Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The ratcatcher knows a particular tone, which he sounds nine times on his pipe, and then all rats follow after him, wherever he wants them to go, into a pond or a pool.
Once a village could not be rid of its rats, and finally they sent for the ratcatcher. He prepared a hazel stick in such a manner that all rats were drawn toward it. They would then have to follow anyone who took hold of the stick. Waiting until a Sunday, he laid it in front of the church door. As the people were going home after the worship service, a miller came by, saw the good-looking stick lying there and said, "That will make a fine walking stick for me." He picked it up and left the village, walking toward his mill.
Meanwhile a number of rats began to leave their cracks and corners and came running and jumping across the fields toward him. The miller, still carrying the stick, had no idea what was happening. When he came to a meadow, they ran from their holes and ran across the fields and pastures after him. Running ahead, they were inside his house before he himself was, and they stayed there as a plague that could not be overcome.
Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Der Rattenfänger," Deutsche Sagen, herausgegeben von den Brüdern Grimm (Berlin: In der Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, 1816), no. 245, pp. 333-34. In following editions this legend is numbered 246.
Hurdy-Gurdy Player Abducts Children
A. Kuhn and W. Schwartz
A man with a hurdy-gurdy once came to Brandenburg. He played and played, and such wonderful tones came out of his music box that all the city's children followed after him in a great swarm. He went out the gate to Marienberg (Mary's Mountain). It opened up and the man went inside with all the children. They were never seen again.
Source: A Kuhn and W. Schwartz, Norddeutsche Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg [Mecklenburg], Pommern, der Mark, Sachsen, Thüringen, Braunschweig, Hannover, Oldenburg und Westfalen, aus dem Munde des Volkes gesammelt (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1848), no. 99, pp. 89-90.
Avicenna and the Mouse Plague at Aleppo
In the city of Aleppo there was a king. As mice abounded in that city, the people complained of them every day. One day, while the king was conversing with Avicenna, they touched upon the mice. The king said, "O Avicenna, everyone complains of these mice. Would that we could find some remedy for them that everyone might be at ease."
Avicenna answered, "I will make it happen that not a single one of them remain in this city. But with this condition, that you stand at the city gate, and beware, whatever wonder you see, that you not laugh."
The king consented and was glad. Straightway he ordered that they prepare his horse, and he mounted and went to the gate.
Avicenna, on his part, stood in a street and repeated a charm and called the mice. One of the mice came, and he caught it and killed it and put it in a coffin and made four mice bear that coffin. Then he repeated the charm and began to strike his hands one against the other; and these four mice began to march slowly along. And all the mice that were in the city attended that funeral, so that the streets were filled full of them. They came to the gate where the king was standing, some of them before the coffin and some of them behind. And while the king was looking on, he saw these mice with the coffin on their shoulders, and, unable to resist, he laughed. As soon as he laughed, the mice that were outside the gate all died, but those that were within the gate dispersed and ran off inside.
Avicenna said, "O king, if you had kept my counsel and not laughed, not a single mouse would have remained in this city, but all of them would have gone out and died. And everyone would have been at ease."
And the king repented of his having laughed. But what could he do? Repentance too late profits not.
Source: Sheykh-Zada, "The Lady's Twenty-Eighth Story," The History of the Forty Vezirs; or, The Story of the Forty Morns and Eves, translated by E. J. W. Gibb (London: George Redway, 1886), pp. 300-302.
The Rats in Neustadt-Eberswalde
J. D. H. Temme
It is very noteworthy that there are no rats at all in the city of Neustadt-Eberswalde. The explanation is as follows:
In earlier times there were a great many rats there, especially in the town's grain mill, where they caused much damage. In about the year 1607 or 1608 a certain man presented himself to the council and offered to get rid of these vermin, claiming that no rats would return to the mill as long as it should stand. He did not ask for even the slightest payment until one year after he had done away with the rats. At that time his charge would be ten thalers, which was promised to him. The magistrate had him paid two thalers in advance.
The man then placed something in the mill and something else in a secret place. The following day the people saw with amazement how the rats left the mill in a great swarm and swam out into the Finow River, that flows by there. Not a single rat was left behind.
A year later the man returned to collect the eight thalers that were still owed him, and he was paid. From that time forth no trace of a rat has been seen there, neither in the mill, nor in the city.
Source: J. D. H. Temme, Die Volkssagen der Altmark, mit einem Anhange von Sagen aus den übrigen Marken und aus dem Magdeburgischen (Berlin: In der Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, 1839), no. 31, p. 114.
The Dancing Children of Erfurt
J. G. Th. Grässe
In the year 1257 a miraculous event occured in the city of Erfurt. More than 1000 children assembled there, and then all together they left the city, dancing and singing. They went through the Löber Gate and along Steiger Way. They finally arrived at Arnstadt, where the citizens there took them in. The people of Erfurt did not know where their children were until the people of Arnstadt notified them. Then the people of Erfurt brought their children back in carriages. No one ever discovered who had led them away.
The Expulsion of Rats from the Island of Ummanz
Many years ago there were so many rats on the Island of Ummanz that the inhabitants could not find refuge from the vermin. Then a sorcerer from abroad presented himself, offering -- for a large sum of money -- to drive all the rats from the island. The people of Ummanz agreed to pay this very high price, even though he stated from the beginning that he would be able to ban the rats only for the lifetime of the population that currently lived there. Then the sorcerer drove all the rats to the southwestern point of Ummanz and into the water. This region is thus called the Rott even today.
They say that the soil from this area formerly could be used as protection against rats. People who were plagued with rats would go to Ummanz and get a sack of soil from the Rott. A small handful of this soil shook into the rat holes would be sufficient to drive the rats away within a few hours. All this was credited to the foreign sorcerer.
More recently, however, following the death of the earlier population and after many outsiders had come to Ummanz, rats found their way back to the island, and since then not even soil from theRott will help to drive them away.
The Rat Hunter
On the Alhede the people were grievously annoyed with rats, mice and other vermin, when there came an itinerant rat hunter who undertook to drive them all away. He first, however, inquired whether they had ever seen a dragon thereabouts, and on their answering in the negative, caused a pile to be raised on the middle of the heath, having kindled which he sat by it on a chair.
While the fire was burning he took forth a book, out of which he read much, and while he read, rats and mice, serpents and various reptiles were seen to go into the fire. But at last there came a dragon, at the sight of which the man complained that he was betrayed and must now perish himself. The serpent then wound his tail round both the man and his chair, and thus entered the fire, where they both perished together.
Source: Benjamin Thorpe, Northern Mythology, Comprising the Principal Popular Traditions and Superstitions of Scandinavia, North Germany, and the Netherlands, vol. 2 (London: Edward Lumley, 1851), p. 219.
In the year 1284 a mysterious man appeared in Hameln. He was wearing a coat of many colored, bright cloth, for which reason he was called the Pied Piper. He claimed to be a ratcatcher, and he promised that for a certain sum that he would rid the city of all mice and rats. The citizens struck a deal, promising him a certain price. The ratcatcher then took a small fife from his pocket and began to blow on it. Rats and mice immediately came from every house and gathered around him. When he thought that he had them all he led them to the River Weser where he pulled up his clothes and walked into the water. The animals all followed him, fell in, and drowned.
Now that the citizens had been freed of their plague, they regretted having promised so much money, and, using all kinds of excuses, they refused to pay him. Finally he went away, bitter and angry. He returned on June 26, Saint John's and Saint Paul's Day, early in the morning at seven o'clock (others say it was at noon), now dressed in a hunter's costume, with a dreadful look on his face and wearing a strange red hat. He sounded his fife in the streets, but this time it wasn't rats and mice that came to him, but rather children: a great number of boys and girls from their fourth year on. Among them was the mayor's grown daughter. The swarm followed him, and he led them into a mountain, where he disappeared with them.
All this was seen by a babysitter who, carrying a child in her arms, had followed them from a distance, but had then turned around and carried the news back to the town. The anxious parents ran in droves to the town gates seeking their children. The mothers cried out and sobbed pitifully. Within the hour messengers were sent everywhere by water and by land inquiring if the children -- or any of them -- had been seen, but it was all for naught.
In total, one hundred thirty were lost. Two, as some say, had lagged behind and came back. One of them was blind and the other mute. The blind one was not able to point out the place, but was able to tell how they had followed the piper. The mute one was able to point out the place, although he [or she] had heard nothing. One little boy in shirtsleeves had gone along with the others, but had turned back to fetch his jacket and thus escaped the tragedy, for when he returned, the others had already disappeared into a cave within a hill. This cave is still shown.
Until the middle of the eighteenth century, and probably still today, the street through which the children were led out to the town gate was called the bunge-lose (drumless, soundless, quiet) street, because no dancing or music was allowed there. Indeed, when a bridal procession on its way to church crossed this street, the musicians would have to stop playing. The mountain near Hameln where the the children disappeared is called Poppenberg. Two stone monuments in the form of crosses have been erected there, one on the left side and one on the right. Some say that the children were led into a cave, and that they came out again in Transylvania.
The citizens of Hameln recorded this event in their town register, and they came to date all their proclamations according to the years and days since the loss of their children.
According to Seyfried the 22nd rather than the 26th of June was entered into the town register.
The following lines were inscribed on the town hall:
In the year 1284 after the birth of Christ
From Hameln were led away
One hundred thirty children, born at this place
Led away by a piper into a mountain.
And on the new gate was inscribed: Centum ter denos cum magus ab urbe puellos
duxerat ante annos CCLXXII condita porta fuit.
[This gate was built 272 years after the magician led the 130 children from the city.]
In the year 1572 the mayor had the story portrayed in the church windows. The accompanying inscription has become largely illegible. In addition, a coin was minted in memory of the event.
Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Die Kinder zu Hameln," Deutsche Sagen, herausgegeben von den Brüdern Grimm (Berlin: In der Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, 1816), no. 244, pp. 330-33. In following editions this legend is numbered 245.