After the cellphones blasted a take cover warning last Saturday, I spent an anxious hour in my basement listening to the weather radio blare repeat sentences like wind rotation, large hail, damaging winds, flying debris, take cover. Wind rotation, large hail, damaging winds, flying debris, take cover. I hung on every electronic word, scanning each for news that this large and dangerous storm was breaking up. I visualized protective bubbles around the people I love, mentally checking off their homes and jobs as earnestly as saying the rosary. When it was over, both roads leading to our house were flooded. The roads dried finally, but the river is high and fast.
Weather is so unpredictable these days. I mean really, it snows in July in Hawaii and Venice has a tornado? Has that ever happened before?
Forces such as weather, disease, and famine test us externally, while forces of greed, envy, or fear most assuredly test us internally. We humans have always sought to make sense of our world and our place within this very unpredictable existence. This is one reason I love our cultural stories, especially fables, myths, and fairy tales. Many are how we came to be stories such as The Native American story of Nanabozho, the Great Serpent, and the Flood. And if you really take a good look, most tales are examples for leading good and fair lives so we get along in society, such as The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Others are cautionary tales that teach object lessons either blatantly or covertly such as The Pied Piper of Hamelin. This last story teaches the importance of living by your word and paying one’s debts.
The Rat Catcher Supreme
The Grimm’s Fairytale The Pied Piper of Hamelin tells the story of a rat catcher who was hired to rid the town of rats. Good at his job and highly recommended, he successfully ends the rodent problem in this town. But, and here’s where the tale takes a turn for the benefit of instruction, the greedy townspeople refuse to pay as promised. What else is he to do but return and lure all the children away? It’s said the Grimm brothers drew upon 11 different versions of this story to make their own.
Believe it or not, this tale is based on an actual occurrence in which most of the children in Hamelin disappeared. I came across many references to the whys and wherefores of how such a thing happened — a death metaphor for children dying from bubonic plague or other childhood disease, or a disease called Huntington’s chorea that makes people dance (as in the medieval Danse Macabre). I even came across one reference that says the kids went on a crusade to defend Christendom and never returned. The earliest reference is quite disturbing:
In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul on June 26, by a piper, clothed in many kinds of colours, 130 children born in Hamelin were seduced, and lost at the place of execution near the koppen.
Today is Rat Catcher Day. Pay your debts or keep your kids inside.
All things Grimm
My 100 things will focus on malapropisms and I’ll stick with it until I can’t find any more. From the French mal a propos (meaning inappropriate). Dictionary.com defines malapropisms as an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.
Here’s one for today:
The monster is just a pigment of my imagination. Figment
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