No, this day is not actually about catching rats!
National Rat Catcher’s Day has to do with the German folktale where the piper came to town and played his flute to catch rats but, instead, used his music to woo all of the children into following him out of town. It’s an age old tale and this day is here to bring it some honor and attention.
History of National Rat Catcher’s Day
An important date in the background of National Rat Catcher’s Day can be traced back to 1842, when Robert Browning published a poem by the name of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Browning, however, may have taken the subject of his poem from the Brothers Grimm, who wrote their tale, “The Children of Hameln” in 1812. But the story goes back much further, indeed.
The origins of the legend of the ratcatcher are shrouded in mystery, with some different hypotheses on where it came from. Dating back to the Middle Ages, some believe that the story was used to explain the disappearance of the young men when Germany was colonizing the east. Others believe that it may be a story used to explain Nicholas of Cologne who promoted the Children’s Crusades in the 13th century.
While many consider this to be only a fairy tale, the German town of Hamelin does hold historical evidence of a tragic event that took place in 1284 where more than 100 children “left”. Since its association with Hamelin, in Lower Saxony, this town has taken on its own identity in association with the story, including a thriving cottage industry built around tourism.
But, no matter how it began, the story of the Pied Piper has been told throughout several centuries!
National Rat Catcher’s Day has two date options for celebrating due to some conflicting ideas on when the event might have happened. Robert Browning set his poem on July 22, 1376. But the town of Hamelin, Germany boasts an inscription that goes along with the Brothers Grimm date of June 26, 1284. For those who love to celebrate literature and German folklore, either date – or even both – would work!
How to Celebrate National Rat Catcher’s Day
Get involved with a historical tale and enjoy some interesting cultural activities on National Rat Catcher’s Day, with some of these ideas:
Read Some Pied Piper Tales
Check out the poetic version by Robert Browning, the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm or some of the many other versions that have made it through history and into literature. Victor Dyk, Ray Ballentine, and even Russell Brand have taken opportunities for retellings. In honor of National Rat Catcher’s Day, head over to the local library and check out one or a few of these.
Visit Hamelin, Germany
Head over to the place where it all began by visiting Hamelin, Germany. The town has all sorts of nods to the story in honor of National Rat Catcher’s Day, including bakeries that sell rat-shaped pastries, tours led by the Pied Piper, and theatrical re-enactments in the town square. It’s a perfect way to celebrate this fascinating, mysterious legend!