The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a legend about the abduction of many children from the town of Hamelin (Hameln), Germany. Famous versions of the legend are given by the Brothers Grimm and, in English, by Robert Browning.
In 1284, while the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation, a man dressed in pied garments appeared, claiming to be a rat-catcher
. He promised the townsmen a solution for their problem with the rats. The townsmen in turn promised to pay him for the removal of the rats. The man accepted, and thus played a musical pipe
to lure the rats with a song into the Weser
River, where all of them drowned. Despite his success, the people reneged on their promise and refused to pay the rat-catcher. The man left the town angrily, but returned some time later, seeking revenge.
On St. John's Day. while the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again. Depending on the version, at most two children remained behind (one of whom was lame and could not follow quickly enough, the other one was deaf and followed the other children out of curiosity) who informed the villagers of what had happened when they came out of the church.
Other versions (but not the traditional ones) claim that the Piper lured the children into the river and let them drown like the rats or led the children to a cave on Köppen Hill or Koppelberg Hill (outside of Hamelin) or a place called Koppenberg Mountain and returned them after payment or that he returned the children after the villagers paid several times the original amount of gold.
The earliest mention of the story seems to have been on a stained glass window placed in the Church of Hamelin c. 1300. The window was described in several accounts between the 14th century and the 17th century, to have been destroyed in 1660. Based on the surviving descriptions, a modern reconstruction of the window has been created by Hans Dobbertin (historian). It features the colourful figure of the Pied Piper and several figures of children dressed in white.
This window is generally considered to have been created in memory of a tragic historical event for the city. Also, Hamelin town records start with this event. The earliest written record is from the town chronicles in an entry from 1384 which states:
"It is 10 years since our children left
Although research has been conducted for centuries, no explanation for the historical event is agreed upon (see list of hypotheses). In any case, the rats were first added to the story in a version from c. 1559 (see below); they are absent from previous accounts.
Hypotheses for the origin of the legend
Theories that have gained some support can be grouped into the following categories:
- In William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire, suggests that the Pied Piper was in fact a psychopath pederast who, on June 20th, 1484, kidnapped 130 children from the Saxon village of Hammel and used them in unspeakable ways. Some of the children were never seen again. Others were found dismembered and scattered in the forrest underbrush or hanging from tree branches. The incident he refers to may well be true but it discounts versions of the story that appear to date from at least 120 years earlier.
- The children fell victim to an accident, either drowning in the river Weser or being buried in a landslide
- The children contracted some disease during an epidemic and were led out of town to die in order to protect the rest of the city's population from contracting it:
- An early form of Black Death has been suggested. (After the initial epidemic of the Black Death across Eurasia, subsequent outbreaks took a greater toll on children than on adults, as young children had not been exposed to the disease and so had no immunity to it.)
- Others attribute the dancing of the children to be an early reference to Huntington's disease; however, this is an inherited disorder, and the statistical probability of that many unrelated children having the same genetic condition is very low.
- Another possibility would be the outbreaks of dancing mania, or communal dancing mania, which are recorded in a number of European towns during the period of general distress which followed the Black Death. The 'Verstegan/Browning' date, 1376, would be consistent with this. These theories perceive the Piper as a symbolic figure of Death. Death is often portrayed dressed in motley, or "pied." Analogous themes which are associated with this theory include the Dance of Death, Totentanz or Danse Macabre, a common medieval type. Various ecstatic outbreaks were associated with the Plague, such as the Flagellants, who wandered from place to place while scourging themselves in penance for sins that presumably brought the plague upon Europe. The rat is the preferred host for the plague vector, the rat flea. When the rats die, the fleas seek humans as a substitute host. Children might be especially vulnerable to the disease.
- The children left the city to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children's crusade (which occurred in 1212, not long before) but never returned to their parents. These theories see the unnamed Piper as their leader or a recruiting agent.
- The children willingly abandoned their parents and Hamelin in order to become the founders of their own villages during the colonization of Eastern Europe. Several European villages and cities founded around this time have been suggested as the result of their efforts as settlers. This claim is supported by corresponding placenames in both the region around Hamelin and the eastern colonies where names such as Querhameln ("mill village Hamelin") exist. Again the Piper is seen as their leader.
The tradition that the children emigrated in 1284 is so old and well-reported that explanations associated with the Black Death seem unlikely (there is an alternative, post-Black Death, date 1376, but it is documented far away from Hamelin and as late as 1605 — see below). Modern scholars regard the emigration theory to be the most probable, i.e. that the Pied Piper of Hamelin was a recruiter for the colonization of Eastern Europe which took part in the 13th century and that he led away a big part of the young generation of Hamelin to a region in Eastern Europe. A version of the theory was published in the Saturday Evening Post
. The Emigration theory is supported by writings found on the walls of old homes in Hameln which say that say that on July 26, 1284, a Piper led 130 children out of town and that the piper was possibly an agent of Bruno von Schaumburg, the Bishop of Olmutz
who was organizing a drive to populate parts of Moravia
(which is now within the Czech Republic
). The Bishop was acting on behalf of the the Bohemian King Ottokar II
Added speculation on the migration is based on the idea that by the 13th century the area had too many people resulting in the oldest son owning all the land and power, leaving the rest as serfs. The Black Death later destroyed that balance. In any case, the motivation to leave was high and very much like the motivation for emigration to America in the 18th century i.e. freedom, opportunity, and land.
It has also been suggested that one reason the emigration of the children was never documented was that the children were sold to a recruiter from the Baltic region of Eastern Europe, a practice that was not uncommon at the time. In her essay Pied Piper Revisted, Sheila Harty states that surnames from the region settled are similar to those from Hamelin and that selling off illegitimate children, orphans or other children the town could not support is the more likely explanation. She states further that this may account for the lack of records of the event in the town chronicles. In his book, The Pied Piper: A Handbook, Wolfgang Mieder states that historical documents exist showing that people from the area including Hameln did help settle parts of Transylvania. Transylvania had suffered under the Mongol invasions of central Europe that date from around the time of the earliest appearance of the legend of the piper.
In the version of the legend posted on the official website for the town of Hameln, another aspect of the emigration theory is presented:
"Among the various interpretations, reference to the colonization of East Europe starting from Low Germany is the most plausible one: The "Children of Hameln" would have been in those days citizens willing to emigrate being recruited by landowners to settle in Moravia, East Prussia, Pomerania or in the Teutonic Land. It is assumed that in past times all people of a town were referred to as "children of the town" or "town children" as is frequently done today. The "Legend of the children’s Exodus" was later connected to the "Legend of expelling the rats". This most certainly refers to the rat plagues being a great threat in the medieval milling town and the more or less successful professional rat catchers.
This version states that "children" may simply have referred to residents of Hameln who chose to emigrate and not necessarily to youths.
Historian Ursula Sautter, citing the work of Linguist Jurgen Udolph, offers this hypothesis in support of the emigration theory:
"After the defeat of the Danes at the Battle of Bornhoved in 1227," explains Udolph, "the region south of the Baltic Sea, which was then inhabited by Slavs, became available for colonization by the Germans." The bishops and dukes of Pomerania, Brandenburg, Uckermark and Prignitz sent out glib "locators," medieval recruitment officers, offering rich rewards to those who were willing to move to the new lands. Thousands of young adults from Lower Saxony and Westphalia headed east. And as evidence, about a dozen Westphalian place names show up in this area. Indeed there are five villages called Hindenburg running in a straight line from Westphalia to Pomerania, as well as three eastern Spiegelbergs and a trail of etymology from Beverungen south of Hamelin to Beveringen northwest of Berlin to Beweringen in modern Poland.
Udolph favors the hypothesis that the Hamelin youths wound up in present day Poland. Genealogist Dick Eastman cited Udolph's research on Hamelin surnames that have shown up in Polish phonebooks:
"Linguistics professor Jurgen Udolph says that 130 children did vanish on a June day in the year 1284 from the German village of Hamelin (spelled Hameln in German). Professor Udolph entered all the known family names in the village at that time and then started searching for matches elsewhere. He found that the same surnames occur with amazing frequency in Priegnitz and Uckermark, both to the north of Berlin. He also found the same surnames in the former Pommeranian region, which is now a part of Poland.
Professor Udolph surmises that the children were actually unemployed youths who had been sucked into the German drive to colonize its new settlements in Eastern Europe. The Pied Piper may never have existed as such, but, says the professor, "There were characters known as Lokator who roamed northern Germany trying to recruit settlers for the East." Some of them were brightly dressed, and all were silver-tongued.
Professor Udolph can show that the Hamelin exodus should be linked with the Battle of Bornhoeved in 1227 which broke the Danish hold on Eastern Europe. That opened the way for German colonization, and by the latter part of the thirteenth century there were systematic attempts to bring able-bodied youths to Brandenburg and Pommerania. The settlement, according to the professor’s name search, ended up near Starogard in what is now northwestern Poland. A village near Hamelin, for example, is called Beverungen and has an almost exact counterpart called Beveringen, near Pritzwalk, north of Berlin and another called Beweringen, near Starogard.
Local Polish telephone books list names that are not the typical Slavic names one would expect in that region. Instead, many of the names seem to be derived from German names that were common in the village of Hamelin in the thirteenth century. In fact, the names in today’s Polish telephone directories include Hamel, Hamler and Hamelnikow, all apparently derived from the name of the original village.
Fourteenth century Decan Lude chorus book
of Hamelin was reported, c. 1384, to have in his possession a chorus book
containing a Latin
verse giving an eyewitness account of the event. The verse was reportedly written by his grandmother. This chorus book is believed to have been lost since the late 17th century. The odd-looking name ‘Decan Lude’ may possibly indicate a priest holding the position of Dean
(decanus, modern German
) whose name was Ludwig; but as yet he has proved impossible to trace.
Fifteenth century Lueneburg manuscript
The Lueneburg manuscript (c. 1440–50) gives an early German account of the event:
Anno 1284 am dage Johannis et Pauli
war der 26. junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet
gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen gebo[re]n
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren
In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul
on 26 June
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
and lost at the place of execution near the koppen.
This appears to be the oldest surviving account. Koppen (Old German meaning "hills") seems to be a reference to one of several hills surrounding the city. Which of them was intended by the verse's author remains uncertain.
Reportedly, there is a long-established law forbidding singing and music in one particular street of Hamelin, out of respect for the victims: the Bungelosenstrasse adjacent to the Pied Piper's House. During public parades which include music, including wedding processions, the band will stop playing upon reaching this street and resume upon reaching the other side.
Sixteenth and seventeenth century sources
In 1556, De miraculis sui temporis
(Latin: Concerning the Wonders of his Times) by Jobus Fincelius
mentions the tale. The author identifies the Piper with the Devil
Somewhere between 1559 and 1565, Count Froben Christoph von Zimmern included a version in his Zimmerische Chronik. This appears to be the earliest account which mentions the plague of rats. Unfortunately von Zimmern dates the event only as 'several hundred years ago' (vor etlichen hundert jarn [sic]), so that his version throws no light on the conflict of dates (see next paragraph).
The earliest English account is that of Richard Rowland Verstegan (1548-c. 1636), an antiquary and religious controversialist of partly Dutch descent, in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (Antwerp, 1605); unfortunately he does not give his source. (It is unlikely to have been von Zimmern, since his manuscript chronicle was not discovered until 1776.) Verstegan includes the reference to the rats and the idea that the lost children turned up in Transylvania. The phrase 'Pide [sic] Piper' occurs in his version and seems to have been coined by him. Curiously enough his date is entirely different from that given above: July 22, 1376; this may suggest that two events, a migration in 1284 and a plague of rats in 1376, have become fused together. Verstegan's account was copied in Nathaniel Wanley's Wonders of the Little World (1687), which was the immediate source of Robert Browning's well-known poem (see nineteenth century below). Verstegan's account is also repeated in William Ramesey's Wormes (1668) — "…that most remarkable story in Verstegan, of the Pied Piper, that carryed away a hundred and sixty Children from the Town of Hamel in Saxony, on the 22. of July, Anno Dom. 1376. A wonderful permission of GOD to the Rage of the Devil".
Nineteenth century versions
In 1803, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
wrote a poem based on the story that was later set to music by Hugo Wolf. He incorporated references to the story in his version of Faust
. The first part of the Drama was first published in 1808 and the second in 1832.
Jakob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, siblings known as the Brothers Grimm, drawing from eleven sources included the tale in their collection "Deutsche Sagen", first published in 1816. According to their account two children were left behind as one was blind and the other lame, so neither could follow the others. The rest became the founders of Siebenbürgen (Transylvania).
Using the Verstegan/Wanley version of the tale and adopting the 1376 date, Robert Browning wrote a poem of that name which was published in 1842. Browning's verse retelling is notable for its humor, wordplay, and jingling rhymes. Blair.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
“When, lo, as they reached the mountain's side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.”
Allusions in linguistics
In linguistics pied-piping
is the common, informal name for the ability of question words and relative pronouns to drag other words along with them when brought to the front, as part of the phenomenon called Wh-movement
. For example, in "For whom are the pictures?", the word "for" is pied-piped
by "whom" away from its declarative position ("The pictures are for me"), and in "The mayor, pictures of whom adorn his office walls" both words "pictures of" are pied-piped in front of the relative pronoun
, which normally starts the relative clause.
Some researchers believe that the tale has inspired the common English phrase "pay the piper", although others disagree. To "pay the piper" means to face the inevitable consequences of one's actions, possibly alluding to the story where the villagers broke their promise to pay the Piper for his assistance in ridding the town of the rats. The phrase sometimes refers to a financial transaction but often does not.
Also, some experts on pedophilia, such as Ken Lanning, in writing about the seduction of children by some "pedophiles", have used the term the "Pied Piper effect" to describe a "unique ability to identify with children.
- The military interpretation of the Pied Piper story is used as a foreshadowing device in Rainbow Valley (1919) by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The story is told on two occasions by young Walter Blythe, son of Anne of Green Gables, who will later be called to fight in World War I, and fall in the Battle of the Somme (1916).
- The Pied Piper story is heavily referenced by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva in her poem The Ratcatcher, first published in 1925.
- Eric Frank Russell's short story "The Rhythm of the Rats", published in the July 1950 issue of Weird Tales, is a retelling of the Pied Piper legend as a 20th century horror story.
- In Beverly Cleary's children's novel Ellen Tebbits (1951), the school puts on a version of the story, in which the Pied Piper brings the children back. Ellen says that her mother had not said the piper brought the children back, but the teacher called it a "creative" play. Ellen got a part in the play as a "substitute rat," and that was the title of that chapter in the book.
- An allusion to the folk tale appears in the poem The Drunk in the Furnace (1960) by W. S. Merwin. Children "flock like piped rats" to the noises of a drunk in a furnace while their parents are at church.
- In his poem, "The One Who Stayed" (in the collection Where the Sidewalk Ends, 1974) Shel Silverstein tells the story of a child who stayed behind while the rest of Hamlin's children followed the piper's song.
- Harlan Ellison's "Emissary from Hamelin" (included in his collection Strange Wine, 1978) tells of a descendant of the original pied piper coming back seven hundred years later to lead all the adults away as punishment for centuries of "making the world a bad place". While the piper does not explain what he means, the narrator understands this to mean violence, pollution, lying, crime, and a lack of empathy.
- In the Belgian comic book Le Bal du rat mort (1980), the title of which means "The Ball of the Dead Rat", police inspector Jean Lamorgue is like a pied piper who has to deliver the city of Ostend from thousands of invading rats who attack people and kill them, but in the end he fails because he is possessed by his own demons.
- The Ratastrophe Catastrophe (1990) by David Lee Stone is a parody based on the Pied Piper about a boy called Diek who takes away the children of a town because a voice in his head told him to.
- What Happened in Hamelin (1993) by Gloria Skurzynski is a young adult novel in ergotism from contaminated rye crops helps explain the mystery of what happened there.
- Don Paterson referenced the Pied Piper tale in his poem "00:00: Law Tunnel" (published in the collection "God's Gift to Women", 1997).
- The story provides the basis for the central plot and several characters in the 1998 debut novel King Rat by China Miéville.
- After Hamelin (2000) by Bill Richardson is a children's book that picks up the story where Browning's poem left off. It is written in the voice of the deaf child in the poem, whom Richardson names Penelope.
- Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001) is a humorous take on the Pied Piper. A talking cat engineers the plagues (and subsequent removals by his sidekick piper). The story lampoons the fairy tale conventions of the original tale while providing thoughtful commentary on the motives that drive people to act as they do in the real world.
- Michael Moorcock produces his own theory of the Hamelin tale in his book, The Dreamthief's Daughter (2002), where the cavern that the children escape into is actually a secret entrance to the Mittelmarch.
- In the Donna Jo Napoli novel Breath (2003) the protagonist, Salz, is the disabled boy who did not catch up with the pied piper.
- In the fifth book of The Dark Tower Series, Wolves of the Calla (2003), by Stephen King, the town robot Andy leads the children through the town playing a song, and a reference is made to the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
- German author Wolfgang Hohlbein uses the Pied Piper as a secondary antagonist (as the slave of a demon) in his fantasy novel Dreizehn ("Thirteen") (2003).
- The Piper is also mentioned as an antagonist in Garth Nix's series, the Keys to the Kingdom (2003).
- In 2005, children's author Jane Yolen wrote a young adult novel about the tale: Pay the Piper, a rock and roll fairy tale.
- In 2005, Adam McCune and Keith McCune, a father–son writing team, published The Rats of Hamelin, in which an eighteen-year-old Pied Piper faces a hidden enemy with powers like his own.
- In the Mary Higgins Clark novel Two Little Girls in Blue (2006), the main antagonist is until the end referred to as the Pied Piper, for his plot involves the kidnapping of a pair of twin children.
- The tale is alluded to in George R.R. Martin's short story "Guardians" (1981) from his Tuf Voyaging series.
- Australian author, Bryce Courtenay, has written a novel, Sylvia, (Penguin, 2006), about a peasant girl, who comes from a humble beginning, and eventually meets a flute player, Reinhardt, who finally calls himself The Pied Piper of Hamelin. They become principal characters in the tragedy of a Children’s Crusade, marching from Cologne in Germany, right down to Italy, where the leading evangelist drowns as he is about to walk across the water. The story gets under way in the year 1212, and includes many remarkable events, such as the calling of the birds, the appearance of a fish on Sylvia’s back, the plague of the crows, and others, all of which were interpreted as miracles by some of the public.
- James Finn Garner wrote a "politically correct" version of the Pied Piper fairy tale, that satirizes anti-capitalism.
- The 2006 DVD version "O Flautista", choreographer by Iolanda Rodrigues, dance show performed by CeDeCe - Companhia de Danca Contemporanea. This DVD was directed by Joao Tocha.
- In the play The Pillowman written by Martin McDonagh, the main character had written a story explaining the origin of the lame child who could not follow the Piper. He claimed that it was the Piper himself who chopped off the child's toes, because the child had showed him kindness, and the Piper did not want to punish the child.
- A musical entitled The Pied Piper of Hamelin, written and composed by Harvey Shield and Richard Jarbot, was produced and performed at the Olio Theater in Los Angeles in 1984; the original title was 1284, the year in which the actual Pied Piper visited Hamelin. A recording of the soundtrack was released in 1984 on Panda Digital with Harvey Shield, John Mostetter, Jodi Mitchell, J.D. Ellis, Joey Sheck, Susan Holmes, Del Appleby and Lesley Sachs.
- In 2002, the ballet The Contract (The Pied Piper) composed by Michael Torke, libretto by Robert Sirman and choreographed by James Kudelka was created to celebrate the National Ballet of Canada's 50th Anniversary season. Taking as its inspiration the story of the Pied Piper, The Contract centers its story around the character of "Eva", a charismatic faith healer who is contracted to rid a small community of a mysterious illness that afflicts the town's young people. She succeeds, but when the town's elders find reason to disapprove of her private conduct, they refuse to honor the contract, precipitating an even greater tragedy. In May 2003, the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra recorded a CD of Michael Torke's original music for The Contract.
- Pleasantville, New York's Little Village Playhouse children's theatre group performed a retelling of the piper story from the point of view of the children, "New Hamelin" (2007). In the musical, the children having been seduced to a cave by the music of the piper, return to their town and vengefully kill their parents for not coming to their rescue. The show was written by director Adam David Cohen and partner Kevin Laub.
- Der Rattenfänger von Hameln, a grand opera in five acts by Viktor Nessler to a German libretto by Friedrich Hofmann based on a poem by Julius Wolff (Leipzig, 19 March 1879).
- Another opera of the same name by German-American composer Adolf Neuendorff to a German libretto was produced in 1880 but has disappeared from the repertoire. However, a recording of one of the arias from this opera, "Wandern, ach, Wandern," by Fritz Wunderlich is to be found on the EMI album, Fritz Wunderlich -- Der Grosse Deutsche Tenor, a three CD set.
- An opera entitled The Piper of Hamelin, written and composed by Nicolas Flagello in 1970, was performed and recorded live by the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division in March 1999 and released on Newport Classics [NCD 60153]. The production was conducted by Jonathan Strasser, and the performers included Bob McGrath of Sesame Street fame as "The Narrator", Brace Negron as "The Piper", Troy Doney as "The Mayor" and Nicole McQuade as "The First Woman (soloist)". This opera differs in its ending from the Browning poem; while the Piper leads the children from town, he later returns alone and is freely given the promised 1,000 guilders by the distraught and repentant townspeople, and the children are reunited with their parents.
- Mark Alburger's opera, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (2004), with a libretto after the Robert Browning poem, was premiered at Thick House Theater in San Francisco (2006), with the Piper in the guise of George W. Bush and the Rats as terrorists.
Folk singer Donovan, who starred in the 1972 film The Pied Piper as the title character, recorded the song "People Call Me the Pied Piper" which was included in his album Pied Piper, released on the Music for Little People label (another version of this song was included in the film).
Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin contains the Lyric - "the piper is calling you to join him", as well as "the piper will lead us to reason".
"Pied Piper" is a song composed by Ian Anderson, released on Jethro Tull concept album Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976).
Italian singer and songwriter Edoardo Bennato recorded the album E' arrivato un bastimento based on the Pied Piper fairy tale.
The Megadeth song "Symphony of Destruction" contains lyrics referencing the piper, in the lines "Just like the pied piper led rats through the street."
The Radiohead song "Kid A" contains clear references to the Pied Piper tale, including the lyrics "Rats and children follow me out of town" and "Come on, kids."
The Jason Webley song "Broken Cup" contains lyrics referencing the piper in the lines, "After so many pipers have played in these streets, who is missed more? The children or the rats?"
In the song "Lose Yourself" by the rapper Eminem, he says "Best believe somebody's payin' the Pied Piper".
1970's pop group ABBA recorded a song called 'The Piper' influenced by the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Crispian St. Peters had a 1966 hit calling for us to follow him as 'The Pied Piper'
The Supper's Ready by Genesis contains the line: "the Pied Piper takes his children underground..."
In the Queen song "My Fairy King", writer and lead vocalist Freddie Mercury borrowed some lines from the poem.
The song "Ogre Battle", also by Queen, makes a reference to the story "Now once upon a time
- Sunrise and The Piper's Song
- The Rats
- Battle with The Rats
- War Cadenza
- The Piper's Victory
- The Burghers' Chorale
- The Children's March.
An old man told me a fable
When the piper is gone
And the soup is cold on the table."
- The Demons & Wizards song "The Whistler" from their self-titled debut album.
- R. Kelly often refers to himself as the Pied Piper. (Sadly ironic since Kelly was arrested for child pornography)
- "The Piper Never Dies", the second track from the German power metal band Edguy's Hellfire Club album.
- Dune song "Let's go hand in hand".
- The story has been depicted many times on film: 1903, 1911, 1913, 1918, 1924, 1926, 1933, 1957, 1972, 1981, 1982 and 1985.
- The 1933 adaptation was produced as an animated Walt Disney Silly Symphony short. Changes to the story include the rats being lured by a mirage of cheese created by the Piper's music and made to disappear into thin air (rather than being drowned in the river), and the children being "rescued" by the Piper from the bad upbringing being given by their selfish parents.
- The 1957 made-for-television film "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" was a musical version in color, using the music of Edvard Grieg, and starring Van Johnson in the title role. Claude Rains and Jim Backus also star in this film. The dialogue for this film was in rhyme, and included generous chunks of Browning's poem. A happy ending was added, in which the children are returned after the entire village offers up a prayer of repentence. Subplots were also added in this version, with the mayor (Rains) exhorting the children to work helping to build a clock-tower rather than attend school so that the town may win a contest, the reward being a banner bestowed by the King; a rival town, Hamelout, being devastated by both floods and the rats and being forced to beg for help from Hamelin's mayor and council (who naturally don't intend to lift a finger to help); and the mayor's daughter (Lori Nelson) being in love with the handsome schoolteacher Truson (i.e. true son), also played by Johnson, who bitterly opposes the harsh and greedy methods imposed by the mayor. The film was first shown by NBC as a Thanksgiving special, and later syndicated to local stations. In the early 1960s, it was briefly shown in theatres.
- The 1972 film The Pied Piper was not a musical per se, although it contained music by Donovan, who also played the title role. This was an especially dark and realistic version of the tale, set this time in the 14th Century during the time of the Black Plague. The film was directed by Jacques Demy and also starred Jack Wild, Michael Hordern, Donald Pleasance and John Hurt.
- A stop-motion "claymation" half-hour version was made in 1981 in the United Kingdom by Cosgrove Hall, directed by Mark Hall and narrated by Robert Hardy, following the Browning poem exactly and told within the framework of a story related to a child by a cloaked stranger on a winter's evening outside the church where the Pied Piper's tale is painted on the great church window; after the story is told, the stranger reveals himself to be the Piper, who then vanishes. This version was shown on PBS.
- In 1985, Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre adapted the story in the episode The Pied Piper of Hamelin, written and directed by Nicholas Meyer with original music by James Horner, and starring Eric Idle in both the title role and as "Robert Browning". The story is told within the framework of a subplot in which Robert Browning tries to get a boy named Willie to go to sleep by telling him the story, and emphasizes the morality of always keeping promises. This is probably the closest live-action adaptation of the story to date, with all of Browning's poetry kept intact and all the dialogue of the story in rhyme (with some expanding).
- The 1985 Krysař was a stop-motion film animated by the Trnka Studio in Czechoslovakia and directed by Jiri Barta that used a modified, darker version of the story. It was told entirely without any discernible words.
- Warner Brothers cartoon star Porky Pig has starred as "The Pied Piper" twice, in the 1939 cartoon Pied Piper Porky (in which Pied Piper Porky rids Hamelin of all the rats except for one smart-aleck rat that refuses to leave) and in the 1949 cartoon Paying The Piper (in which the leader of Hamelin's cats, enraged at Pied Piper Porky's putting them out of work, dresses up as a giant rat to prove that Porky didn't get the job done and discredit him).
- The 1961 Warner Brothers cartoon The Pied Piper of Guadalupe uses Browning's poem as a plot device in which Sylvester the Cat, unable to capture mice the conventional way, reads Browning's poem, dresses up in the traditional Piper's costume (green this time instead of multi-colored) and uses a pipe/flute to hypnotize mice and lure them into being captured until Speedy Gonzales arrives, refuses to be hypnotized and rescues his friends.
- It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown was released direct-to-video in 2000 and was the last Peanuts special developed under Charles M. Schulz's supervision. In this version, Charlie Brown tells his sister Sally the story of The Pied Piper with some changes: the town infestation is mice (not rats, since Sally is scared of rats), Snoopy is the Pied Piper Beagle (playing a concertina instead of a pipe!), his bargain with the Mayor is for a year's supply of dog food, and when the bargain is broken he musically bewitches away the Mayor and his officials.
- Nevil Shute's novel Pied Piper was set in Nazi-occupied France and was only very loosely connected with the original story. It was filmed as The Pied Piper in 1942 (starring Monty Woolley, Roddy McDowall and Anne Baxter) and 1990 (starring Peter O'Toole). The 1990 film went directly to U.S. television instead of being shown in American theatres, and was retitled Crossing to Freedom for its U.S. telecast.
- Atom Egoyan's 1997 film The Sweet Hereafter (based on the novel by Russell Banks) makes extensive metaphorical use of the Pied Piper legend. Browning's poem forms the narration for the film, delivered by a young girl who was crippled in a school bus accident that killed all of the other children in her small Canadian town. The script adds several lines that are not in Browning's poem.
- Katy Towell's 2006 animated short El Despertar is based on the "Pied Piper" with a Spanish, darker influence, replacing the rats with zombies.
- A segment of the 2005 Turkish anthology film Istanbul Tales made up of five stories inspired by popular fairy tales is based on this tale where the Pied Piper is a Roma clarinet player.
- An episode of Land of the Giants entitled "Pay the Piper" posited the Pied Piper as an alien and rather sinister entity, extremely long lived and possessing a constellation of powers that he used to kidnap children all over the galaxy. Jonathan Harris portrayed the Pied Piper.
- Sailor Moon SuperS movie is based on the Brothers Grimm's story.
- The Pied Piper is referenced in the episode The Third Conchord in the television show, Flight of the Conchords (TV series)
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield takes the role of the piper. Instead of children being taken away, Garfield takes away all the Italian chefs in the village.
- Kermit the Frog interviews The Pied Piper in a version of "Sesame Street News". The Piper is a jazz flautist who quits the gig when the rats don't dig his playing. Kermit then whistles loudly to his crew to pack up and the rats all appear and start following him out of the village.
- In an episode of The Trap Door entitled "Bugs", the castle becomes infested with hundreds of small crawling creatures. Berk discovers that they are attracted to the music of a "bugpipe", and using this method, he successfully leads the bugs far away from the castle.
- Composer/Writer Bill Burnett created a feature length animated musical "The Electric Piper" for the kids' cable network Nickelodeon. While not a commercial success, the treatment of the story was first rate and Burnett's pop rock songs composed for the show have become cult classics.
- In the japanese anime Boogiepop Phantom, the character Poom Poom is based off the Pied Piper.
- In The Goodies episode Scatty Safari, also known as The existence of Rolf Harris, Greame, Bill and Tim run a "star" Safari Park. They capture "a Rolf Harris" and breed it with another one from Moscow Zoo, after a year England is overrun with millions of Rolf Harris' and the Queen makes a proclimation that "whoever should rid my land of Rolf Harris' could marry her eldest son and get 1,000 OBE's" The Goodies dress like the Pied Piper of Hamelin and instead of piping they play digeridoos. All of the Rolf Harrises follow the Goodies to the other side, ITV, where they are shut in, forever, never to be seen again ..... except for one; as in the original children's tale, one "crippled boy" could not keep up with the other children and avoided their fate, here represented by Rolf Harris' popular children's character Jake the Peg, who has three legs.
- In the show Family Guy in the episode Da Boom the family follows Peter to Natick, Massachusetts after the apocalypse because Peter tells them that there is a twinkie factory there and only twinkie's and cockroaches can survive unharmed. When they arrive there, initially they cannot see the factory and Stewie angrily bursts out, "Great! We followed the Pied Piper of Hamelin for what?? We're done man, we're finished!"
- In the 1970's, Dutch television broadcast a 30 episode musical series based on a version of the story. The series 'Kunt u mij de weg naar Hamelen vertellen meneer?' (Can you tell me the way to Hamelin, sir?) was unfortunately erased and only the last 4 episodes survive.
- In the USA TV show House, in the episode "97 Seconds", Dr. Cole says about Dr. Amber Volakis, "Don't follow her! She pied-pipered 9 of the other candidates into getting fired last week."
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures serial The Day of the Clown, it is revealed at the end of part one that Elijah Spellman, is in fact the Pied Piper of Hamelin as played by Bradley Walsh.
The second series of the "Sarah Jane Adventures" entitled "Day of the Clown" features the Pied Piper a clown that abducts children
- In 1967 The song "Ca-na-da" was composed in celebration of Canada's centennial year. Composer Bobby Gimby earned the name Pied Piper of Canada as he commonly would be seen on television playing his horn whilst leading a following group of singing children.
- Minnesota liberal arts college Hamline University has The Piper as its mascot, due to the similarity of names (Hamline/Hamelin).
- The Hamlin Independent School District, serving the town of Hamlin, Texas, also has the Pied Piper as its mascot.
- Operation Pied Piper, the first of a series of Evacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II, which moved citizens out of the urbanised regions of Britain.
- The Pied Piper is a supervillain associated with the Flash in the DC Comics Universe. After being cured of deafness, Hartley Rathaway became obsessed with sound and learned to uses a flute to hypnotize his victims. Following the death of Barry Allen, Piper retired from crime and became an ally of Wally West.
- Mr Piper was a famous Canadian children's TV series made in 1962, featuring Canadian opera tenor Alan Crofoot dressed as a Pied Piper, who was telling stories, singing and doing magic.
- Just a Couple of Days, by Tony Vigorito, is a satirical story of biological warfare with a so-called "Pied Piper Virus." The book presents an interesting history of the Pied Piper legend, linking it to the medieval "Dancing Manias" (see also: St. John's Dance).
- In Extremo have recently put Goethe's verse to music in their song, "Der Rattenfänger" on their album, Sünder ohne Zügel.
- The band Demons & Wizards' song "The Whistler" is based on The Pied Piper, but with a darker conclusion, in this version the flautist feed the rats with the abducted children.
- In the game Black & White by Lionhead Studios, a Pied-Piper-like character is seen luring a village's children into a cave. The player must then rescue the children or kill the Piper.
- R Kelly has long referred to himself as "The Pied Piper of R&B". In light of his legal troubles involving underaged girls, the name has taken an ironic meaning.
- Mad Magazine artist Sergio Aragonés created a variation on the story, in a multipanel color cartoon on the back of one issue. When the town council refuses to pay the Pied Piper, he uses his flute to draw away not the children, but the women of Hamelin.
- In the Three Stooges' short A Ducking They Did Go, Curly brings a bunch of ducks, marching behind him, to the duck club. Moe asks "Where did you get all the ducks?" Curly says, "Well, you remember the pie-eyed [sic] piper of Hamelin? Well, I figure if he could pipe rats pie-eyed, I could pipe ducks sober!"
- The same pun, "pie-eyed", was used in the WB cartoon Book Revue.
- In the anime series MÄR, which features several characters based on fairy tales, a villain called Hamelin is based on The Piper.
- The Manchester Guardian refers to the Pied Piper in its 1954 caricature "The Red Piper of Peking", a direct reference to current Cold War happenings in Southeast Asia.
- In the children's novel Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants by Dav Pilkey, Harold and George make a comic about their new science teacher, Professor Poopypants, which parodies the legend, titled "Captain Underpants and the Pied Pooper of Piqua". In the comic, Professor Poopypants uses music by Cher to lead an army of gerbils in miniature mechs to attack an elementary school.