A/N: I have also made this story into a narration, that you can see here: /Pprmh10n21g. It's scheduled for upload to Youtube on Saturday the 24th of December 2016.

I am raising money for the Against Malaria Foundation at the time I'm uploading this, and will be doing the same for other charities from mid-January 2017 onwards, so please offer your support! The more the above video is watched, the more money is raised. Furthermore, I am adding to my collection of monetized videos all the time, which means that you will have a better choice of stories to listen to while you're doing your bit to support a variety of charities!


Many hundreds of years ago there was a small village in Germany by the name of Hamelin. It was an unremarkable place in many respects, including in the fact that, just like every other small European village, it once became the unwilling home of a pandemic of plague-infested rats.

Everybody feared for their well-being when the rat population increased, and with it the risk of picking up the deadly disease. But nobody feared more so than the parents of Hamelin's one hundred and thirty children and the mayor, for they were responsible not only for their own safety, but for that of others who depended on them.

One evening, as the mayor once again watched the parents herding their children indoors instead of letting them stay out and play, he decided to take action. He sent for a professional rat-catcher and, after a certain number of false starts, invited an individual into the town who went by the pseudonym, 'Pied Piper'.

"You have quite a problem," said the Piper as the pair walked down the high street. There were more rats than people, and not only because the people had avoided leaving their homes to avoid the rats.

The mayor gritted his teeth with embarrassment at what his village had become. "Indeed," he agreed heavily. "How much to get rid of them?"

The Piper stopped and looked meaningfully at the mayor, and the mayor found himself pausing mid-stride to watch the strange man in the colourful clothes, the better to hear what he would say.

"One thousand guilders," the Piper told him levelly.

The mayor felt himself blanche. "...but that's extortionate!"

The Piper simply smiled.

"I heard of cheaper rat-catchers. I'll go with another. I'm sorry for wasting your time."

"It's a little over the going rate, that is true," pointed out the Piper, his tongue practiced as if he had delivered this speech many times before. "But you've seen the destruction that comes from having a plague-addled town, dear mayor. I offer a service to remove the rats single-handedly. Not just kill them and leave them to continue infecting your townspeople until somebody summons the courage to pick up the bodies and throw the maway, but take them out of the town myself. There will be no risk for you, nor to your people."

The mayor had to admit he had a point.

"So, mayor. Do we have a deal?"

The mayor held his breath for a moment, exhaled as he realised that this was his best option, and grasped the Piper's hand in a handshake before he could change his mind.


That night the mayor barely slept. Instead he lay as flat as a board, and watched a patch of moonlight shift across the ceiling as he wondered. He could not easily afford the Pied Piper's charge; not easily at all.

But there was more than money at stake: there were lives. If he did choose to wait for a cheaper rat-catcher, then that would undoubtedly be at the expense of the lives of several townspeople. If he stalled, then the blood of any further deaths would be on his hands. It was his duty to make the choice sooner rather than later. Also, the Piper was right: the rats' carcasses would need to be removed, and picking up the bodies might be just as dangerous as shooing away a live rat. Somebody in the town would no doubt volunteer for the task, he had little doubt about that, but it would be irresponsible of him to accept.

The Pied Piper was the perfect solution.


The following morning, as agreed, the Pied Piper appeared in the high street, armed with a musical pipe. As the mayor and a couple of dozen townspeople watched, curious about how this rat-catcher would ply his trade, he began to play.

The effect was as stunning as it was swift: the rats all stopped what they were doing. They turned towards the Piper and, in a furry brown stream, went to him. The Pied Piper began to walk, and the rats followed him, entranced by the sound. And, before the mayor's astonished eyes, the rats followed the Piper as he wandered out of the village, a rapidly-growing carpet of brown backs at his ankles.

The Piper could be heard walking back and forth through the town as he made himself easy for all of the rats to find, and once every rat in the town was following him, he left.

Eventually his music became inaudible, and all that was left in Hamelin was a silence to which the townsfolk were unaccustomed, so much were they used to the perpetual bustle of rodents.


Nobody knew where the Pied Piper went to or what happened to the rats, but it was the following day when he returned to Hamelin. He knocked on the mayor's door to collect his payment, the early morning sunshine still tender and fresh.

"Good day sir," he said jovially, apparently oblivious as the mayor opened the door, grim-faced. "The rats, as you see, have gone. I think you know what I have come for."

"I have reconsidered your price," said the mayor, folding his arms. "It is too steep. I will offer you five hundred gilders, no more."

The Piper laughed as if unsure of whether to treat this as a joke. "Surely you jest, sir? We made a deal and we shook on it."

The mayor was not to be convinced, it seemed. "I expected you to find the work much harder than that. You barely worked at all, it was easy. Five hundred gilders: that's my final offer."

By now the Piper's jovial expression had fallen, replaced with an intent look. "Very well," he said neutrally. Without waiting for his payment he turned, raised his pipe to his lips, and began to play again.

At first the mayor expect to see the rats come flooding back into the town, but that did not happen. Instead, the Piper began to walk casually away, and the mayor wondered if this was just a ruse. The strange musician turned a corner and wandered out of sight, and the last thing the mayor saw before rather irritably shutting his door was a pair of children running in the same direction as the man, skipping and dancing as they went.


It was the voice of a fear-stricken townswoman that alerted the mayor that there was a problem. He left his house in a hurry to see what the commotion was all about. But once he reached the woman, he saw that she was not the only one panicking.

Three townsfolk frantically searched and called for their children, all of whom had gone missing.

It was then that the mayor realised what the Pied Piper was doing. He tried, oh he tried, to find the Piper, but the sound of the pipe was distant and hard to pin-point, and there were no children still within the village that he might otherwise have followed. As night fell, the mayor prepared a torch and ran out into the wilderness to try and find the Pied Piper and his new entourage, but he found nothing and was eventually forced to give up when all he heard in the dark of the night was the howling of wolves.


The mayor was unsure whether to feel surprised or not when somebody knocked on his door the next morning, and that that somebody turned out to be the Pied Piper. He resisted the impulse to launch himself at the trouble-maker, and instead demanded, "Bring them back!"

The Piper smiled and looked coyly at his feet, as if trying to hide his humour. Then he looked up again. "I would like payment first. But be aware, mayor, that the price has doubled. Two thousand gilders, and I will bring the children back."

The mayor grabbed his coat. "Don't bother. I'll fetch them myself. Where are they?"

"In the same place as the rats."

This made the mayor pause with one arm inside his coat, and stare horrified at the Piper. He had assumed the rats to be dead. Did he mean the children were dead too?

"The rats and the children are alive and well, for now." the Piper told him, "But I fancy that rats can bear the plague far more easily than children can."

The mayor felt himself break out in a sweat. "One thousand guilders was a difficult price for me. Two thousand will be impossible. You've made your point. I will bring you your thousand now. But please... bring the children back, healthy and unharmed." He fled indoors to retrieve the money that should have been put to any number of civic tasks, and gave it to the Pied Piper, who pocketed it with an air of grim satisfaction.

"I cannot guarantee that the children will be healthy, but return them I will."

The mayor watched, powerless and now badly indebted to his farmers, as the Pied Piper left the village once more.


The children were returned. They, along with the rats, had been abandoned in a valley some distance away from civilisation. Hungry and naive, the children had tried to hunt rats for food, and some had indeed become infected. When they returned to Hamelin, once again following the music of the Pied Piper, all seemed well, at first. And then the disease returned with a vengeance, not in any rat population, but in the children instead.

The full force of the Pied Piper's curse only became clear years later, for the population of Hamelin never recovered from the terrible blow of the plague.