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Forty Fortunes

A Tale of Iran
Told by Aaron Shepard

Once, in the royal city of Isfahan, there lived a young man named Ahmed, who had a wife named
Jamell. He knew no special craft or trade, but he had a shovel and a pickand as he often told his
wife, If you can dig a hole, you can always earn enough to stay alive.
That was enough for Ahmed. But it was not enough for Jamell.
One day, as she often did, Jamell went to the public bath to wash herself in the hot pool and chat
with the other women. But at the entrance, the woman in charge told her, You cant come in now.
The wife of the Kings Royal Diviner is taking the whole place for herself.
Who does she think she is? protested Jamell. Just because her husband tells fortunes! But all she
could do was return home, fuming all the way.
That evening, when Ahmed handed her his wages for the day, she said, Look at these few measly
coins! I wont put up with this any longer. Tomorrow youll sit in the marketplace and be a diviner!
Jamell, are you insane? said Ahmed. What do I know about fortunetelling?
You dont need to know a thing, said Jamell. When anyone brings you a question, you just throw
the dice and mumble something that sounds wise. Its either that, or I go home to the house of my
So the next day, Ahmed sold his shovel and his pick and bought the dice and the board and the robe
of a fortuneteller. Then he sat in the marketplace near the public bath.
Hardly had he gotten settled when there ran up to him the wife of one of the Kings ministers.
Diviner, you must help me! I wore my most precious ring to the bath today, and now its missing.
Please, tell me where it is!
Ahmed gulped and cast the dice. As he desperately searched for something wise to say, he
happened to glance up at the ladys cloak. There he spied a small hole, and showing through the
hole, a bit of her naked arm.
Of course, this was quite improper for a respectable lady, so Ahmed leaned forward and whispered
urgently, Madam, I see a hole.
A what? asked the lady, leaning closer.
A hole! A hole!
The lady brightened. Of course! A hole!
She rushed back to the bath and found the hole in the wall where she had hidden her ring for
safekeeping and forgotten it. Then she came back out to Ahmed.
God be praised! she said. You knew right where it was! And to Ahmeds amazement, she gave
him a gold coin.
That evening, when Jamell saw the coin and heard the story, she said, You see? Theres nothing to
God was merciful on this day, said Ahmed, but I dare not test Him on another!
Nonsense, said Jamell. If you want to keep your wife, youll be back in the marketplace
Now, it happened that on that very night, at the palace of the King, the royal treasury was robbed.
Forty pairs of hands carried away forty chests of gold and jewels.
The theft was reported next morning to the King. Bring me my Royal Diviner and all his assistants,
he commanded.
But though the fortunetellers cast their dice and mumbled quite wisely, not one could locate the
thieves or the treasure.
Frauds! cried the King. Throw them all in prison!
Now, the King had heard about the fortuneteller who had found the ring of his ministers wife. So he
sent two guards to the marketplace to bring Ahmed, who appeared trembling before him.
Diviner, said the King, my treasury has been robbed of forty chests. What can you tell me about
the thieves?
Ahmed thought quickly about forty chests being carried away. Your Majesty, I can tell you there
were . . . forty thieves.
Amazing! said the King. None of my own diviners knew as much! But now you must find the
thieves and the treasure.
Ahmed felt faint. Ill . . . do my best, Your Majesty, but . . . but it will take some time.
How long? the King demanded.
Uh . . . forty days, Your Majesty, said Ahmed, guessing the longest he could get. One day for each
A long time indeed! said the King. Very well, you shall have it. If you succeed, Ill make you rich. If
you dont, youll rot with the others in prison!
Back home, Ahmed told Jamell, You see the trouble you have caused us? In forty days, the King will
lock me away.
Nonsense, said Jamell. Just find the chests like you found the ring.
I tell you, Jamell, I found nothing! That was only by the grace of God. But this time theres no hope.
Ahmed took some dried dates, counted out forty, and placed them in a jar. I will eat one of these
dates each evening. That will tell me when my forty days are done.
Now, it happened that one of the Kings own servants was one of the forty thieves, and he had heard
the King speak with Ahmed. That same evening, he hurried to the thieves meeting place and
reported to their chief. There is a diviner who says he will find the treasure and the thieves in forty
Hes bluffing, said the chief. But we cant afford to take chances. Go to his house and find out
what you can.
So the servant climbed up to the terrace on the flat roof of Ahmeds house, and he listened down
the stairs that led inside. Just then, Ahmed took the first date from the jar and ate it. He told Jamell,
Thats one.
The thief was so shocked, he nearly fell down the stairs. He hurried back to the meeting place and
told the chief, This diviner has amazing powers. Without seeing me, he knew I was on the roof! I
clearly heard him say, Thats one.
You must have imagined it, said the chief. Tomorrow night, two of you will go.
So the next night, the servant returned to Ahmeds roof with another of the thieves. As they were
listening, Ahmed ate a second date and said, Thats two.
The thieves nearly tumbled over each other as they fled the roof and raced back to the chief. He
knew there were two of us! said the servant. We heard him say, Thats two.
It cant be! said the chief. So the night after that, he sent three of the thieves, and the next night
four, then five, then six.
And so it went till the fortieth night, when the chief said, This time, Ill go with you myself. So all
forty thieves climbed up to Ahmeds roof to listen.
Inside, Ahmed gazed at the last date in the jar, then sadly took it out and ate it. Thats forty. The
number is complete.
Jamell sat beside him and gently took his hand. Ahmed, during these forty days, Ive been thinking. I
was wrong to make you be a diviner. You are what you are, and I should not have tried to make you
something else. Can you forgive me?
I forgive you, Jamell, but the fault is mine as well. I should not have done what I knew was not wise.
But none of this helps us now.
Just then came a loud banging at the door.
Ahmed sighed. The Kings men already! He went to the door and unbolted it, calling, All right, all
right, I know why youre here.
He swung the door open. To his astonishment, he saw forty men kneeling before him and touching
their heads to the ground again and again.
Of course you know, O great diviner! said the chief. Nothing can be hidden from you. But we beg
you not to give us away!
Bewildered though he was, Ahmed realized that these must be the thieves. He thought fast and said,
Very well, I wont turn you in. But you must replace every bit of the treasure.
At once! At once! cried the chief.
And before the night was through, forty pairs of hands carried forty chests of gold and jewels back
into the Kings treasury.
Early the next morning, Ahmed appeared before the King. Your Majesty, my magic arts can find
either the treasure or the thieves, but not both. Which do you choose?
The treasure, I suppose, said the King, though its a pity not to get the thieves. The boiling oil is all
ready for them. Well, never mind. Tell me where the treasure is, and Ill send my men right away.
No need, Your Majesty. Ahmed waved his arms in the air and called, Pish posh, wish wosh, mish
mosh. Then he announced, By my magic, the chests have returned to their place.
The King himself went with Ahmed to the treasury and found it so. You are truly the greatest
fortuneteller of the age! he declared. From this day forth, you shall be my Royal Diviner!
Thank you, Your Majesty, said Ahmed with a bow, but Im afraid thats impossible. Finding and
restoring your treasure was so difficult, it used up all my powers. I shall never be a diviner again.
What a loss! cried the King. Then I must doubly reward you. Here, take two of these chests for
your own.
So Ahmed returned home to Jamell, safe, rich, and a good deal wiser. And as any diviner could have
foretold, they lived happily ever after.

The Princess Mouse
A Tale of Finland
Told by Aaron Shepard
Once there was a farmer with two sons. One morning he said to them, Boys, youre old enough now
to marry. But in our family, we have our own way to choose a bride.
The younger son listened respectfully, but the older one said, Youve told us, Father. We must each
cut down a tree and see where it points.
Thats right, said the farmer. Then walk that way till you find a sweetheart. Thats how weve
done it, and thats how we always will.
Now, the older son already knew who he wanted to marry. He also knew how to cut a tree so it fell
how he wanted. So, his tree fell and pointed to the farm where his sweetheart lived.
The younger son, whose name was Mikko, didnt have a sweetheart, but he thought hed try his luck
in the town. Well, maybe he cut the tree wrong, or maybe it had thoughts of its own, but it fell
pointing to the forest.
Good job, Mikko! his brother mocked. What sweetheart will you find there? A wolf or a fox?
Never mind, said Mikko. Ill find who I find.
The two young men went their ways. Mikko walked through the forest for hours without seeing a
soul. But at last he came to a cottage deep in the woods.
I knew Id find a sweetheart! said Mikko. But when he went inside, he saw no one.
All this way for nothing, he said sadly.
Maybe not! came a tiny voice.
Mikko looked around, but the only living thing in sight was a little mouse on a table. Standing on its
hind legs, it gazed at him with large, bright eyes.
Did you say something? he asked it.
Of course I did! Now, why dont you tell me your name and what you came for?
Mikko had never talked with a mouse, but he felt it only polite to reply. My name is Mikko, and Ive
come looking for a sweetheart.
The mouse squealed in delight. Why, Mikko, Ill gladly be your sweetheart!
But youre only a mouse, said Mikko.
That may be true, she said, but I can still love you faithfully. Besides, even a mouse can be special!
Come feel my fur.
With one finger, Mikko stroked the mouses back. Why, it feels like velvet! Just like the gown of a
Thats right, Mikko. And as he petted her, she sang to him prettily.
Mikkos sweetheart will I be.
What a fine young man is he!
Gown of velvet I do wear,
Like a princess fine and rare.

Mikko looked into those large, bright eyes and thought she really was quite nice, for a mouse. And
since hed found no one else anyway, he said, All right, little mouse, you can be my sweetheart.
Oh, Mikko! she said happily. I promise you wont be sorry.
Mikko wasnt so sure, but he just stroked her fur and smiled.
When Mikko got home, his brother was already there boasting to their father. My sweetheart has
rosy red cheeks and long golden hair.
Sounds very nice, said the farmer. And what about yours, Mikko?
Yes, Mikko, said his brother, laughing. Did you find a sweetheart with a nice fur coat?
Now, Mikko didnt want to admit his sweetheart was a mouse. So he said, Mine wears a velvet
gown, like a princess!
His brother stopped laughing.
Well! said the farmer. It sounds like Mikkos tree pointed a good way too! But now I must test
both your sweethearts. Tomorrow youll ask them to weave you some cloth, then youll bring it
home to me. Thats how weve done it, and thats how we always will.
They started out early next morning. When Mikko reached the cottage in the woods, there was the
little mouse on the table. She jumped up and down and clapped her tiny paws.
Oh, Mikko, Im so glad youre here! Is this the day of our wedding?
Mikko gently stroked her fur. Not yet, little mouse, he said glumly.
Why, Mikko, you look so sad! Whats wrong?
My father wants you to weave some cloth. But how can you do that? Youre only a mouse!
That may be true, she said, but Im also your sweetheart, and surely Mikkos sweetheart can
weave! But you must be tired from your walk. Why dont you rest while I work?
All right, said Mikko, yawning. He lay down on a bed in the corner, and the little mouse sang him a
pretty lullaby.
Mikkos sweetheart will I be.
What a fine young man is he!
Cloth of linen I will weave.
Ill be done when he must leave.

When the little mouse was sure that Mikko was asleep, she picked up a sleigh bell on a cord and
rang it. Out of mouseholes all around the room poured hundreds of mice. They all stood before the
table, gazing up at her.
Hurry! she said. Each of you, fetch a strand of the finest flax.
The mice rushed from the cottagethen one, two, three, and back they were, each with a strand of
First they spun it into yarn on the spinning wheel. Whirr. Whirr. Whirr. Some worked the pedal,
some fed the flax, some rode around with the wheel.
Then they strung the yarn on the loom and wove it into cloth. Swish. Thunk. Swish. Thunk. Swish.
Thunk. Some worked the pedals, some rocked the beater, some sailed the shuttle back and forth.
At last they cut the cloth from the loom and tucked it in a nutshell.
Now, off with you! said the little mouse, and they all scampered back to their mouseholes. Then
she called, Mikko, wake up! Its time to go home! And here is something for your father.
Mikko sleepily took the nutshell. He didnt know why his father should want such a thing, but he
said, Thank you, little mouse.
When he got home, his brother was proudly presenting the cloth from his sweetheart. The farmer
looked it over and said, Strong and fairly even. Good enough for simple folks like us. And where is
yours, Mikko?
Mikko blushed and handed him the nutshell.
Look at that! said his brother. Mikko asked for cloth, and his sweetheart gave him a nut!
But the farmer opened the nutshell and peered inside. Then he pinched at something and started to
pull. Out came linen, fine beyond belief. It kept coming too, yard after yard after yard.
Mikkos brother gaped with open mouth, and Mikko did too!
There can be no better weaver than Mikkos sweetheart! declared the farmer. But both your
sweethearts will do just fine. Tomorrow youll bring them home for the wedding. Thats how weve
done it, and thats how we always will.
When Mikko arrived at the cottage next morning, the little mouse again jumped up and down. Oh,
Mikko, is this the day of our wedding?
It is, little mouse. But he sounded more glum than ever.
Why, Mikko, whats wrong?
How can I bring home a mouse to marry? My brother and father and all our friends and neighbors
will laugh and think Im a fool!
They might think so, indeed, she said softly. But, Mikko, what do you think?
Mikko looked at the little mouse, gazing at him so seriously with her large, bright eyes. He thought
about how she loved him and cared for him.
I think youre as sweet as any sweetheart could be. So let them laugh and think what they like.
Today youll be my bride.
Oh, Mikko, youve made me the happiest mouse in the world!
She rang her sleigh bell, and to Mikkos astonishment, a little carriage raced into the room. It was
made from a nutshell and pulled by four black rats. A mouse coachman sat in front, and a mouse
footman behind.
Mikko, said the little mouse, arent you going to help me down?
Mikko lifted her from the table and set her in the carriage. The rats took off and the carriage sped
from the cottage, so that Mikko had to rush to catch up.
While he hurried along behind her, the little mouse sang a pretty song.
Mikkos sweetheart will I be.
What a fine young man is he!
In a carriage I will ride
When I go to be his bride.
At last they reached the farm and then the spot for the wedding, on the bank of a lovely, swift-
flowing stream. The guests were already there enjoying themselves. But as Mikko came up, they all
grew silent and stared at the little carriage.
Mikkos brother stood with his bride, gaping in disbelief. Mikko and the little mouse went up to him.
Thats the stupidest thing I ever saw, said his brother, and with one quick kick, sent the carriage,
the rats, and the mice, all into the stream. Before Mikko could do a thing, the current bore them
What have you done! cried Mikko. Youve killed my sweetheart!
Are you crazy? said his brother. That was only a mouse!
She may have been a mouse, said Mikko tearfully, but she was also my sweetheart, and I really
did love her!
He was about to swing at his brother, when his father called, Mikko, look!
All the guests were staring downstream and pointing and crying out in wonder. Mikko turned and to
his amazement saw four black horses pulling a carriage out of the stream. A coachman sat in front
and a footman behind, and inside was a soaked but lovely princess in a gown of pearly velvet.
The carriage rode up along the bank and stopped right before him. Mikko, said the princess,
arent you going to help me down?
Mikko stared blankly a moment, and then his eyes flew wide. Are you the little mouse?
I surely was, said the princess, laughing, but no longer. A witch enchanted me, and the spell could
be broken only by one brother who wanted to marry me and another who wanted to kill me. But,
sweetheart, I need a change of clothes. I cant be wet at our wedding!
And a grand wedding it was, with Mikkos bride the wonder of all. The farmer could hardly stop
looking at her. Of course, Mikkos brother was a bit jealous, but his own bride was really quite nice,
so he couldnt feel too bad.
The next day, the princess brought Mikko back to her cottagebut it was a cottage no longer! It was
a castle with hundreds of servants, and there they made their home happily.
And if Mikko and the princess had any sons, you know just how they chose their brides.
Tips for Telling
In scenes between Mikko and the Princess Mouse, you can give the illusion of size difference simply
by looking up when speaking as the Princess Mouse, and down when speaking as Mikko.
Songs in a story can be tricky, especially if you dont sing very well and youre a grown man trying to
imitate a female mouse. I always preface this story by warning the audience that Im going to sing,
making a little joke of it. That way, when some kids just have to laughand I know they willthey at
least wont feel bad or get chastised by their neighbors for rudeness.
The textile scene offers special opportunities for audience participation. Of course, you can just have
the kids help you with the sounds of the spinning wheel and the loom. Or you can bring some kids
forward to be the mice and the spinning wheel and the loom, forming a couple of people
In the original folktale, there are two tests of the sweethearts. The first one is to bake a loaf of
bread, which has Mikko bringing home wheata luxury in that culturein contrast to his brothers
simple rye. Though you can easily insert this other test, I find it makes the story a bit long and
tedious, with a total of four visits instead of the optimum three. (A version of this test is on my Web
site, among Aarons Extras.)
The Storytelling Stone
A long time ago, a young man called Crow lived in one of the villages of the Seneca people. His
parents had died many years before and he had no one to care for him, or to cook and sew for him.
He lived at the very edge of the village in a small lodge made from bark and branches. His hair was
always a tangled mess, and his clothes were old and tattered cast offs he had been given in trade.
The village children were cruel and made fun of him because of the way he looked and because he
was an orphan. This was a time when people did not have stories to teach them how to respect and
care for others.
Young Crow was an excellent hunter with his bow and arrows. He traded the birds and animals he
killed for parched corn, other food and clothes.
As winter drew nearer, Crow had to go further and further into the woods to hunt. One day he went
further than he had ever been before. Eventually he came to a clearing where there was a large flat
smooth stone with another round stone sitting on top of it.
Crow sat on the flat stone and rested his back against the round one. He laid the birds he had killed
next to him. Then he reached into his buckskin pouch for some parched corn, and began to tighten
his bowstring.
Shall I tell you a story? asked a deep rumbling voice near him.
Crow got such a fright he nearly choked. He jumped up quickly, spitting corn from his mouth and
looked around but could see no one.
Whos there? shouted Crow. Come out and show yourself.
The clearing was silent. Nothing moved.
I must be hearing things, Crow said to himself. And now Im talking to myself too.
With a laugh, he sat down again and rested his back against the round stone.
Shall I tell you a story? asked the deep voice again.

Crow sprang to his feet and shouted Alright, thats enough. Show yourself now!

Again, the clearing was silent and nothing moved.

Then Crow looked at the round stone hed been resting against. He could see a face in it. He realised
it was the stones voice hed heard.

Who are you, and what are you? asked Crow.

I am Grandfather Stone. Ive been here since time began, answered the stone.

Shall I tell you a story? asked the deep rumbling voice.

What is a story? asked Crow. What does it mean to tell a story?

Stories tell us of all things that happened before this time, answered Grandfather Stone. Give me
a gift of your birds and I will tell you how the world came to be.

You may have the birds, said Crow.

He sat down in front of the stone. Its deep voice told him of a time before this one, how Sky Woman
fell to earth, how Turtle Island was made, and about stone giants. When he finished one story, the
stone told another and then another. On and on he went.

As the sun began to set the stone said, Thats enough for today. Come back tomorrow and I will tell
you more stories. But dont tell anyone about what youve heard today.

Crow ran back to the village. He managed to kill a few birds on the way to trade for hot food and
parched corn.

When he traded the birds with a woman in the village she asked him Why have you brought back so
few birds from your hunting?

Winter is getting nearer and its harder to find anything to hunt, answered Crow.

Early the next morning, Crow went into the woods with his bow and arrow. He hunted for birds and
then rushed back to the clearing.

Grandfather Stone, Ive brought you more birds as gifts, said Crow. He put the birds down on the
flat stone. Please tell me some more stories.

Crow sat down and the stone started telling one story after another until it was nearly nightfall. This
happened for many days. Crow brought back fewer and fewer birds to the village. The children of
the village were even crueler to him. They made fun of him and told him that now he wasnt even a
good hunter. One day Crow came to the clearing, placed his gift on the stone and said, Grandfather
Stone, please tell me some more stories.

But the stone answered, I have no more stories to tell. You have heard all that has happened before
this time. Now you must pass on the knowledge you have learned from the stories. You will be the
first storyteller.

You must tell others what you have heard, and also add stories of what happens from now on. The
people you tell will remember your stories. Some will remember better than others. Some will tell
different versions when they pass them on. It doesnt matter. The truths and lessons from the
stories will be remembered.

Thank you Grandfather Stone, said Crow. I will make sure the stories are not forgotten.

Crow went back to the village. He knew it was time to move on. The people here didnt respect him
and wouldnt listen. He collected his few belongings and left the village without telling anyone. No
one missed him.

Crow travelled far and eventually came to another village. The people welcomed him warmly. They
invited him to come in out of the cold wind, sit by the fire and share their food.

After he had finished eating Crow said, You have been so kind Id like to share something with you.

He began to tell the stories he had learned from Grandfather Stone. He told them of the time when
animals could speak, and when the turtle raced the bear.

That night the lodge house seemed warmer and the sound of the first storytellers voice could be
heard above the howling wind outside. People went to sleep dreaming of the stories they had heard.

The chief of the village sent runners to other villages, inviting everyone to come and hear the stories.
They brought gifts of food and clothing for Crow to thank him. A beautiful young woman came and
sat by him every time he spoke. She listened to every story. Many seasons passed. Crow stayed in
the village and married the young woman.

When he had shared all the stories with the people of the village and its neighbours, Crow and his
wife left and travelled to other villages further away, to tell the stories.

Eventually they came to the first village where he had lived before. The people didnt recognise him
in his fine clothes and with his beautiful wife.

The village chief welcomed them, inviting them to sit by the fire and share their food. Crow told his
stories. The people listened with their ears and their hearts.

Crow told them, You must not forget the stories and legends. You must pass them on to your
children and your grandchildren, and they must pass them onto theirs. We can never again forget
the stories and their wisdom.

And that is how it has been from that day to this. The stories from Grandfather Stone have been
handed down from generation to generation and storytellers are still honoured today by those who

The End

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Once upon a time...
On the banks of a great river in the north of Germany lay a town called
Hamelin. The citizens of Hamelin were honest folk who lived contentedly in
their Grey stone houses. The years went by, and the town grew very rich.
Then one day, an extraordinary thing happened to disturb the peace.
Hamelin had always had rats, and a lot too. But they had never been a danger,
for the cats had always solved the rat problem in the usual way- by killing them.
All at once, however, the rats began to multiply.
In the end, a black sea of rats swarmed over the whole town. First, they attacked
the barns and storehouses, then, for lack of anything better, they gnawed the
wood, cloth or anything at all. The one thing they didn't eat was metal. The
terrified citizens flocked to plead with the town councilors to free them from the
plague of rats. But the council had, for a long time, been sitting in the Mayor's
room, trying to think of a plan.

"What we need is an army of cats!"
But all the cats were dead.
"We'll put down poisoned food then . . ."
But most of the food was already gone and even poison did not stop the rats.
"It just can't be done without help!" said the Mayor sadly.

Just then, while the citizens milled around outside, there was a loud knock at the
door. "Who can that be?" the city fathers wondered uneasily, mindful of the
angry crowds. They gingerly opened the door. And to their surprise, there stood
a tall thin man dressed in brightly coloured clothes, with a long feather in his
hat, and waving a gold pipe at them.
"I've freed other towns of beetles and bats," the stranger announced, "and for a
thousand florins, I'll rid you of your rats!"

"A thousand florins!" exclaimed the Mayor. "We'll give you fifty thousand if
you succeed!" At once the stranger hurried away, saying:
"It's late now, but at dawn tomorrow, there won't be a rat left in Hamelin!"
The sun was still below the horizon, when the

Sound of a pipe wafted through the streets of Hamelin. The pied piper slowly
made his way through the houses and behind him flocked the rats. Out they
scampered from doors, windows and gutters, rats of every size, all after the
piper. And as he played, the stranger marched down to the river and straight into
the water, up to his middle. Behind him swarmed the rats and every one was
drowned and swept away by the current.
By the time the sun was high in the sky, there was not a single rat in the town.
There was even greater delight at the town hall, until the piper tried to claim his
"Fifty thousand florins?" exclaimed the councilors,
" A thousand florins at least!" cried the pied piper angrily. But the Mayor broke
in. "The rats are all dead now and they can never come back. So be grateful for
fifty florins, or you'll not get even that . . ."
His eyes flashing with rage, the pied piper pointed a threatening finger at the
"You'll bitterly regret ever breaking your promise," he said, and vanished.
A shiver of fear ran through the councilors, but the Mayor shrugged and said
excitedly: "We've saved fifty thousand florins!"

That night, freed from the nightmare of the rats, the citizens of Hamelin slept
more soundly than ever. And when the strange sound of piping wafted through
the streets at dawn, only the children heard it. Drawn as by magic, they hurried
out of their homes. Again, the pied piper paced through the town, this time, it
was children of all sizes that flocked at his heels to the sound of his strange

The long procession soon left the town and made its way through the wood and
across the forest till it reached the foot of a huge mountain. When the piper
came to the dark rock, he played his pipe even louder still and a great door
creaked open. Beyond lay a cave. In trooped the children behind the pied piper,
and when the last child had gone into the darkness, the door creaked shut.
A great landslide came down the mountain blocking the entrance to the cave
forever. Only one little lame boy escaped this fate. It was he who told the
anxious citizens, searching for their children, what had happened. And no
matter what people did, the mountain never gave up its victims.
Many years were to pass before the merry voices of other children would ring
through the streets of Hamelin but the memory of the harsh lesson lingered in
everyone's heart and was passed down from father to son through the centuries.