The Pied Piper

Now, Hamelin Town is in Brunswick, on the south of the River Weser and was a very nice place indeed until way back five hundred years ago it had a plague of rats.

Rats! They fought the dogs and killed the cats and bit the babies. They ate the cheese out of the vats and the soup out of the cooks’ ladles, and made every one very unhappy.

Finally, the people came to the town hall to find fault with the Mayor and Council and to tell them they must get rid of the rats or they would get no more money.

So, the Mayor and his Council sat and scratched their heads and worried for a whole hour but didn’t get a single idea. And just when they were hopeless they heard a little rapping sound on the door.

“Bless us!” cried the Mayor, “what’s that? Anything that sounds like a rat makes my heart go pit-a-pat.”

However, he stood up after a moment to look as big and brave as possible and said, “Come in.”

And in did come the strangest fellow. He was very tall and very thin, and wore a coat one half red and one half yellow. After smiling at every one, he walked over to the Council table and said very politely to the Mayor, “I am the Pied Piper and have a secret charm for all the little animals that walk or creep or swim or fly. I will take the rats away for just a thousand guilders.”

“A thousand guilders?” said the Mayor, “fifty thousand, gladly,” and all the Councilmen agreed. “Gladly,” they said.

Then the Piper puckered his mouth and took hold of a long pipe that hung on a red and yellow cord around his neck, and went into the street. When he began to play everyone thought they had never heard such queer music and they ran to their windows.

Everywhere the rats were coming out into the street crowding and climbing over each other to follow the Pied Piper. Great big rats with their babies and with their uncles and their aunts and their cousins; black rats and brown rats and gray rats, every rat in the town. Down the street the Piper walked, always playing.

Down the street the rats ran after him; but when he stopped on the bank of the River Weser, every one of the rats went on into the river, one after another, and all were drowned.

So the people stopped up the rat holes and made a great holiday. And, they were so happy and they feasted so much that they quite forgot about paying the Piper.

When the Piper came and asked for his thousand guilders, the Mayor had quite forgotten the fifty thousand he had said he would gladly give and said now he thought even one thousand too much.

“A thousand guilders!” he said to the Piper. “Come now, you’ll take fifty.”

To the people he said, “What’s dead can’t come back to life and we will save the money.”

Now the Piper was very angry. “No trifling,” he said. “I cannot wait. Folks who put me in a passion may find me pipe to another fashion.”

The Council said he could play as much as he liked for they didn’t care - he could blow his pipe till he burst.

At that the Piper fell into a rage and went again into the street, but the music he played was the sweetest ever heard in Hamelin Town. And all the children dropped their toys and listened and ran out into the streets laughing and gay, and followed the Piper.

Through the streets he went and always the children followed.

And when he turned down the street toward the river, every mother and father stood still with fear. But the Piper turned up the street with the hill at the end. And every mother and father was happy for they knew those little children couldn’t cross that high hill.

The Piper stopped.

“He sees,” the mothers said, “that the hill is too high.” But still the Piper played. Suddenly one side of that great hill opened like a big door and all the children went dancing in.

Poor mothers and fathers! The hillside closed again and every child was inside and the Piper was gone. Every child except a poor little lame boy, who couldn’t keep up with the rest.

He was weeping by the roadside and wouldn’t be comforted, but spoke of a beautiful land where he would have been strong and able to play.

And all the money and all the promises of the people of Hamelin Town would never bring back the Piper nor the children that had followed him.

So, the people of Hamelin Town are forever sad because of the great price they paid for not keeping their promise.

Promises are very important things.

They are very important to give away - But more important to keep.

Pied Piper End - More Fairy Tales

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