The Flute Player of Hamelin
By the Grimm Brothers
On the banks of a river in the north of Germany, there was a little town called Hamelin. Hamelin was a nice, quiet town with many small houses and useful stores.
But in the year 1284, the town experienced an awful problem. They had an infestation of rats. The town had always had several rats running around, but the cats usually ate them quickly. But suddenly, the rats became a terrible problem. The rats started to multiply. The cats couldn’t eat all of the rats—there were too many! The rats started to swarm the whole town of Hamelin. They ran through all the streets, into the stores, into people’s homes. The rats ate peoples’ food and even chewed on the wood in their homes.
The townspeople went to the mayor of the town, and they begged him, “Please do something to stop this horrible rat infestation!”
The mayor sat down to talk with his advisors, but none of them could think of a good plan to get rid of the rats. They didn’t have enough cats in the town to eat all the rats. They had tried rat poison already, and it didn’t work. They had no idea what to do.
While the men were discussing the problem, they suddenly heard a knock at the door of their meeting room. They opened the door and saw a tall, thin man dressed in colorful clothes. The man was a stranger; nobody recognized him.
“I have heard about the rat infestation here in Hamelin,” the mysterious man said. “And for a thousand dollars, I will get rid of the rats for you.”
“Wonderful!” exclaimed the mayor. “If you succeed, we’ll pay you five thousand dollars!” But as he said it, the mayor let out a laugh. After all, if he and his advisors couldn’t figure out a way to get rid of the rats, how could this stranger do it? It didn’t seem possible.
As the man hurried away, he yelled back to the mayor, “Wait and see! In just a few hours, all the rats will be gone!”
The man took out a flute and began to play a song. He walked down all the streets and walked between all the houses in the town, playing his flute the whole time. As he played, rats ran out from the houses and from their hiding places, and they all followed behind the man. Soon, there was a huge group of rats behind him.
The man continued walking and walking until he reached the river. Every single one of the rats in the town was following him. He walked into the river—still playing his flute—and continued walking until the water came up to his chest. The rats, following him, fell into the river and drowned. All of the rats died.
Everyone in the town rejoiced. Finally, they had no more rat problem!
But when the man went back to the mayor to ask for his reward, the mayor went back on his offer.
“Five thousand dollars?!” the mayor exclaimed. “I can’t give you that. That’s way too much! I’ll give you fifty dollars. You should be happy with that!”
But the flute player was furious. “You will regret breaking your promise!” he yelled at the mayor.
That night, when the townspeople went to bed, they slept even better than usual because they no longer had to worry about the rat infestation. The mysterious flute player knew that everyone was sleeping, so he went outside in the dark and started to play his flute again. The adults in the town slept deeply, but the children all heard the song. All the children got up from their beds and hurried outside. They followed behind the man, as if pulled along by magic.
The man walked and walked, and soon there was a long line of children walking behind him. He walked until he reached the bottom of a big mountain. There was a huge rock, and the man stood in front of it and played his flute even louder. The rock slowly moved to the side and opened up the entrance to a dark cave. The man walked inside the cave and the children followed right behind him. After the children were inside, the rock slowly moved back to cover the entrance to the cave, and the children were all trapped inside.
But there was one small child who walked slower than all the rest, and he didn’t go inside the cave with the others. When he saw the big rock, he turned around and walked back toward his home. He got a little lost, but he finally made it back home by the next morning.
All of the adults in the town were horrified when they realized that their children had been kidnapped. The one remaining little boy told them what had happened and then led all the adults to the big rock at the bottom of the mountain.
The mayor yelled to the flute player through the big rock, “Please, I beg you! Bring back our children! If you bring back our children, I will pay you the full fifty thousand dollars I promised you.”
The big rock slowly rolled away and opened up the entrance to the cave. The children all ran outside and ran into the arms of their happy parents.
After receiving his money, the mysterious flute player disappeared and was never seen again in the town.
And the mayor never broke a promise ever again.