Teaching Drama

The Mystery of The Pied Piper

Before I sat down to typeset Evelyn Merritt’s adaptation of Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I had no idea that the story was based on real events. The most primary source material is a plaque on the side of a Hamelin building:

In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 child­ren born in Hamelin were seduced by a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours, and lost at the calvary near the koppen.

I just read a fascinating Fortean Times article listing the various theories behind what actually happened in Hamelin lo those many years ago. Among the prime suspects:

  • The plague: “In mediæval representations, Death presented himself as a skeleton wearing a colourful pied attire, a jester who always laughs last.”
  • Lost, not dead: “Some say that the children were led into a cave, and that they came out again in Transylvania.”
  • They had “dancing mania(!)”: “A form of mass hysteria related to religious fervour.”

At any rate, Browning’s poem is engaging with a three-ring-circus of vocabulary and sounds that would make Dr. Seuss jealous. Evelyn’s adaptation, while trimming the text, keeps the rich language intact. Read sample pages from Evelyn’s script here.

Read the Fortean Times article here. Other theories are posted on Wikipedia.

(Found via this post from Boing Boing)

About the author

Craig Mason