The Pied Piper
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Flute-playing charmer of German folk tales
As described in an old German folktale, the Pied Piper is a mysterious wanderer who agrees to rid the town of Hamelin of a plague of rats. He enchants the rats by playing a magical flute and then leads them into the nearby river Weser, where they drown. But when the city fathers go back on their promise to pay him handsomely for his work, the piper exacts revenge by playing his flute for the town's children and leading them away into a mountain cavern, where they disappear forever. The tale seems to have grown out of a mysterious real-life event: the details have long since been forgotten, but an ancient plaque in the town of Hamelin says that on June 26, 1284, a piper in colorful clothing lured 130 children from the town. Various versions of the folk tale were gathered by the The Brothers Grimm in 1812, and the story was retold by Robert Browning in 1842 in his poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." In modern times, "Pied Piper" has come to mean any charismatic person who attracts an enthusiastic following.
In Germany, the city is known as Hameln and the Pied Piper is known as der Rattenfänger, or the Ratcatcher… “Pied” refers to the piper’s multicolored clothing.
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