What Happened in Hamelin, Gloria Skurzynski

I’ve been such a schizophrenic reader lately.  I’ve not gotten any books out of the library for the past several weeks, because I’ve been reading Harry Potter and Martin Millar, and planning to get started on Shakespeare.  However, the last time I went through reading all the book blogs I read, there were so many books that appealed to me.  And I wrote them all down but I was all on board with finishing up my Harry Potter & Shakespeare reading before carrying on to new things.

Ah, and then Obama got elected, and I got an unexpected check from my old job.  It’s a perilous combination for me to be both extraordinarily happy and extremely emotional.  It makes me want to make other people happy.  I was listening to NPR while I was driving to the mall yesterday, and I was crying and thinking that when I got back to my apartment I was going to donate a thousand dollars to them because they made me feel so happy with their inspirational stories about Obama celebrations.  And then when I got to the mall I went to Border’s and I was all I HAVE TO BUY BOOKS FROM HERE SO BORDER’S WILL NOT BE MADE SAD BY THE FAILURE OF THEIR STORE AND EVERYONE MUST BE HAPPY BECAUSE WE ARE HISTORIC TODAY.  However, I refrained from both of these things (except I did buy a guitar book at Border’s, because I was so happy and I had no other outlet) (and I also went to the place where I used to work a few summers ago, and I hugged everyone there exuberantly and bought a shirt and two really nice pens).  Instead I went to the library and get a whole bunch of books, including What Happened in Hamelin, which I read about on Jeane’s blog, Dog Ear DiaryWhat Happened in Hamelin is, as you may have begun to suspect, a retelling of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The Pied Piper – they call him Gast – is portrayed as a brilliant, charismatic, unscrupulous man, who uses crafty means to Harold-Hill the residents into doing everything he wants, and then getting rid of their rats while winning over every person in the town.  Chief amongst them (at least at first) is a fourteen-year-old orphan called Geist, who feels some uneasiness about the stranger’s methods but finds it hard to resist the attention he’s getting as Gast’s right-hand man.

It’s an interesting take on the Hamelin story.  Gast thinks of a clever way to get rid of the rats, and the thing he does with the children is also clever.  The whole thing isn’t as far-fetched as you might expect an explanation of the Pied Piper story to be – actually, it seemed rather plausible to me.  You know, sad, but plausible.

This book was damn unsettling.  It was already unsettling before I got to the end where – spoilers – Gast leads all the children through a mountain pass in order to sell them to some guys he’s presumably got on retainer.  I just found it thoroughly disturbing that Gast was using his charm to get these kids away from their parents and off to be sold, and that was his plan all along.  If I had read this book when I was a little girl it would have given me nightmares.  As a grown-up, I was still bothered by it, but I really, really enjoyed it.  Thanks, Jeane, for the excellent book recommendation!

P.S. Want to hear something sad?  I know you do.  The first written record in the actual town of Hamelin is in the chronicles in 1384 and says “It is ten years since our children left.”  It’s true.  I read it on Wikipedia.

  • Wonderful review. That line from wiki is very sad. It would be nice to someday know the real story.

  • I like fairy tale/folk tale re-tellings, and this one sounds interesting so I skipped the spoilers. Thanks, Jenny.