Everything you do in life will cost you something in return.
It may cost you time. It may cost you money. It may cost you effort.
It won’t come for free.
Whatever the form of payment, you WILL have to pay that price.
This was the lesson learned by the people of Hamelin, a faraway land, in a long ago time.
Their town was overrun by rats. An incredible infestation with rats everywhere. The pests were destroying the town. They would get into the food. The water. Homes were ravaged by the sheer number of these vermin.
These filthy, disease carrying rats were leaving destruction and devastation in their wake.
The townsfolk tried everything – cats, traps, poison – nothing was working. The citizens were losing hope. They were stuck. There was no solution.
One day, a wandering stranger dressed in multi-coloured patchwork clothing appeared.
He promised to rid the town of every single rat quickly and efficiently, but it would cost them a large sum to be paid on completion of the task. The townsfolk of Hamelin quickly agreed to his price knowing that it would cost them more the longer this infestation problem remained unsolved.
So he went to work, walking up and down the streets in his pied clothing while playing his pipe.
Oh the sound!
The magical sound. Every single rat in town was drawn to his music. Hundreds and thousands of them poured out of every building, every gutter, and every sewer. Streams of vermin gushing like a burst dam from hither and yon. There were so many that they were trampling over each other to follow this man playing his divine tunes.
He led them out of Hamelin and into the nearby sea where they all drowned, the siren call of his music overriding their innate instinct for survival.
Upon completion of his promised task, he returned to collect his payment, as just reward for doing what he promised. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
However, the townsfolk decided that since their town was now rid of the rats, they didn’t have to pay this vagrant. They reneged on their deal and violently chased him out of town. They figured they’d never see him again. What could he do? Nothing, they reasoned. He was simply a dirty vagrant clothed in that ugly pied suit.
Boy, were they wrong.
Not long after, the Pied Piper returned in the still of the night and quietly played another melody on this pipe as he walked the streets. This time it was all the town’s children who woke up and silently followed him out of town, drawn to the mesmerizing notes that emanated from his instrument.
The next day the townsfolk awoke from an extra deep slumber to discover that their children were nowhere to be found. They searched high and low. The children had vanished with nary a trace.
In the town square, there was a note.
The price for the safe return of their children was double the price to rid the town of rats.
The citizens realized that they would have to pay. That putting it off, ignoring it, wasn’t an option. By choosing to chase the Pied Piper out of town without paying him they would end up paying more dearly.
In the end, they had to pay the Piper.
The only alternative was to live quiet, child free lives.
Illustration by Kate Greenaway for Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Public Domain.