"Uh, Mr President?" the aide held out a book.
"What? What's this? The Pied Piper of Hamelin?" the president frowned and made as though to throw the book away.
"Yes sir, the First Lady found it on the dining table in the private quarters … she said there's a note…" suddenly pale, the president opened the book and read the note written like a dedication on the title page.
"Your predecessor in this office was well know for his love of children's stories - I commend this one to you in the hope that you will be at least as wise as he was" The president swallowed hard and looked at his aide.
"I've changed my mind. That man … pay him. Leave the money where he said."
Based on the German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, this archetype serves two primary functions - the first is that of the mysterious stranger who appears out of nowhere to solve a problem, and the second as a reminder that a bargain, once struck, should be kept.
As a result of his preferred methods of working he is also used as an analogy for the sort of leader who leads his followers to destruction.
For those unfamiliar with the legend, it holds that the town of Hamelin in Brunswick was once infested with a plague of rats that resisted all efforts to eradicate them until a mysterious stranger in parti-color clothes arrived in town and offered to deal with the problem for a substantial fee.
The city council agreed, and the stranger set to work playing on a flute, at which point the rats came pouring out of the buildings and followed him down to the River Weser where they were all drowned.
When the stranger returned to ask for his fee, the council reneged, feeling that they had better uses for the money and the rats, after all, were gone. Angry, the piper left the Council House and set off down the street, playing his flute once more.
This time the children of the town set off after him instead and followed him to the side of a nearby mountain, which they entered through a mysterious gate which then closed behind them, leaving only one survivor who was unable to keep up because he was lame.
Some versions of the legend hold that the children's descendants later re-appeared in a distant land having escaped from slavery underground whilst in others they are never heard of again.
There are other versions of the legend that crop up in other places, but the Hamelin one is the trope-namer and the best known.
- Event: Squirrel Invasion of 1801 - maybe someone of this ilk was at work here, too…
Game and Story Use
- The PCs may find themselves in the position of being balked of their fee after finishing a job … some players may relish the chance of revenge.
- Likewise, they should be extremely careful before cheating people who have already demonstrated supernatural powers.
- Even without supernatural powers, the gift of a copy of the original tale can make quite a subtle but unambiguous threat to someone who is witholding payment.