8. Pied Piper
“The long procession [of children] soon left the town and made its way through the wood and across the forest till it reached the foot of a huge mountain. When the piper came to the dark rock, he played his pipe even louder still and a great door creaked open. Beyond lay a cave. In trooped the children behind the pied piper, and when the last child had gone into the darkness, the door creaked shut.” This is an excerpt from the famous Grimm brothers version of the very famous tale of the Pied Piper in which the small German town of Hamelin loses all of its children to the Piper when the mayor refuses to pay him for ridding the town of rats. You may be very surprised to know that it is a true story! Well – largely true – some bits are exaggerated. Here is a quote from the wall of the “Piper’s House” in Hamelin today: “In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 children born in Hamelin were seduced by a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours, and lost at the calvary near the koppen.” Many theories abound as to the factual events of that day but the most logical seems to be that the piper represents death (death was depicted as a skeleton wearing pied clothing in the middle ages) and that the children who died were killed by the plague.
Interesting Fact: “Pied” means “having two or more colors.” The word comes from middle English and is taken from the word “magpie.” Thus, the pied piper was a man wearing clothing of many colors.
7. We Three Kings…
We’ll cut to the chase on this one. The famous “three kings” from the Biblical birth of Christ narrative weren’t:
1. Three in number (the number isn’t mentioned at all).
2. Kings (they were “wise” men) – this probably comes from Psalm 71:11 (72:11 in protestant bibles): “And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.”
3. Trotting about on camels.
The actual narrative (Matthew 2:1–2) merely says: “When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” It says a little later that they offered Him gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – but that is about as specific as it gets.
Interesting Fact: The Catholic Bible (based on the Septuagint – Greek edition used by the Apostles and Christ) uses a different numbering system to protestant Bibles (based primarily on later Jewish editions of the Bible). This can be very confusing when looking up quotes (as you can see above).