Fairy Tales: The Pied Piper

Here is the next in my series of linocuts depicting various fairy tales: The Pied Piper.

The Pied Piper

I’m sure the story is a familiar one: The village of Hamelin was beset by rats, and the town fathers hired a piper whose music lured the rats away to be drowned in a nearby river. When the time came to pay the piper, however, the town reneged on the deal. The piper, angered by the town’s duplicity, then played his pipe again, this time luring the town’s children away, neither children nor piper ever to be seen again.

As with many fairy tales, there is a historical event behind the tale. Actually, there are several theories, but the one most agreed upon is that many of the town’s inhabitants, not necessarily literally children, left the town to resettle parts of eastern Europe, most likely Poland and Transylvania, lured there by the prospect of land and prosperity, much in the same way that Europeans were later lured to settle in North America.

The story has often been retold, most notably by the Brothers Grimm, and later by Robert Browning. Here is a recording of the Browning version read by Ingrid Bergman.

In this print, I wanted to depict the mystery of the event. Who was the piper? Why did his piping lure the children away? And what was their fate? We really don’t know, do we?

The Pied Piper
Linoleum block print with hand coloring, 2009
Edition of 22
Daniel Smith water-soluble ink on Rives Heavyweight paper

See this print, and more!!! at my studio during Santa Cruz Open Studios
Two weekends in October:
October 3 & 4, and October 17 & 18
11am – 6pm each day
816 Hanover Street, Santa Cruz (see map)

1 thought on “Fairy Tales: The Pied Piper

  1. I was looking around for an image to accompany a poem I wrote recently: a retelling of the Pied Piper story, and I found your arresting linocut image and was most impressed. It’s arresting and striking in an unusual way. Obviously, I’d not dream of ‘borrowing’ it, besides there are other PP images out there where copyright doesn’t apply but I thought I’d like to share the poem with you.


    We’re overrun with rats, they said.
    We’ll pay you, just go right ahead.
    I did. I piped and straight away
    rats followed, could not disobey
    my hauntingly hypnotic tune,
    and exited Hamlin’s commune.
    They drowned. I led them to the edge,
    down through the waterweed and sedge,
    into the Weser, fast it flowed,
    then I requested what was owed.
    Tough luck, they said. Payment’s no go,
    we’re stony broke, we‘ve got no dough,
    we’ve had a small financial lapse,
    come back again, next year perhaps.
    Angered, I piped a different air.
    Children appeared from everywhere
    and followed me, enchantedly,
    each one a helpless abductee.
    I led them to a place where light
    does not exist. Eternal night
    is where I left them, huddled, scared,
    because their foolish fathers dared
    to cheat me. I’d have set them free
    had Hamelin paid its debt to me.
    I knew a tune that would release
    them swiftly, safely, in one piece.
    The townsfolk raged, my instrument
    was seized, smashed, trampled on and bent
    beyond repair. It made no sense.
    Now they must bear the consequence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *