My brother Jack is very important to my writing. Not only does he regularly come up with good ideas, he field-tested Feeling Lucky and determined that ‘while pinching a girl might not get you millions of dollars, it might get you slapped.’ Today, partly in an effort to reassure readers he is not a cad and partly because he’s knowledgeable about folklore and mythology, Jack shares a timely warning about one not-so-festive holiday reveler hiding among the lords a-leaping and drummers drumming, Browning’s Pied Piper of Hamelin –
Like Dionysus, the Pied Pier was disrespected, and he lured the children away from Hamelin with his pipe. I’m not satisfied with the fate of the children however. I don’t believe he sold them as sex slaves or did unmentionable things to them, but I don’t believe the children emerged “out of some subterraneous prison” and became an “alien people” with outlandish ways and dress who settled in Transylvania. Were they’re auditioning for a Twilight spinoff?
The Pied Piper used a magical flute or pipe to lure the children away from Hamelin after being shorted one thousand guilders. Where did the Piper get this magical pipe? Is it his and if not, how does he know how to use it? I suspect that the pipe is not the Piper’s, but belonged to a satyr (a follower of Dionysus) and that’s how the Piper was able to lure the children away from the village.
Continuing my wild and baseless speculation, I also think the Piper was an elf (that’s how he knew how to use the magical pipe) that sold the children to fairies to get some of the thousand guilders he was shorted. Bear with me for a moment. The Piper is described with elven features. “And he himself was tall and thin, with sharp blue eyes, each like a pin, no tuft on cheek nor beard on chin, but lips where smiles went out and in.”
In the same stanza, a citizen remarks on his pale skin, “It’s as my great-grandsire, starting up at the Trump of Doom’s tone, had walked this way from his painted tombstone!” The citizen is commenting on his ghostly appearance and perhaps out of date attire. I suppose this could describe a vampire as well, but the Piper never drank anyone’s blood.
The Piper’s flute causes the kidnapped children to hallucinate and see things which weren’t really there. This is no different then when Dionysus caused Agave to think she ripped a lion’s head off when it was her son’s head. It’s reasonable to assume that if the pipe the Piper used belonged to a satyr (follower of Dionysus), then it would be imbued with the same powers to trick people as Dionysus had.
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me.
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
A lot of elves I know are in cahoots with fairies and trade with them all the time. It’s conceivable that the Piper took the children and sold them to the fairies. Maybe he got his thousand guilders, maybe only a few hundred. The fairies, of course, turned the children into more fairies and they wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of going into town and leaving changelings in place of Hamelin’s children. At any rate, we have to be sensible and not get carried away with wild musings.
So there you have it. Be careful as you wander your merry way through holiday parties, following song and story. The warnings are there, but it’s easy to lose your way and get lost in the Otherworld!