The 22nd of July is National Ratcatcher's Day. You might be saying, "Whaaaaat? That can't be true!" I'm here to tell you that it is true. National Ratcatcher's Day commemorates the story of the Pied Piper. If you're not familiar with this story, or if you've simply forgotten it, the premise is this. In 1284, in the town of Hamelin, Germany, a fellow dressed in odd clothing was hired to rid the village of its many rats. Using a musical instrument (it looks like a clarinet or oboe to me) he successfully lured all the vermin out of town. The problem came when the villagers of Hamlin refused to pay the piper for his services. But the story didn't end there. The piper returned to Hamelin the following year. Only this time he lured away all the village children who were never seen again.
The now-destroyed stained glass window from 1300 is among the first known records of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story. There was supposedly an eye witness to the event who claims that "130 children were taken from the town by a piper dressed in many colours.” In the 15th Century a manuscript asserted, "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." Okay, so I can hear what you're thinking about the mixed up dates. And you're right, the date does vary. Some say it happened on 22, July while others insist it was 26, July. Either way, it may seem odd to celebrate the horrific revenge of the piper. "Depending on where you live, the day includes festivals and re-enactments. Due to differing dates in stories and poems, Hamelin, Germany celebrates the day on June 26th. The event consists of a pied piper leading children through the city streets. There’s even Richard the Rat who gets to tell his version of the story."
The Brothers Grimm brought the story of the Pied Piper to the English-speaking world in the 19th century. And you might be wondering if any part of this 800-year-old tale is true. To begin with, the part about the rats is probably false. It appears that these critters didn't enter the story until the 16th century. it is also widely believed that the Black Death was probably the real reason that the children "vanished," never to return. "It’s also entirely possible that the youngsters were part of migration eastward, possibly to Transylvania of all places." We'll probably never know. Nonetheless, it's an interesting if not sad tale that endures to this today.
I might add here that in Land of Lily Pad, the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is also told. But in our retelling of it, there were (of course) a few frogs that got lured away along with the rats. many of you may not feel that National Ratcatcher's Day is worthy of celebrating, but if you are a fan of this day, it might offer you an opportunity to reread this classic tale.
Please join me back here tomorrow for a look at new ways to think about time...something none of us ever has enough of! Until then, I wish you a glorious week.