The Pied Piper
Nobody knows the effect of not “paying the piper” like the German village of Hamelin, who apparently really did lose a majority of their children under mysterious circumstances in 1264. In 1300, they erected a stained glass window in their church with the cryptic inscription: “On the day of John and Paul 130 children in Hamelin went to Cavalry and were brought through all kinds of danger to the Koppen mountain and lost.”
Theories abound about the actual happenings of this strange disappearance, ranging from a deranged serial killer to a government implemented eastward migration. The pied piper is, however, generally thought to be a man carrying the bubonic plague—thus explaining his association with rats, and his “pied” or multicolored appearance brought on by the skin lesions characteristic of the late stages of the Black Death.
However, the lack of explanation as to why the plague only effected the children also leads to the idea that the vanishing children were lost to a Children’s Crusade, the disturbingly popular Middle Age practice of sending the kids off to fight holy wars in lieu of the adults .The piper, in this case, would be the one child who would claim to have seen a vision ordering the children to march to the Holy Land and win it back for Christendom.
Not exactly a relaxing, charming bedtime story, Bluebeard is based on one of the creepiest serial killers of all time. Gilles de Rais, a Breton knight and fighting comrade of Joan of Arc, began his life pretty normally for the time: learning Latin, growing off-color facial hair (he is remembered as Barbe bleue—literally, blue beard) marrying for money, and killing people in the name of Christianity.
After ending his military career, his expensive and weird tastes quickly squandered his considerable family fortune, leaving him nearly destitute. His wealth-recovery strategy? Selling his soul to a demon called “Baron” and sacrificing beautiful children to him. It is not quite clear whether Baron required the sadistic torture rituals precluding the children’s death, beginning with an elaborate meal with heavy drinking and drugging, and taking the child upstairs to be subjected to sodomy, decapitation, dismemberment, and/or a slit throat.
Although Gilles’ trial is commonly accepted to be sensationalized by the overzealous practices of those who put him on trial (who attributed a staggering 600-800 deaths to his name) there were at least forty bodies found at his estate during the investigation in 1437. Gilles, in his own statement, confessed: ““when the said children were dead, he kissed them and those who had the most handsome limbs and heads he held up to admire them, and had their bodies cruelly cut open and took delight at the sight of their inner organs; and very often when the children were dying he sat on their stomachs and took pleasure in seeing them die and laughed...” That the fairy tale version changes the dead from little children to wives is somewhat heartening evidence that Charles Perrault believed pedophilia unsuitable for lulling us to sleep.
Got a yarn about another one of the stories Disney aggressively co-opted? Give us the low-down in the comments section!Image Sources
- - Anastasia: http://www.disneylandpostcards.com/images/Cinderella.jpg
- - Cinderella: http://freetheunicorns.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/snow-white-pie-small3.jpg
- - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: http://www.jr-puzzles.info/storyf.jpg
- - The Pied Piper: http://artfiles.art.com/5/p/LRG/15/1504/F4GBD00Z/fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric-th%C3%A9odore-lix-bluebeard-attempting-to-kill-his-last-wife-fatima-illustration-from-contes-de-ma-mere-loye.jpg
- - Bluebeard: http://twifanzone.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/2c8d9fdb8c1b0131c1c5e3a83ed51093.jpg