Jenseits Der Stille (Beyond Silence).
Later in 1970, he was signed to Square Records. Under this new record deal, St. Peters released a second LP, Simply, that year, predominantly of country and western songs. Later still they released his first cassette, The Gospel Tape, in 1986, and a second cassette, New Tracks on Old Lines in 1990. His third cassette, Night Sessions, Vol. 1 was released in 1993.
Several CDs also came from this record deal, including Follow Me in 1991, The Anthology in 1996, Night Sessions, Vol. 1 in 1998, The Gospel Tape in 1999, and, finally, Songs From The Attic in 2000. He also performed on various Sixties nostalgia tours, and continued to write and arrange for others until his later ill health.
From 1969 to 1974, St. Peters was married to Collette. The marriage produced a daughter, Samantha, and a son, Lee.
On 1 January 1995, at the age of 55, he suffered a stroke. His music career was severely weakened by this, and in 2001 he announced his retirement from the music industry. He was hospitalised several times with pneumonia after 2003.
St. Peters died on 8 June 2010, after a long illness, at the age of 71 (per Wikipedia).
“The Pied Piper” is a pop song written by the duo The Changin’ Times consisting of Steve Duboff and Artie Kornfeld, who first recorded it in 1965, their version reached #87 on the Billboard Hot 100. However when British pop singer Crispian St. Peters recorded it he scored a major hit with the single during the summer of 1966 when it went to #4 in the United States, #5 in the United Kingdom, and #1 in Canada.
The song’s title came from the German folklore fairy tale, whose titular character is The Pied Piper of Hamelin. (per Wikipedia).
Here is Crispian St. Peters performing “The Pied Piper”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“You have to ask these questions: who pays the piper, and what is valuable in this life?” – Robert Plant
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky