Pied Piper Picked A Pepper Essay

1504 words - 7 pages

Robert Browning's poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child's Story" details the strange occurence in a town called Hamelin. This poem is a retelling of a popular piece of folklore about the real town of Hamelin in which children did actually disappear. Browning credits that disappearance to the character of the Pied Piper -- a figure wronged and who retaliates by taking children. In this essay, I aim to explore the depiction of the Pied Piper. He is a character that works on both the levels of child and adult. I believe that Browning is intentional with his descriptions of characters throughout, and I first want to detail Browning's descriptions of the adults and children in order to ...view middle of the document...

When the Piper takes the children out of Hamelin, he only takes children with "rosy cheeks and flaxen curls, / And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls" (ll. 204-205). The reader realizes that the robust, healthy children are taken because one lame child is left behind. The children are not given much of a voice in the poem. In fact, the only child to speak is the lame child, and he speaks in order to clarify where the children may have disappeared to with the Piper. I find these descriptions of the children interesting because Browning seems to hold some ideal of childhood: the children taken are ones that would have a greater influence and greater importance among the town as a whole.
I present Browning's descriptions of children and adults in order to lay a foundation for the most fascinating character in the piece: the Pied Piper himself. He fills some strange, other-worldly role in order to illustrate something for Browning. The Piper is a character with no absolute description. He is not properly grounded in the poem in the same manner as the adults in children. Rather, the Piper shifts between childlike descriptions and adult roles in a slightly uncomfortable way. The adults serve the purpose of playing out what happens when self-serving, greedy people refuse to carry out previously made promises. The innocent, idealized children are taken as a means of punishment for the wicked adults. But where does the Piper fit in the world of the poem? In order to better understand his purposes, readers must first start with Browning's description of the Piper.
When the Piper enters Hamelin, the reader knows nothing about his previous whereabouts. He arrives in the town in order to help with the rat infestation, but the Piper offers no explanation of who he is or where he comes from. Browning writes that the Piper is the "strangest figure" (l. 56). The Piper wears a "queer long coat" that is made "half of yellow and half of red" (ll. 57-58). "[T]all and thin," the Piper has "sharp blue eyes, each like a pin" (ll. 59-60). The Piper also has "light loose hair, yet swartthy skin" (l. 61). I want to first discuss interesting aspects of these descriptions before I continue. First, the Piper is presented as something other than human through Browning's use of the word "figure." The Piper is stripped of human qualities and immediately labeled as an other. His long coat further indicates his interesting role in the piece. Initially described as "queer," the most distinct aspect of the coat is that it is split into two colors. This description speaks to the Piper's position in the piece as a whole -- he is split between the adult or child identity. Furthermore, his blue eyes are reminiscent of the eyes praised by children of the time. The ideal child was blonde with curls and blue eyes, but the Piper distorts this idealized vision with his "sharp" eyes. The light hair typically admired among children is also distorted due to the Piper's...

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