On July 22, 1376, legend holds that the “Pied Piper,” a ratcatcher, led more than a hundred children out of their homes in Hamelin, Germany, never to be seen again.
Today, most historians and mythologists think the Pied Piper of Hamelin symbolizes the Ostsiedlung, or expansion of German settlement to the north and east. Thousands of young people emigrated out of the central German territory of Saxony (where Hamelin is located) to eastern regions such as Transylvania (now part of Romania), Pomerania (now part of Poland), Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic), and Prussia (now part of Germany).
In The Pied Piper: A Handbook, Wolfgang Mieder provides translations of the various historical accounts of the Pied Piper story, as well as looks at the explanations given to what might have actually happened. Some theories suggest that these children had taken part in the Children’s Crusade or were victims of the Black Death. Some historians believe the story might have originated with young men from Hamelin who were killed at the Battle of Sedemunder in 1259. A more recent theory proposes that these were young people (not necessarily children) who were recruited to move east to Transylvania – in the second half of the thirteenth century many Germans were being persuaded to settle in these new communities.