When writing about the seduction of children, the Pied Piper effect is a term used by experts on paedophilia to describe a person’s “unique ability to identify with children”. The term is based on a medieval story about the rat catcher of Hamelin (Hameln), Germany.
The earliest references to the infamous Pied Piper probably date back to the 13th century. These stories describe a piper, dressed in multicoloured clothing, leading a group of children away from the town – never to return.
In the 16th century the story was expanded into a full narrative, in which the piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizenry refuses to pay for this service, he retaliates by turning his magic on their children, leading them away as he had the rats.
This version of the story spread as a fairy tale and has also appeared in the writings of, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the Brothers Grimm. Unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, it remains a sad story. However, it is a good reminder of the fact that early European fairy tales had quite harsh plots.
According to the German Lueneburg manuscript (c. 1440–50) 130 children were seduced by the piper and lost on 26 June, 1284.