While most of us are deeply grateful for our mothers (I certainly am grateful for mine.), the advent of Mother’s Day comes with a measure of grief for some. Perhaps you are a mother whose child is no longer living. Perhaps you grieve because your mother has passed on. Today, in honor of all mothers who have lost a child, I bring you an expansion on an ancient legend.
“In the year 1284 a mysterious man appeared in Hameln. He was wearing a coat of many colored, bright cloth, for which reason he was called the Pied Piper.” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” Jeremiah 31:15, KJV
The sound of mourning hung in the air of the village of Hameln for weeks. At first, mothers wept inconsolably. As their husbands and elders scoured the surrounding countryside for some sight of the missing children, a few of the women remained hopeful. In time, as the village realized the permanence of the loss, a bitterness grew. “How dare you pay that bastard with the lives of our children rather than part with your precious gold?” the mayor’s wife accused her husband. Other wives uttered similar accusations to their husbands as the village settled back into its daily routine—a routine now unaccompanied by the merry sound of childish laughter and play.
Despite the loss of her two eldest children, Rachel was comforted by the presence of little Hans. Having left home without his jacket on that fateful day, the small boy, at the urging of his older sister, had turned back to retrieve it. By the time he had returned to the street, the other children had vanished into the mountainside. Rachel had found him sitting on a grassy knoll just outside of town, sobbing at being left out of what he thought to be a grand adventure.
Gathering her youngest son into her arms, Rachel had comforted him, assuring Hans that the others would return soon and there would be new adventures on which he could join them. About that time, two other children had appeared on the knoll. Lars, whose clubbed foot always caused him to lag behind, was leading Greta. Rachel immediately noticed a blank look on the little girl’s face, which mirrored the terror in the boy’s eyes.
Back in the village, Rachel and Inga, the mother of Lars and Greta, became outcasts among the local women. Their sorrow, although deep, could not be comprehended by the grieving mothers whose progeny had all been stolen by the malicious piper.
Of the surviving children, only Hans remained unscarred by the tragedy. Lars limped more markedly than ever and had lost his ability to speak. Greta, who became his voice, could not even see the light of the midday sun.
In the years to come, Rachel never understood why, of all the children in Hameln, only Hans was spared. But she took comfort in the life of her son. Even in the face of deceit and tragedy, hope remained. No piper, no rat catcher, no magician could ever change that.