Origin of: "to pay the piper"?
- 1 decade agoFavorite Answer
"TO PAY THE PIPER" AND THE LEGEND OF "THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN"
In the year of the 700th anniversary of the German legend of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (1284-1984) it might be of interest to take a glance at how this folk narrative has also survived in the short form of a proverbial expression.1 In the German language we have the expression "Er ist ein chlauer Rattenfänger von Hameln" (He is a smart rat-catcher [pied piper] of Hamelin) or also simply "Ein Rattenfänger sein" (To be a rat-catcher [pied piper]).2 This phrase can be used and interpreted positively or negatively, just as the original legend itself actually portrays the pied piper as an ambivalent figure, both good and evil. As a rat-catcher he is altogether a benevolent magician, but as an abductor of 130 innocent children (young adults) he becomes malevolent and evil as the devil himself. Once the legend became popular in the Anglo-American world through Robert Browning’s well-known poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (1842),3 a similar phenomenon can be observed for the English language as well. The legend that was retold in Browning’s extremely popular poetic version resulted in the short proverbial expression "To be a pied piper" which is used to refer positively or negatively to various types of figures who want to bring people of all ages and walks of life under their spell. Such modern pied pipers could be politicians, leaders of religious sects, rock stars, teachers or whatever – but all attempting to lead people to some kind of goal.
In both German and English (and in most European languages for that matter) we find these ambigous connotations of the proverbial expression "to be a pied piper" or the mere title: "Pied Piper." But for the English language there is an additional curiosity that must be looked at, since many people connect the proverbial expression "To pay the piper" with the Pied Piper of the Hamelin legend as well. A check into the standard proverb collections reveals that this is actually a shortened version of such proverbs as "Who pays the piper, calls the tune" (1611), "Those that dance must pay the music" (1638), "He who pays the piper may order the tune" and "He who pays the piper can call the tune," for which 1611 is the earliest reference, but which are probably older.4
- Anonymous5 years ago
I pay with honesty & helpful information when I see a person who appears to be lost or hungry. The results are up to the person. I just make sure to give them clear & concise directions, rather than "guess" at where they might want to go to. I have taken some people to the transit center & made sure that they boarded the correct bus, then I gave the money to the bus driver & the driver handed them their pass to use on the bus. I tell the driver where the person wants to go & ask them to call out the stop for that person when they arrive! I learned that giving money is not a good idea & expecting employees to juggle the money issues between customers is an invitation for disaster. I don't think of it as "paying it forward" as much as simply being a "good citizen" in my community.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
The old childhood story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, who was promised payment if he rid the city of rats, and who, after the accomplishment of his task was refused payment. He then played his flute and summoned all the children away until the city coughed up.
Thus, you must always pay the piper.
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- vmmhgLv 41 decade ago
It comes from the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlin. After he charmed the rats away from the city the towns folk refused to pay him since the job was already done. So he charmed their children away and the town was devastated.
Read the story.
- Blunt HonestyLv 71 decade ago
The piper that runs the rats out of town for money. It's an old story about a man that can lure all the rats out of town with his music. The town refuses to pay him so he lures all the children out of town, and refuses to return them until he is paid. You pay the piper for the job they do so that you don't have to pay more later.
- BeechyLv 41 decade ago
Pied Piper. Folklore sez he came into town infested with a plague of mice, offered his services to whisk 'em all away with his magical flutey thing, played his tunes, did da bizz, got stitched up by the townsfolk who didn't cough up so dragged all the mice and their mates back into town and strode off into the sunset leaving them more up the creek than before. Or summit.
Er, oh - forgot about the children bit. Best ignore me, but still pay the plumber...Source(s): Moral of the story is - pay the plumber or he'll dump in your toliet.
- Anonymous5 years ago
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Funny that you ask; I did that VERY THING this morning, at the gas station. After I pumped my gasoline, I went inside to purchase a cup of coffee. While in line, I noticed a lady with three small children, come in and immediatly went to the "fast-food" aisle, where she picked out an assortment of food items for her and her kid's. I paid MY bill for the coffee, then gave the clerk enough money to pay for the food the lady picked for herself and her kid's. (I estimated that her food items wouldn't cost MORE than $20) The lady seemed "astonished" that some "stranger" would actually pay for her meals, and tried to get the clerck to reveal my identity, but he didn't. I must confess though, I didn't do this 'deed for her, I did it for me, because, it felt good, and I will do it again, soon. Thank YOU for asking, and sharing your experience's.
- 1 decade ago