The Pied Piper of Hamelin & More on Disability in Literature/Folklore

More Examples of the Magical or Miracle Cure Trope

In my BR essay, I mentioned the miracle cure trope. I tried to broaden my scope beyond my own experiences of finding a Disney cartoon short ableist as a child, long before I knew the word “ableist.” Similar ideas and experiences inform a lot of my work, but I wanted to focus on the literary origins and historical theories of the Pied Piper legend. This fairy tale of hypnosis via a magic musical instrument also contains tropes common in the fantasy genre.

Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Christmas Miracle Cure

Often, these more recent, ableist stories were based on Biblical ones. An example I was familiar with as a kid in the ’90s was Amahl and the Night Visitors, a 1951 Christmas opera by Gian Carlo Menotti. In a story inspired by the Nativity, the protagonist, Amahl, is described as “a crippled boy.” He asks one of the Three Kings, Kaspar, for a cure for his disability. Kaspar, who is deaf or hard of hearing, does not hear him. Amahl gets his miracle cure, in many dramatic moments. David Patmore’s liner notes explain: “Dazed he understands that he can walk. As Amahl places his crutch in the outstretched hands of the Three Kings, they sing of his cure as a sign from God.” Amahl dances and sings about his magical cure as a Christmas miracle. I couldn’t find any other descriptions of the ableism here online, but I remember this opera and its miracle cure vividly. It’s ableist and uses disability as a plot device in multiple ways.

Connection to the Fantasy Genre in General

This section is adapted from a Twitter thread I wrote in December 2020. I wanted to add it here because of the dubious theory of the Pied Piper leading a Children’s Crusade.

More on Fairy Tales, Folktales, the Middle Ages, and Disability

Spoilers for Kristin Lavransdatter below:



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