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Pied Piper of Hamelin. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock

The Pied Piper is a True Story and The Piper Stole 130 Children!


Many would have heard the childhood tale of the Pied Piper who freed a town of rats by leading them away with his music and, when he wasn’t paid, he returned and led away the town’s children, who were never seen again. But few realize that this ‘fairy tale’ is actually a disturbing true story that took place over 700 years ago. 

The story of the Pied Piper is set in 1284 AD in the town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony, Germany. The earliest known record of this story is from the town of Hamelin itself. It is depicted in a stained-glass window created for the church of Hamelin, which dates to around 1300 AD. Although it was destroyed in 1660, several written accounts have survived.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Date: 1284. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock

The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Date: 1284. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock

The oldest comes from the Lueneburg manuscript (c 1440 – 50), which stated: “In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul on June 26, by a piper, clothed in many kinds of colours, 130 children born in Hamelin were seduced, and lost at the place of execution near the koppen.” A 1384 entry in Hamelin’s town records also grimly states “It is 100 years since our children left.”

The supposed street where the children were last seen is today called Bungelosenstrasse (‘street without drums’), as no one is allowed to play music or dance there.

The mystery of what really happened to the children of Hamelin has never been solved. The story also raises the question, if the Pied Piper of Hamelin was based on reality, how much truth is there in other fairy tales that we were told as children?

Read the theories behind the children’s disappearance in ‘The Disturbing True Story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin’

Top image: Pied Piper of Hamelin. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren



There is probably a kernel of truth in many old tales just as many unsavoury practices of the past have not disappeared, but are simply better hidden today. The modern rejection of the rawness of life tends to lead societal opinion towards the comfortable conclusion that life is no longer so raw, which is simply untrue. Thus, we tend to see these old warning tales as nothing more than a good, old story when, in fact, many are still as relevant today as they were centuries ago.

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Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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