January 20, 2023

#08-279: The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1888) by Kate Greenaway (Wikimedia)

Note: A town's leaders refuse to pay a debt--and as a result pay the ultimate price.

Get Ready: How important is it for one to keep one's word in large matters? In small matters?

The German town of Hamelin, we are told, had a problem: rats. Lots and lots of rats, that had overrun the town and were biting babies, eating up the town's stores, and even killing cats.

The villagers gathered at the town hall to demand that the Mayor and the Council do something. But what to do? As they were deliberating, there came a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood a man most peculiarly dressed in old-fashioned clothes, red on one side and yellow on the other, with a green jacket over all. Around his neck was a blue scarf, and at its end hung a flute.

"They call me the Pied Piper," he said, "and by use of magic charms, I can lure your rats into the river. All I want is a thousand gold coins."

"One thousand?" cried the Mayor. "We'll give you 50,000 gold coins to solve this problem!"

So the deal was made, and the Piper set straight to work. Stepping out into the street, he blew a note--and rats began to emerge! Large, small, brown, grey, white, black, male, female, young, old, out they came! And as the Piper started down the street toward the river, they followed, dancing, until--reaching the river--in they plunged!

The rats were dead and washed away. And the Mayor and the Council now had another problem: Where to get a thousand gold coins? "Surely," the Mayor said to the Piper, "you cannot bring the rats back. We'll give you fifty coins."

"Do not renege," said the Piper, "or you'll regret it." But the Mayor and the Council would not be threatened, and stood firm. The Mayor even accused the stranger, "How do we know you didn't send us the rats yourself?"

So the angry Piper lifted his flute to his lips and blew again. This time, however, it was not rats, but the town's children, all 130 of them, who began dancing along behind him! (All but three little boys who were unable to keep up.) The people stood frozen in fear, until they saw with relief that the Piper was leading the little ones toward a hill faced with a high cliff, like a wall. "We're saved!" they cried. "The cliff will stop them."

But to their horror, a door opened in the cliff, and the Piper led the children in. And no one ever saw the Pied Piper or the town's children again.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. charms
  2. cliff
  3. deliberating
  4. demand
  5. emerge
  6. lure
  7. pied
  8. plunged
  9. regret
  10. renege

  1. insist; require some action
  2. be sorry (for)
  3. considering; discussing
  4. went into water quickly
  5. multicolored
  6. a high, steep face of rock
  7. magic spells
  8. lead away by being attractive
  9. come out
  10. go back on a promise

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 20, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. f; 3. c; 4. a; 5. i; 6. h; 7. e; 8. d; 9. b; 10. j