Legend – Germany

“Alright, a wanderer came into a town called Hameln and told the townspeople there that he would rid the town of all the rats in exchange for a bit of money. The townspeople didn’t believe him and would not give him any money and told him to go away, so he pulled out his pipe, of doom, and began playing a little melody on it and all of a sudden all the rats popped out of their little holes, and started running after the little pipe of doom. He then walked out of the city; the rats followed him and promptly followed him into a river where they drowned their little butts off. As people saw that they were free of the rats, they were really happy but still didn’t pay the dude AKA the wanderer, so he left. Then the townspeople thought they were good. One night, he came back dressed in a cloak and a crazy hat and started playing his pipe again, this time, all the children in all the houses got out of bed and ran off like the rats after the wanderer. He led them into a little cave thing where they disappeared, he did too and the townspeople were really sad but they learned their lesson. “

The informant, a third generation Irish-American, spent a couple of years living in Germany with a host family. He heard this story from his host mother who is “about as German as they come.” It was told to kids to make sure that they don’t use and abuse people, much like a fable with a moral lesson. Stories like this would typically be told to children in Kindergarten. The informant finds this story particularly interesting because he’s been to the town where this legend was supposed to have occurred. The legend was so famous that the town has been preserved in its original state though people still live there like the Amish and has become a tourist attraction because of its ‘authentic’ German look.

Like all legends there are multiple versions of this tale, though most end with children being taken away. In America, the story is called The Pied Piper though amazingly the storyline hasn’t changed much. In German however, the title Rattenfänger literally means the Rat Catcher. Much like what we discussed in class, the town Hemln though kept in its original state, is more a tourist attraction than a real ‘folklore’ setting. This is similar to ‘folk’ music produced in studios, or folklorasmus though it is folk music in digital music, is it really ‘folk’?