When the Devil Walks the Earth he Wears a Coat of Many Colors, part III

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Damon Robertson

Damon is a former Marine and currently works in a major metropolitan fire department. He and his wife and their three children reside in California.

A Series Examining the Legend of the Pied Piper

Catch up and read the first articles, here:

  1. Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III: Currently Viewing

Everybody has heard the Legend of the Pied Piper: an itinerant rat-catcher is jilted by the townsfolk of Hamelin and enacts his revenge by stealing away their children. In the first part of this series we explored the legitimate historical basis for this tale and its dark spiritual overtones. In the second part we examined, and cross-examined, the theories embraced by mainstream historians in the mid to late 20th century.

Now we come full circle to re-examine the origins of the legend with an interpretation that best explains the earliest historical sources and can also account for the facts that have come to light in the past 70 years. The Pied Piper legend and veridical history may not be mutually exclusive after all. The earliest surviving written account comes in the form of an inscription on the Rattenfängerhaus in Hamelin:

In the year 1284 on the day of John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 children born in Hamelin were led away by a piper dressed in many coloured clothes to Calvary close to the Koppen and were there lost.

I. Find the Koppen and you find the Scene of the Crime

This topographical map shows the area known today as the Ithberg, historically known as the Koppanberg in official county land deeds as early as 1013 AD.

The hill referred to in the Rattenfängerhaus inscription is some 9 miles east of Hamelin and just south of the village of Coppenbrügge, rising to a peak of 439 meters. Two scholars, working independently of one another and decades apart, can be credited with cementing it’s location within the framework of the current scholarly conversation. This qualification regarding the body of scholarly work surrounding the disappearance of 130 Hameler children is important: local gossip in Coppenbrügge has always indicated this Koppen as the locus delicti in the Pied Piper legend. No need to chase off to Poland or elsewhere. While local tradition by itself isn’t acceptable as definitive proof, it certainly counts for something. In this case it counts for a great deal. It points us in the right direction.

Waltraut Wöller “presented a dissertation in 1957 in which she cited Coppenbrügge as an integral part of her interpretation of the legend of the Pied Piper” (Scutts, 28).Wöller took a common sense approach to the legend, inquiring whether “such a place name was to be found immediately east of Hamelin,” (28) i.e. a location conforming to the specifications in Mörsperg’s watercolor and nearly all other written sources. She even interviewed the mayor of Coppenbrügge at the time, “Herr Beckman, who dispatched her up to the so-called Teufelsküche”(28), which some locals regard as the location the piper led the Hamelers to. Unfortunately, Beckman also supplied her with some “faulty etymological data that were later scrutinized and rejected, so [her entire] inquiry fizzled out” (28).

Teufelsküche means “devil’s kitchen.” It is a known location on the Ithberg walking trail near the summit.

When Gernot Hüsam took over as director of the Coppenbrügge museum, which is housed in the old Spiegelberg castle, he was aware of the work of Wöller and others.

It was only when I discovered that [the museum] had long been in the possession [of] an official deed from the year 1013 referring to the Koppanberg that it dawned on me that there was more to [Wöller’s] theory than had previously been supposed (28).

II. Etymological Origins of the name Koppen

Koppen may mean head, or is perhaps derived from cupa as in “a cup or grail, itself possibly alluding to the Teufelsküche and it’s scooped-out formation” (Scutts, 25-6).

The stone formations known as Adam and Eve.

If head is the origin of the name, it could be in reference to two megalithic carvings known today as Adam and Eve. These are estimated to have been a significant destination for pre-christian pilgrims for as many as 8,000 years (24). There is ample evidence to suggest that the Koppen never passed out of use as a site of worship and has been in continual use to this day. More on this below in section IV.

If cup is the intended referent, then we look to the Teufelsküche as the source for Koppen. According to tradition it is the locus delicti where 130 Hameler youths met their end:

The Teufelsküche.

…near [the] summit of the Ithberg is a level basin-like structure scooped out of the rocks and full of boulders strewn around as though shaken by the De’el himself. This was reportedly the site of human sacrifices or at least occult events in the past, some of them even after the introduction of Christianity (24-5).

The Teufelsküche, the Devil’s Kitchen, on the Koppen 9 miles east of Hamelin seems like the missing puzzle piece that has been right in front of us on the table all along. With it, we can reconstruct a coherent narrative that is faithful to the earliest written and oral sources.

III. The Mörsperg Watercolor Represents the Most Detailed and Coherent Narrative we Have

We return to the watercolor painted by Augustin von Mörsperg of Alsace, dating from 1592. It is clear that Mörsperg did his research. Like a good film or novel, there is no detail of his painting that can be considered accidental. As the earliest surviving pictorial representation of the Pied Piper it is an allegorical painting in the medieval style and it bears considerable analysis.

First, the Sinister

The figure of the piper towers over the rest of the painting on the left, or in accordance to the word’s heraldic usage, the sinister side. The double meaning, of also being underhanded and malicious, is intentional. He is the unmistakable villain in the painting; “…read dangerous, evil and seductive,” Hüsam tells us (33).1

The Piper’s size is directly proportional to his power.  Contrast this with Petrifischer, a portrayal of Peter the apostle, as a comparatively insignificant presence casting a single line into the river Weser, seen in the lower right hand corner. “The right still means in German the right and the good” (33). The message is clear: evil gets the upper hand.

The Piper could be a Knight Tournament Regalia

This figurine depicts a German Landsknecht, a mercenary, coincidentally wearing the same colors as the Piper in the Mörsperg painting. While from a later era, his garb is still indicative of the flashy style knights would have worn to tournaments. The color scheme would have been determined by his heraldry and made him easily identifiable at a distance. Variations of this fashion hangover lasted for centuries.
Dobbertin posits this kind of chest armor for the Piper. Note the frills on the Piper’s neck in the Mörsperg painting: they may represent a linen undershirt with a fancy collar.
Is this a breast plate? Taken with the flashy coat, this detail suggests a knight in some form of his tournament colors.

Hans Dobbertin, in his brief but fact-filled Source Statements for the Rat Catcher Legend, offers an analysis of the Piper’s clothing. He wears a robe with “red-white-blue-yellow stripe[s]” and underneath, what appears to be a breast plate (Dobbertin, 7).2

Three Stags Represent the Spiegelberg Brothers

Dobbertin and others are correct in calling out the center of the painting as not being simply a depiction of stags in their natural environment. Next to the piper, who could be considered to be in bright tournament clothing, there are three stags and a stork next to the city walls. Dobbertin tells us this is a direct sight match to a glass picture of Hamelin’s Market Church where can be found “three roses, three deer, a crane” and a heraldic castle city gate (7).2

Julian Scutts sums it up best and his words are worth repeating here:

In the middle, the focus of the picture, we see three stags, and as such, the visual representations of the three stags composing the coat of arms of the hereditary counts von Spiegelberg in Coppenbrügge. The three brothers, Nikolaus von Spiegelberg, Moritz and Herman (the young stag without fullgrown [sic] antlers) (Scutts,13).3

The evolving arms of the Spiegelberg counts (1281-94 AD). Note the detail of the vines or tree branches around the stag which Mörsperg took care to simulate in his depiction of the woods surrounding the beasts.

To Lure and Butcher Rats

The Piper appears in two other sections of the painting, on the river luring rats into a boat and leading the procession of children out of Hamelin up to the Teufelsküche. First we will consider the rat extermination sequence on the Weser river.

An unfortunate bit of context can be seen in the historical usage of the words ratten und mäuse, in English rats and mice, and in the broader context ungeziefer to refer to all vermin including insects. These terms have long been used as pejoratives to describe undesirables, the poor and dispossessed, and were in usage in late 13th century Germany:

[In] Hameln [and elsewhere], rats and mice are meant to be unpleasant people, namely hungry peasants and Rhine sailors… pagan Prussians and … German emigrants of the Eastern colonization (Dobbertin, 14).2

The Piper clearly plays a flute to lure rodents out on the river to his boat where an assistant kills them.

The Mörsperg watercolor shows a flood of rats exiting the city and plunging en masse into the river and swimming toward the Piper’s boat. To suggest that this represents all of the rats in Hamelin, or nearly all of them, is not an exaggeration as they seem too numerous to count. But to modern readers it seems a bit far-fetched to insist that there’s a tune that can be played on a shawm, the type of flute depicted in the watercolor, that attracts rodents on this scale. This lends itself to the assumption that some sort of magic might be credited for the event and casts a layer of doubt over the entire enterprise of catching rats in the manner shown. Surely this must be an embellishment, a wives’ tale, the stuff of Brothers Grimm. The Disney animated adaption comes to mind with its annoying flute riffs.

Well. Rumor has it that the Coppenbrügge museum has a rat catcher’s flute in its possession. This flute could reputedly be played in such a manner as to imitate the sound of mating rats and thereby attract other rats. Alas, no picture or mention of the flute is on the museum’s web site. I’ve tried to reach out to the museum and obtain a picture but none of my correspondence has succeeded.

Using sounds to lure rats isn’t as far fetched as modern readers may think. Before you consign this article to the rubbish bin beside Ancient Aliens, or worse, consider that scientists and inventors have more or less always been in the business of developing a better rodent trap. The problem is, and always has been, that rats are intelligent, agile problem solvers. They’re also neophobic “and thus do not readily enter trap boxes” without additional incentives to override their instinct of self-preservation, traditionally a favorite food laced with poison.The problem is you’re not just attracting rats, and traps filled with tasty poison are dangerous to humans and other animals you don’t want eradicated.

In an attempt to craft the ultimate rat trap, and one that only kills rats, scientists at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., have “developed a rat trap that combines synthetic sex pheromones, food scents and baby rat sounds to lure rodents to their deaths.”5 They recorded “vocalizations from three‐day‐old pups after removal from their natal nest with both sonic and ultrasonic microphones,” revealing “frequency components in the sonic range (1.8–7.5 kHz) and ultrasonic range.”5 If you’ve ever had a hearing test you’ve heard these pitches.

As stated in the abstract submitted to the Pest Management Society,

In a field experiment, a battery‐powered electronic device fitted with a piezoelectric transducer and driven by an algorithm that randomly generated sound cues resembling those recorded from rat pups and varying in fundamental frequency (19–23 kHz), duration (20–300 ms) and intermittent silence (300–5000 ms) significantly enhanced captures of rats in trap boxes baited with a food lure and soiled bedding material of adult female rats.4

This stands as proof of concept for the idea that a rat catcher could learn to produce certain sounds to attract rodents. Whether one could do it with the shawm depicted in Mörsperg’s watercolor is anyone’s guess; it appears to be either an alto or soprano. Having played the alto saxophone for many years myself I can attest that almost any number of sounds can be produced with changes to embouchure and the amount of air forced through a wind instrument. Neither should we prima facie dismiss the inventiveness and ingenuity of medieval rat catchers and what they could have achieved with diligent practice of their craft.

So why bring this up at all? Does it matter in the greater scope of our inquiry whether or not rat catchers could lure their prey with a flute? Insofar as the veracity of individual details in the watercolor are concerned it matters a great deal. It demonstrates that Mörsperg knew what he was talking about, or at the very least his sources certainly did. If skeptics can’t dismiss one portion of the painting as a fancy fit only for Disney it makes it harder to dismiss other details that are far less convenient or comfortable to accept.

Dobbertin and his Lokator

The Piper leads his procession to the Koppen and a ravine or cleft in the rock that is most likely the Teufelsküche.

The third and final place Mörsperg depicts the piper is leading the fated procession of children from Hamelin off toward the Koppen and Teufelsküche.

Before we gaze for a considerable time into the abyss let me pause a moment to say how thankful I am for the work of Hans Dobbertin and Wolfgag Wann.  Without their treatment of the sources of the Pied Piper legend much of the modern conversation simply would not exist. Dobbertin’s emigration theory is the most widely accepted to date, it is impossible to address this legend without referring to him, and it is the direct result of his painstaking research. Julian Scutts, Gernot Hüsam, Norbert Truckenbrodt and others have all referenced his work in the creation of their theories. Despite being at odds with his interpretation of the Mörsperg  painting and the legend as a whole, I am thankful that he and other scholars kept the story alive and substantiated it with exhaustive historical research.

Readers of the previous articles will remember that Dobbertin posits that the Pied Piper acted like a kind of recruiter, a lokator, and was taking the Hamelers off to Kopahn in modern day Poland. The Spiegelberg family had interests in both regions. The theory is also plausible given the historical context of the Ostsiedlung, “in English called the German eastward expansion,” in which new towns and settlements were created in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.6 These historical details make for a coherent framework for the emigration theory.

A lokator drafts volunteers in front of a church (lower half) and directs the clearing of land and building projects (upper half) as depicted in the Sachsenspiegel.6

The problem remains that this isn’t the story Hamelers have always told us and it isn’t what Mörsperg shows us, either. Also, given that Ostsiedlung was a fairly common occurrence, why single this one episode out — unless something sinister happened?

Mörsperg’s work is clear. From their boat in the Weser river the Piper’s assistant is killing rats with what appears to be a slender rod. Any collection he undertakes is likely to assure his bounty when proof of his kills is required by the burghers. Taken as the two scenes appear, the one on the Weser and the other with the procession of children toward the Koppen and Teufelsküche, there is a direct sight-match. It says a rat catcher lures rats out of the city to inflict grievous harm on them. Just so, it suggests the Pied Piper also lured children out to the Koppen to inflict grievous harm on them.

IV.  The War Between Catholics and the Cults

Christianity took root slowly in Germany. I say this lest we think in broad strokes about the medieval era being a wholly Christian era, and the 13th century being an entirely Catholic one. The last home-grown uprising against the Teutonic Knights by the pagan Prussians was crushed only in 1283 (Dobbertin, 13).2 No reasonable man assumes they gave up all manner of resistance entirely at the close of battle and abandoned the gods of their fathers. Furthermore, conversion at the point of a sword isn’t biblical conversion. It’s as far as it can be from Paul’s power encounter with Christ on the Damascus road. I submit to you that the kindness of Christ drawing men to repentance has an altogether different appeal to a man than does an armored boot on his neck.

Theodore Roosevelt once insisted “If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” History has shown that human behavior cannot be so easily bound. Forcible conversion and persecution drive believers into the shadows. A casual search of the German countryside reveals multiple high places of ancient worship and the Koppen is only one of them. The Koppen is still in use today and it’s highly likely it never passed out of use for any significant period of time despite the efforts of the von Spiegelbergs to rid their county of such practices (Scutts, 32).1

This fanciful German copper engraving from the 17th century depicts the witches’ sabbath on Walpurgis Night on Blocksberg mountain.

…[this] was a high hill and scene of heathen cultic practices, in other words a Wallfahrtsberg (“mount of pilgrimage”) in German. When viewed from a certain vantage point, it recalls events on the so-called Blocksberg [in the Harz mountains where witches are said to perform occult rites (editor)] (29).1

The inscription on the Rattenfängerhaus is remarkable for its specificity. It lends credibility to the Pied Piper story that other legends do not possess. It tells us the procession started in Hamelin and went to a hill within easy walking distance, the Koppen, and precisely how many children were led off. It gives us a specific date, that of June 26th 1284.

The date is significant because it occurs roughly five days after Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, usually June 21st. Broadly speaking this was a time of summer feasts and celebrations. Also “it happened in mid-summer at this time in the Middle Ages it was customary to marry so that the children would be born in spring” (29).1 For anyone who reads this legend and wonders how the Piper stole away with 130 kids without parental intervention of any kind, this is how. The Piper could lead the youths of Hamelin away to the Koppen because dancing, parties in the woods and whatever else occurred were the expected behaviors. Hameler parents would permit this departure because it is seemingly the younger generation doing what has always been done.

You’ll remember that Gernot Hüsam is the former director of the castle museum in Coppenbrügge credited with the discovery of the land deed that cemented the locality of the Koppen. He was also aware that the three Spiegelberg brothers held a local reputation for “terminating the ongoing heathen practices by some kind of measure” (33-4).1 Hüsam’s statement is characteristic of his scholarly humility; he strongly suspects foul play of some kind but stops short of pronouncing which type, say murder or enslavement or both, and his hypothesis is all the stronger for this open-endedness. It lends a certain versatility which will become apparent soon.

Now we come to it. Applying the principle of charity to the Rattenfängerhaus inscription and to Mörsperg, which mainstream historians have been loathe to do, we get the Hüsam interpretation.

V. To Lure and Butcher the Children of Men

The Pied Piper legend can be understood from an operational standpoint. The alleged objective of the Spiegelberg brothers is the eradication of heretics. Yet they find themselves in a far more nuanced situation than the infamous Arnaud Amalric, who sacked the city of Béziers some 75 years earlier in 1209. To eliminate the Cathar heretics among the populace he issued the following order: “Kill them [all] for the Lord knoweth them that are His.”8 Plucking the heretics one by one from a throng of true believers is a time consuming business prone to error. Like Béziers, Hamelin is ostensibly a Catholic town with a heresy hangover and such should not go the way of Sodom and Gamorrah. Unlike Arnaud, the Spiegelbergs didn’t have a Papal crusader army at their disposal so burnt earth wasn’t a viable strategy. How then to lure out the ratten und mäuse?

The Passionale Sanctorum in the Münster Church offers a clue as to the Spiegelbergs’ chosen strategy:

…this Passionale and the rhyming prayer recounts that in this year of 1284 members of “both sexes,” or sexus uterque, became faint. This points to acts of sexual abandonment and these are referred to in another text — but superabundant details would probably take us too far from the subject. In short, we have evidence that in this case we are dealing with licentious behavior (29-30).1

Nikolaus may have waited with a cohort of like-minded and able-bodied men in the days after Summer Solstice to see which Hameler youths looked… well how to put it — hungover, under slept and possibly oversexed? Any doubts as to whether he had the right kids are erased when he strikes up the band and they follow him back up to the rocky heights of the Koppen. Anyone in this case who leaves Hamelin confirms their own guilt by association with the festivities.

Mörsperg labels the Koppen Mons Calvaria — skull mountain — and this signifies:

…in the Middle Ages itself the concept of Calvary referred exclusively to the head or skull surmounting the jaws of Hell, otherwise referred to as the lion’s or dragon’s mouth, that swallows sinners while little demons spare no effort to push poor wretches into this mouth with their tridents or other implements (31).1

Hüsam believes the Calvary on the Koppen, “where the children of Hamelin may have possibly disappeared,” should be interpreted both literally and figuratively (31):1

There are many caves in the rocks of the Ithberg / Koppen.

…at least I strongly suspect that the children were led to a cave in the heights of the Ith and entered with the Pied Piper, as this accords with the notion of a journey to Hell, and in this case it was a literal journey, as they never emerged from that cave again, and that is what makes this even so woeful in the minds of people in the Middle Ages, woeful because the young people entered Hell and had no chance of ever finding the Kingdom of God (31).1


VI. In all Likelihood, Some Children Survived the Events at the Teufelsküche and Returned to Hamelin

There is disagreement among the historical sources as to how many children survived and returned to Hamelin, from one to three, with various factors accounting for their survival. Fictional sources, like the Grimm brothers narrative, take their cues from the writers of historical accounts. Regardless of the disagreement it is likely that someone survived.

Johann Weier writes in the latter half of the 16th century — when the original stained glass window was still installed in the market church in Hamelin — having compiled the story “in annals, church documents, council letters and glass windows,” 

Among the children who had left, there was also the already marriageable daughter of a burgomaster. An unclothed boy was prematurely reversed to get dressed, and thus was spared (Dobbertin, 6).2

Is this the “one little lame boy” of the Grimm’s narrative?

Mörsperg seems to show the “one little lame boy” left behind by the procession — the only survivor of the Grimm brothers narrative. In other versions the lame boy is joined by a blind one, who couldn’t follow the procession, and a deaf one who never heard the music in the first place. The three, who survive to the credit of their disabilities, seems altogether too neat to be believable.

Yet Hans Zeitlos, writing in 1557 in his Bamberger Chronik, states that “only two naked children came back, the one blind the other dumb” (Scutts, 6).3 Interestingly enough, transient blindness can be caused by trauma to the head; this would be the case if the lad was struck hard enough to concuss but not to kill him. So, too, can survivors of horrific events find themselves incapable of speech. Johan Letzner agrees with this number of survivors and their primary complaints — blindness and dumbness — but Dobbertin dismisses most of Letzner’s work as unreliable on the justification he gets other significant dates wrong (Dobbertin, 9).2

If Nikolaus intended to wipe out 130 children he left the Koppen with his grim work unfinished. Perhaps it’s the time-honored “leave a few alive to tell the rest” act of terror and was his conscious choice. Perhaps it is only by carelessness or mistake that there were any children who survived. Perhaps one of his cohort could not kill defenseless children and under-performed his orders, allowing one or a few to escape.

There is another possibility, proposed by Scutts and Hüsam, that dovetails impeccably with the genealogical work of Wann and Dobbertin. Readers will remember that certain surnames common in Hamelin are to be found in Czechia and elsewhere. How is it exactly that Hameler surnames pop up in scattered clusters, all vaguely east of Hamelin, but these clusters are separated by hundreds of miles? We should consider the possibility that Nikolaus murdered some of the Hameler youths at the Teufelsküche and enslaved the remainder, scattering them across eastern Europe to settlements in need of young laborers.

VII. The Perils of Conspicuous Infamy

It is fortunate that the world is populated with more good folk than bad; the average person struggles even to conceive of an atrocity involving the murder or enslavement of 130 youths. Of those who can conceive and plan something like it even fewer can carry it out when it comes time to get filth on their own hands. Of those who succeed in carrying these kinds of wicked plots to fruition — and history is full of them — most take great pains to ensure to evade the light of truth for the rest of their lives.

A burgomaster’s daughter of marriageable age is the sort of person who will be missed and whose parents have the means to recover, or avenge, her.

It is possible to argue that Nikolaus did not ever intend to conceal his alleged crimes. With the disappearance of 130 youths he simultaneously disposed of the practitioners of occult practice and sent a message to the people in his county that straying back to the old ways was a capital crime. Perhaps he considered it advantageous to be conspicuous in his infamy. Perhaps he thought it better to be feared than loved.

Perhaps he overplayed his hand.

It is impossible to remove this many children from a town without removing a rich man’s son or daughter. The wealth of the victims’ families is important because it facilitates revenge. Killing someone’s kids is a most grievous injury but it is also one they can repay. People of means who genuinely love their children can be pushed past all caring when their children are harmed or killed; they have nothing left, not even their considerable wealth and comfort, to live for. Only the most arrogant person would assume this is the kind of behavior from which they will suffer no consequences. Given Nikolaus’ history of getting away with it, he may have been such a man (see below).

Norbert Truckenbrodt resides in Marienau, a short walk from the Spiegelberg castle ruins in Coppenbrügge, and is a local author and scholar of the Pied Piper legend. He is convinced that the Spiegelbergs “organized a massacre of youthful miscreants execrated as dancing devil-worshipers” in order to “get into the good books of the Church and civil dignitaries” (Scutts, 25).1 I submit to you that even this, if it was his motivation at all, could have backfired on Nikolaus. Most of us have in our minds the vision of the average Church leader in the Middle Ages and most of us get it from Hollywood archetypes: they reek of hubris, peddle the gospel for personal gain and have no true affection for the person of Jesus Christ. Yet all it would have taken to undermine Nikolaus was a single man of true conscience, just one, in the local church hierarchy. What we whisper and what we do in darkness may well be shouted from rooftops for all to hear.9

Dobbertin must have spent hour upon hour in dusty library stacks poring over minutiae to reconstruct Nikolaus von Spiegelberg’s patterns of movement and whereabouts preceding the exodus of children from Hamelin and after. Nikolaus first appears in documents in 1267. In 1277 he participated in a raid “with a certain ‘Specman’ (the son of a Reinhold) in Lüneburg,” an act which garnered him considerable hatred from the populace (Dobbertin, 10).2 He sealed a certificate in Hamelin in 1278, confirmed acquisitions of his father in 1281, is “referred to as a blood relative of the Duke of Sczcecin” (in Poland), and testifies several times in Pommern between 1282-84 (10).2 The last time he’s mentioned in any document he is with his brothers, Hermann and Moritz, in Sczcecin. His brothers, on the other hand, “will later appear as witnesses and document issuers in Lower Saxony” (10).2

According to which theory you choose, he was either about to embark on an ill-fated voyage in the Baltic and drown with his young followers or he was on the run after instigating a bloodbath (Scutts, 25).1

The date of Nikolaus’ last mention is July 8 1284. Nikolaus drops off the record just 12 days after Hamelin’s children disappeared. He either drowned, as Dobbertin insists, or found himself on the business end of a rope held taught by vengeful fathers. As long as we’re speculating, feel free to insert your own conjecture as to the humiliating and painful means by which Nikolaus may have died — just so long as what you propose would hurt the entire time the man in the fancy coat is dying.

VIII. Conclusion

It is my opinion that a charitable read of the earliest sources of the Pied Piper legend support Gernot Hüsam’s conclusion — that the Piper, either Nikolaus von Spiegelberg himself or a man hired by him, lured the Hameler youths to the Koppen and there killed some and enslaved the remainder. Rather than undermine Dobbertin and Wann’s work, which establishes the existence of Hameler surnames in several areas across Czechia and Pommern, Hüsam’s research in Coppenbrügge reinforces it. Hüsam’s interpretation has the additional advantage of treating the earliest sources in the most rational way possible. Hüsam doesn’t assume these earlier sources to be mistaken prima facie, ascribe irrationality or otherwise see falsehood in the story where there is none apparent.10 Neither should we.

What more can be said of this man, this Pied Piper? Why do we remember this story more than 700 years after the fact? It certainly helps to have world-renowned publicists, the Grimm Brothers. It helps to have spin-artists like Robert Browning, who not only popularized the tale in English but cast the Piper as a Christ figure, a deliverer of the children to an idyllic fate. But there is something else. This story has a staying power greater than the sum of its parts.

This legend is likely true as it was first told:

In the year 1284 on the day of John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 children born in Hamelin were led away by a piper dressed in many coloured clothes to Calvary close to the Koppen and were there lost.

This diorama, appearing in an Anthropologie display, utilizes multiple media to depict the Piper’s fabled procession. The silhouette comes from a CafePress bumper sticker.
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  1. Scutts, Julian, Dracula, the Pied Piper & Co. and the Question of Evil in the World. lulu.com press, 2017.
  2. Dobbertin, Hans. Quellenaussagen zur Rattenfängersage. CW Niemeyer Hameln, 1969.
  3. Scutts, Julian, and Holland-Laurentius, John. "Textual Sources of the Pied Piper Story"
  4. Takács, Stephen Et al. “Natural and synthetic vocalizations of brown rat pups, Rattus norvegicus, enhance attractiveness of bait boxes in laboratory and field experiments.” Pest Management Science, vol. 72 issue 10, pp. 1873-1882. October 2016.
  5. Canadian Press, “Scientists use sex, food, sound to lure rats in superior trap.” April 11 2016.
  6. Lokator. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lokator. Accessed July 1 2018.
  7. Sachsenspiegel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachsenspiegel. Accessed July 1 2018.
  8. Arnaud Almaric. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnaud_Amalric. Accessed July 1 2018.
  9. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:3, NIV
  10. Principle of Charity. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity. Accessed July 1 2018.

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Damon Robertson

Damon is a former Marine and currently works in a major metropolitan fire department. He and his wife and their three children reside in California.

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