Hameln, June 1284: a stranger in multicoloured clothes strikes a deal with the town council over payment to lift a plague of rats that has infested the town. He pipes the rodents to their deaths in the Weser, yet the council renege on payment. The stranger returns while the citizens are in church, and, dressed in a hunter’s costume, exacts his revenge – 130 children follow his pipe from the town and are never seen again. Just two boys remain, one lame, the other deaf. Germany’s most famous legend was recognized in a stained-glass panel in the church as early as 1300. Academics agree the yarn is rooted in history – it is surely not coincidence that Hameln town records commence with the tragedy, which is reported as straight news a century later in a manuscript and given a date – June 26, 1284 – but hard facts remain elusive. The most plausible theory proposes nothing more fantastical than an exodus of citizens, Hameln “children” all, during colonization of eastern nations such as Pomerania and Prussia – the finger is often pointed at Count von Schaumberg who moved to Olmutz, now Chechnya. In the Grimm Brothers’ account, compiled from eleven sources, the children found a town in Transylvania. However, the presence of rats has led some scholars to propose a mass migration during the Black Death, a baton taken up by a theory that suggests the tale remembers an early plague in which the piper represents Death.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

Video: is Leipzig the new Berlin?

There's been a lot of hype about Leipzig lately, with many dubbing Saxony's capital "the new Berlin". But can little Leipzig honestly compete with Germany's la…

11 Jul 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig reborn: discovering the city by Trabant

Leipzig, more markedly than most cities in eastern Germany, has experienced an upswing in recent years. It's now a dynamic university city with a colourful, wel…

05 Jul 2018 • Stuart Forster local_activity Special feature
The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

The 10 best Baltic beach resorts

European beach holidays haven’t always been just about the Mediterranean. A century ago, the resorts along the Baltic Sea were just as likely to attract the E…

16 Mar 2018 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs