There is often a grain of truth in those things we find fantastic. Take the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, for instance. It is not, as one might imagine, merely a fairy tale. It is actually based on fact.
I've scoured the Internet for references to the story in the historical record, and while many sources of information simply repeat each other, other ones are confusing and refer to different names for documents as well as different dates. I've pieced together the information as best I can.
Let's start with the Rattenfangerhaus, which literally translates to "The Rat Catcher's House"--ah, those hilarious Germans and their place names. This building in Hamelin dates to 1602 and has these words inscribed in stone: "A.D 1284--on the 26th of June--the day of St. John and St. Paul--130 children--born in Hamelin--were led out of the town by a piper wearing multicolored clothes. After passing the Calvary [the execution place] near the Koppenberg [hills] they disappeared forever."
Execution place? Seriously? This is what inspired a fairy tale meant for children? No sugarplum fairies and unicorns for these German tots--they get tucked in bed with tales of dead kids. But to be fair, the story of the Pied Piper was popularized by a Brit in 1842, the poet Robert Browning, to be specific.
The graffiti on the rat catcher's house is not the only evidence of the existence of the pied piper, however. In ye olde medieval days ("die alten mittelalterlichen Tage" in German--i.e. a mouthful of phlegm) a church in Hamelin was decorated with a stained glass window, circa 1300, complete with the image of a piper along with these words: "In the year 1284, on the day of John and Paul, it was the 26th of June, came a colorful Piper to Hameln and led 130 children away." The window was described several times between the 1300's and 1600's, so either it really existed or German eyewitnesses thought it would be funny to play a trick on us by claiming it existed. Whatever the case may be, we can't actually check the original text because the window was destroyed in 1660. Reports are contradictory as well. In fact, I also found this possible transcription: "On the day of John and Paul 130 children in Hamelin went to Calvary and were brought through all kinds of danger to the Koppen mountain and lost," which is very similar to the stone at The Rat Catcher's House. Below is a reproduction of the original window done by Augustin von Moersperg in 1592, before the window was destroyed, and since I can't make out the letters at the top of the image or read old German, I can't translate what it actually says. But the date is definitely noticeable--1284--which seems to confirm the first translation, which would make the second reported transcription the work of a liar, liar, pants on fire.
The Hamelin town scribes were also in on the story. A reference to the tale of the pied piper was recorded in the register for the town of Hamelin in 1384. It reads, "It has been 100 years since our children left." Just as we date years according to the birth of Christ--A.D. stands for "anno Domini," or "in the year of the Lord"--Hamelin bases the dates in the town record according to the year 1384 when the children left. What's interesting--and may allude to what actually happened to the "children"--is the fact that it's written the children "left" rather than "went missing" or even "were kidnapped."
And now for something completely different (but not really)--If you remember, in the fairy tale, the Pied Piper lures the children away with the music from his pipe, and the children follow him dancing. A street in Hamelin is named Bungelosenstrasse ("street without drums" or the thing that you do before someone says "Bless you"), where both music and dancing are banned. When a public parade passes the street, all the musical revelry goes silent and resumes once the street has been passed.
In his article "The Evolution of the Pied Piper" (1978), Bernard Queenan mentions a manuscript called the Catena Aurea belonging to a person named Heinrich von Herford from 1370. Queenan writes, "Although the existence of this Luneburger Manuscript was noted in other textual references, the text itself was lost for centuries until located by Dr. Spanuth himself in 1936." I have found references to Decan Lude's chorus book as well as something called the Lueneberg manuscript. This description from Queenan seems to conflate the two while other sources see them as distinctly separate. Or, since I am wrong 99 times out of 100, I could very well just be misunderstanding what Queenan is talking about.
Whatever the case may be, the account from Herford's 1370 manuscript is translated as follows:
"To be noted is a marvelous and truly extraordinary event that occurred in the town of Hamelin in the diocese of Minden in the year of the Lord 1284, on the very feast-day of Saints John and Paul. A young man of 30 years, handsome and in all respects so finely dressed that all who saw him were awestruck by his person and clothing came in by way of the bridge and the Weser Gate. On a silver pipe which he had, of wonderful form, he began to play through the whole town, and all the children hearing him, to the number of 130, followed him beyond the eastern wall almost to the place of the Calvary or Gallows field, and vanished and disappeared so that nobody could find out where any one of them had gone. Indeed, the mothers of the children wandered from city to city and discovered nothing. A voice was heard in Rama and every mother bewailed her son. And as people count by the years of the Lord or by the first, second and third after a jubilee, so they have counted in Hamelin by the first, second and third year after the exodus and departure of the children. This I have found in an old book. And the mother of Herr Johann de Lude, the deacon, saw the children going out."
Deacon Lude, mentioned above, died in 1378, so would it be possible for his mother to have actually witnessed the event in question in 1284? Well, probably so. If Lude was born, say, between 1305-15 or so, and his mother was in her thirties when she had him, she could have been anything from a toddler to an adolescent in 1284. Other accounts I have read, however, say that the text refers to Lude's grandmother rather than his mother, which would be even more plausible. However, as you can see by the numbers, his mother could very well have witnessed the event--whatever "the event" was--as a young child.
The tale of the Pied Piper has been repeated over and over again since that earliest reference in the stained glass window of the church in Hamelin, and eventually it became a fairy tale made famous by the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning.
So, in essence, we don't know who the Pied Piper was or what exactly happened although we can be certain that something happened in the town of Hamelin in summer of 1284, something so terrible that it was remembered for hundreds of years. So in essence, I have not answered the question in the title of this post: Who was the real pied piper of Hamelin? In fact, we don't even know if there was a pied piper of Hamelin. (And what the heck does "pied" mean anyway?) All we really know is that 130 "children" left Hamelin in the late 13th century.
But, luckily for you, the story doesn't end here. Even though nobody really knows what happened to those kids or if the piper actually existed, that doesn't stop people from coming up with all kinds of off the wall theories, and I'll be describing them in the next few posts. So stay tuned...
If you absolutely cannot wait until my next post to dig deeper into the legend of the pied piper, you can check out these websites for more information:
Ancient Origins: "The Disturbing True Story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin"
Dark-Stories: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin."
Reader's Digest: "The Real Pied Piper" (one page only)
Wikipedia: "Pied Piper of Hamelin"
Mental Floss: "The Enduring Legacy of the Pied Piper of Hamelin"
Project Gutenberg: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin"
How Stuff Works: "Was There Really a Pied Piper of Hamelin?"
Below is my novel Glassbreaker Alice in images. Unfortunately, not all the pictures are showing up for some mysterious reason, but you can see the whole thing on Pinterest. If you prefer your stories in words rather than images, go to Wattpad to read the whole shebang.
In my last post, I promised to do a sneak peek of what's coming up on my blog over the next several months, so here is the what along with the why.
Alice in Wonderland
Here's the backstory: I wrote this super-funny (I thought) middle grade (say 4th-7th grade) novel-length re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. It's called Glassbreaker Alice and uses a lot of the same tropes and characters from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, which is actually a re-telling itself (Basically, then, I've written a re-telling of a re-telling). After pitching it to agents and getting discouraged, I kinda/sorta forgot about it and wrote another book. But a couple of months ago, I decided to put my Alice story out there anyway, and I have been posting it chapter by chapter on Wattpad, where you can read it now (You do have to create an account first, unfortunately).
On my blog, I'm going to do some reflection on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Why does it persist? I'm also going to be doing some visual renditions of my novel and posting them here.
The Pied Piper of...Oklahoma?
I just finished a novel. It's a mashup of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin," the Cold War, and farm life. Weird combination, right? The Pied Piper is an interesting fairy tale with an even more interesting history. I'm going to investigate and share what I find out.
Bad, Bad, Bad Future
I am embarking on a new novel, which will combine the issues of terrorism, climate change, and refugees. Heavy stuff, right? I am in the process of doing research, and I plan to post some of the information I discover in future posts.
When it comes to college, be a Boy Scout!
Since my target reader is considering college or already in college and since I teach college classes, I'm going to do a series of posts on what to expect in college and how to prepare yourself. Included will be interviews with real, live college graduates or students in college right now.
Ah, the college years! Best years of my life...true story.
Of course, I'll probably get distracted by other topics along the way. I'm like a dog who sees a squirrel, that way. In any case, I'm quite sure some topic will come up that I feel a sudden need to blog about. What that will be remains to be seen.
Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader. We're gonna have some fun!
I started this website in 2013. I can't believe it's been three years already. So far, I have done 56 blog posts, and I have focused mainly on this question:
If I could go back in time and talk to myself at the age of 14 or so, what advice would I give?
And so most of my blogs have been in the self-help vein. I'm turning a corner on my blog, however, to explore new territory, but before I do, I'd like to look backward and recap my favorite blog posts so far.
My Top Ten List (in chronological order)
dead dog backwards--"This poem, which I penned rather quickly at DFW Writers Conference and have since revised, was inspired by a contemporary poet who is some-kind-of-wonderful named Joaquin Zihuatanejo."
A Tribute to My Grandparents--"I could say my grandparents were simple people with simple lives, but I don't think anyone's life is actually 'simple.' If they aspired to touch stars or see unicorns, I never knew it. They worked hard all their lives and seemed satisfied with the bit of comfort they had accumulated at the end of their lives."
On Hobgoblins & Roads Not Taken--"The identities we carry as teenagers remain with us throughout life. I still feel like I am the odd girl out of the group."
Becoming Wonder Woman (or how your body language affects your brain)--"Just by standing like Wonder Woman, you can hijack your brain chemistry."
be your best you--"This technique requires you to don a mask. The mask is made of up the characteristics of the personality you want to assume. . . . Yes, that's the secret. Pretend to be the person you want to be."
i was an awkward teenager--"So, yesiree, I was quite the awkward weirdo when I was a teen."
i am that racist white lady--"What I do remember is that guilt gnawed me like little, scrabbling mice. How could I have thought that Greg had had anything to do with the robbery? Was that the idea I had communicated to his mother? Had I bought into the stereotype of melanin rich young males? And more insidious, what did the idea that I had suspected other young men in Greg's peer group, boys he might have been friends with, say about my own notions of race and crime?"
Little Smudges of Greatness--"I told my students they had a little spark of greatness within them. They do. We all do. But if we don't constantly kindle that spark, it will die, and we will be left with regret for what could have been."
Beans and Fried Taters--"Culture isn’t about being fancy, or at least, I don’t think so. It is a much more casual thing. It's the everyday happenings that fill up our lives. My culture is paint-splattered shoes that should have been thrown out months ago and t-shirts with bleach spots. It's a dog with a muddy rear end and a bucket full of kitchen scraps."
Remembering James--"James was a nice guy, a genuinely nice guy. It seems like everyone has some sort of shortcoming, and some people make you wonder if their friendliness is authentic or if it's coming out of some sort of self interest. But not James. He was just a good guy."
I hope you get the chance to go back and read some of these...be sure to leave comments.
In my next blog post, I will use my crystal ball to look into the future. Oooh, anticipation!
Feel free to share this post, but the ones listed above are much more shareable.
Do you ever glimpse those wild places along the roadside? On the edges of a park or springing up between the cracks in the sidewalk? Unbridled nature, weeds and insects, scruffy trees, towering branches, spots of red and gold flowers? Yeah, those places. As I'm writing this, it's spring verging on summer, and nature has come alive. The air is ripe with buzzing insects and the scent of chlorophyll. The world has gone wild.
It's during these times that I feel a yearning to dive into the wild and go exploring. When I see a copse of trees along the margins, I am drawn to it. I long to leave behind the concrete and the glass and dive into the chaos of nature. I want to ramble through the brambles and bracken. I want to hide from society and find solace in solitude.
My husband thinks my desire to lose myself in nature is crazy. He hates bugs and the outdoors. In turn, I don't understand why he won't sit on the grass and never wants to eat dinner in the back yard.
The truth is that researchers have studied the effects of nature on the human body, and here's what they have found--
Being in nature...
Though we live in an artificial environment, we are creatures of nature. We were built by nature. Even the Bible says that God made Adam from clay. Our origin is the soil itself. We need nature much more than nature needs us. So please make room in your life for nature. Love the trees, love the soil, love nature, love the wild.
Read more about the health benefits of nature.
How do you interact with nature? Leave a response below, and thanks for reading!
This poem, which I penned rather quickly at DFW Writers Conference and have since revised, was inspired by a contemporary poet who is some-kind-of-wonderful named Joaquin Zihuatanejo. He gave us this poem (follow the link!) and asked us to model it in our own writing.
Here is the prompt Zihuatanejo gave us: A young man drunk on whiskey and heartache has just crashed his car into a tree. Well, the image that came to my mind was not a drunk kid but an animal on the side of the road, the victim of a car bumper. I originally imagined a dead moose thanks to my obsession with This American Life stories, but then I thought it would make more sense if the dead animal were a dog. So here it is:
dead dog backwards
The sun knits the worms
of your viscera back
together as the flies
unseal their kisses
and buzz away.
The shovel lifts
your rag doll body
back onto the gravel road
where you unfreeze
just as the bumper
pushes the blood
back into your internal organs,
the headlights spark
across your white eyes,
and the boy spots
your dark outline
against the darker night
and smashes his foot
from the break pad
to undo a smiley
face on his cell phone.
Kinda gross, huh? Don't text and drive! :-P
NOTE: No dogs were harmed in the making of this poem.
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Serendipity happens. And it happened to me this past weekend.
Here's the backstory: I went to a writers' conference, one in which literary agent pitches (where the writer pitches his/her novel to the agent, not the other way around) were embedded right into the ticket price. Yay, DFW Writers Conference! And it just so happened that I had won an extra pitch session. Yay, me!
[NOTE: Here's the lowdown on how a book gets published--First, you have to finish your manuscript (unless it's nonfiction, which is another story). Yeah, you do have to finish the book first. That seems like the hard part, right? Well, then, if you want to go the traditional route and get published by a big publisher, you generally have to get a literary agent hooked into your work, so yeah, that's the stage I'm at....and it's harder than you think.]
Unfortunately, the agent I was supposed to pitch to was unable to make it. :-( So they did her pitch sessions using Skype. But then, there were technical difficulties, and I was a writer without an agent to pitch to. Poor me. :-(
Then, in swooped Super Agent to save the day! Swoosh!!!!
Think twice before you judge someone without
getting to know him or her first.
It just so happened that a really cool agent happened to be standing next to me and said that her agency might be interested in my manuscript. I had studied all the agent profiles before attending the conference and knew this particular agent would have subzero interest in my book. I write books for young people--teenagers, more specifically, and she was looking for romance novels. You might call my writing a lot of things, but romantic, it's not. So I explained to her that I definitely did not write romance. That did not deter Super Agent! She told me to come pitch to her anyway. So I did.
Here's the thing you really need to know about this agent--actually, I guess it's more about me and my insecurities than it is about her. Look at this picture of her. Did you look at it? No, really, go and look. You see what I mean? Stunning woman! Gorgeous, sophisticated, got-it-together type of lady--you know, basically everything I am not. So to say I was intimidated is an understatement.
Well, ya'll, let me tell you--Super Agent (aka Tricia Skinner) is really, really cool. She was so enthusiastic about my novel, so nice, so cool, and she was completely approachable. She was easy to talk to, and I was really shocked to find that she was actually interested in my manuscript after I described it to her. At the end of my pitch, she reached out her hand, and we shook, but then I had to go an extra step and give her a big hug because I was so impressed by her awesomeness.
So lesson learned--I am guilty of the sin of judging a book by its cover. I am intimidated by attractive and/or very sophisticated people. I do not consider myself to be terribly sophisticated or attractive. I'm more of a dog-hair-all-over-my pants?-guess-I'll-wear-it-anyway type of person.
Anyways, if you are writing some kind of cool romance novel, you should definitely query Tricia because she's building her client list. If you're not interested in writing but enjoy life lessons, then remember to always think twice before you judge someone without getting to know him or her first.
End note: I doubt Tricia will be interested in my book since it's YA and kinda/sorta anti-romance (It's safer to be skeptical, you know, so you don't get your hopes up. *knock on wood*). But I am so glad I met her! She renewed my hopes.
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I was recently listening to PRI's The World, a radio program about current events and movements around the world, and my ears perked up when I heard them mention something called "slow fashion." Ever heard of it? No? Well, have you heard of slow food? Slow food is a push back at fast food. Slow food is about investing time and energy into food preparation and taking the time to enjoy it. And so slow fashion is...well, it's nothing like slow food really.
According to the story from The World, slow fashion emphasizes organic fibers, high quality construction, and fair wages. It's fashion that defies trends--the intent is for you to use and wear these garments for twenty years or more. Does that sound like an outrageous length of time to you? According to the story, most women wear an article of clothing only seven times before discarding it. Yeah, you read that right. Seven times! Who are these women?!?! I wear my clothes over and over and over again. I keep my clothes until they're so messed up I can't wear them anymore or until I can't wear them anymore because my belt line has shifted locations. :-/ I have been known to wear shoes until there are holes in the bottom, making the soles flop up and down, and I still only part with them reluctantly.
Okay, so maybe I'm not a fashion maven. In fact, the word "maybe" is a bit too generous: I am definitely NOT a fashion maven. But I do like to look nice...even if the attire I wear is not quite in fashion at the time.
Because slow fashion is of the highest quality (it's gotta be, right? How else would it last for 20+ years?!?!), it's also pricey. A plain t-shirt goes for $55, and a pair of socks is $20. *elephant-sized gasp* A pair of socks for $20! Good Lord! Who can afford those prices? Not a skinflint like me, that's for sure!
So here's an alternative--let's say you are interested in looking good and helping the environment by keeping perfectly good clothes from ending up in the city dump. And let's further say that you don't want to pay $55 for a t-shirt or $20 for a pair of socks. In fact, let's say you would actually like to get an entire wardrobe on the cheap. How can you do all that?
Pay a visit to your local thrift store!
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe.
But, ew, you may recoil and say. Am I really telling you to buy and wear clothes that other people have worn and discarded? Well, yes, I am. I mean, it's not like I'm telling you to go digging through someone's trashcan and wear their old discarded newspapers with coffee grinds dripping off. And it's not like this stuff is dirty. Most (if not all) thrift shops actually do wash their donated clothes before they ever put them on the shelf. Once you get past the "ew" factor, I think you will actually be pleasantly surprised. Below, I've posted some pictures of several outfits I've purchased at thrift stores over the years. As you look at them, remember that I'm not a professional photographer, and I'm actually a pretty terrible picture-taker.
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe. And since it's so cheap, you can change and add to your wardrobe constantly without breaking the bank. You may have to dig a little, of course, because while all thrift stores have great bargains, they also have mountains of clothing that you will find horrible. But don't give up, and remember that with each article of clothing you buy from a thrift store, you're helping Mother Earth!
So please, before you buy some polyester something online or at a store, consider thrift-shopping. Just give it a shot and see what you think.
"'Slow Fashion' Designers Tout Their Wares as Better for the Planet"
Read the original story that inspired me at PRI's The World.
"8 Awesome Thrift Store Items People Often Miss"
This article describes several treasures you can find at your local thrift store.
"10 Reasons Why Thrift Stores are Awesome"
This article lists several benefits of shopping at a thrift store.
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It's that time of year again--the transition between the old and the new, when people get the bizarre idea that somehow this year is going to be different, that somehow they're going to be so full of pep and vigor in the first month of the new year that they're going to change their lives through the sheer force of will power.
And to that, I say, BAH, HUMBUG!
Yes, I am a Scrooge when it comes to new year’s resolutions.
New year’s resolutions are a scam that we perpetrate against ourselves. We begin the new year with fervent optimism, and then as the realities of life settle in, our resolve crumbles. Then, we think, I’ll try again next year. Next year will be different. There will be more time next year.
Well, this fantasy next year is never going to happen. We've built it up too much in our minds, invested it with too much importance, imbedded it with the sparkle of a magical amulet. And when you make something that grandiose, it’s bound to fail.
So in the place of this forever unattainable “new year’s resolution,” I propose something much more humble. Instead of putting off this new you until January 1, I say do it today. Don't wait; after all, a new year’s resolution is just a euphemism for procrastination. If you're wanting to make a big change in your life--or even a little one--start out small. Trying to lose 20 pounds? Go for a five minute walk. Eat a salad with crackers and cheese for lunch. Want to write the great American novel? Sit down and write 250 words. Need to find a new job that doesn't bore you to tears? Look on monster.com. Email someone in the field and ask how he or she got started. But don't wait until January. Don't put it off. Do it today. Do it right now. Tell yourself it’s just practice for the real thing, or play whatever mind games you have to in order to get yourself going.
And then when you fail--which you are bound to do--are you going to walk away from the "new you"? Are you going to put it off until next year's resolutions? No! If you fall off the wagon once or twice, it doesn't mean you're a failure. It just means you've hit a bump in the road. Jump back on that horse (okay, I see that my metaphors or not very consistent...but hopefully you get my gist). Try again and again and again. Don't give up--you know, all those phrases that Nike summed into their three word slogan, "Just do it."
And don't forget--Carpe the diem! Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Okay, I'll get off my soapbox. Happy new year, peoples!
For my composition students' first paper, they wrote an essay based on a quote. Below is one of the quotes they were allowed to choose to write their paper on as well as my own meditation on the quote's meaning.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Several years ago, I took a cruise with my parents to Alaska; the wonderful thing about cruising to Alaska is that you get to see those narrow crannies that you would otherwise fly over in an airplane. We traveled up the inlets that lie between the mainland and elongated islands that trace the coast all the way to Alaska. I remember seeing a waterfall crashing down from a cliff in the far-off distance. It seemed tiny, no bigger than the width of my thumb. But as I watched, a giant yacht sailed to the foot of it, and the waterfall was the same width as the boat. In actuality, the waterfall was massive; it was my own eyes that were tiny.
We take in the world through our five senses, but everything we sense is only an interpretation of the reality outside of us. Everything that we believe occurs in the outside world, the things we drink with our eyes, taste with our noses, sense with our skin, swallow with our ears, and explore with our taste buds--these things exist in our imagination. Our brains construct the world around us.
Scientists say it takes one second for the glow of the moon to reach us, eight minutes for light from the sun, thirty-five minutes for Jupiter's reflection, and nine years for the glow from Sirius, also called the dog star. So essentially, all the light from space is in the past. If a star exploded somewhere far, far away, we might not be aware of it for centuries.
In the same way, the world we interpret is a historical artifact. Sure, we sense things on Earth much more quickly than those far-away worlds we get mere glimpses of, but still, everything we sense takes time to move from our sensory organs to our brains. Even then, it takes milliseconds for our brains to receive and process information.
I know that what the quote this post began with is one of inspiration--that we can overcome adversity with our willpower, that we are greater than our past or present, but I think it's an intriguing exercise to twist ideas and see what trickles out.
The world outside of us is majestic in its complexity, and so are we.
Word and Book Lover.