History Repeated

Ezra Azra

© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra

"The Pied Piper of Hamlin" by Maxfield Parrish at the Pied Piper Bar in the Palace Hotel, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
"The Pied Piper of Hamlin" by Maxfield Parrish at the Pied Piper Bar in the Palace Hotel, San Francisco. 
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

That history repeats itself, is common knowledge. That a legend in one country was repeated in another far-away country, is most rare.

Comparable events that happened in the thirteenth century in Germany, and in the nineteenth century in South Africa, amount, virtually, to a repetition of history: the “Pied Piper” legend in Germany, and the legend of the Witch named Lwerng, in Zululand, South Africa.

In the City of Hamelin in Germany, a fourteenth century town record reads “It is 100 years since our children left.”

Also, in an old stone house in the City of Hamelin, there is an inscription, “A.D. 1284. On the 26th June, the day of St. John and St. Paul, 130 children, born in Hamelin, were led out of town by a pied piper wearing multicolored clothes. After passing Calvary, near the Koppenberg, they disappeared forever.”

The town of Hamelin in the year 1284 had been plagued by an infestation of rats. The many attempts by the citizens to rid the town of the vermin pests, had failed.

A man from another town came forward and offered to rid the town of the infestation if he would be paid a stipulated sum of money. The Mayor of Hamelin hired the man, on the spot. All the citizens agreed with the Mayor.

The man, dressed in multicolored clothes and a hat, walked through the City as he performed a lively dance melody on his pipe, a homemade musical mouth instrument.

The melody hypnotized all the rats in the town to follow and to dance with the piper. He dancingly led the rats to outside of Hamelin far away into a forest. All the citizens of the town followed at a far distance behind, some of them joyously giving in to the temptation to dance along to the distant piped melody.

When the piper disappeared into the forest with all the rats, the people stopped following. The piper’s melody was heard no more.

After a few minutes, the piper came out of the forest and informed the Mayor and all the people that the rats had been eaten by wild animals in the forest.

The Mayor and all the people were overjoyed. But when the piper asked for the payment agreed upon, the Mayor and all the people refused to pay.

They laughed and smirked at the piper, and said that since the rats would not be returning, the piper was welcome to live in Hamelin in a home that would be given to him, free of charge.

When the piper said he already had a home in another town, the Mayor and all the people of Hamelin shrugged and continued to refuse to pay the piper the payment agreed upon.

The piper returned to the forest. The Mayor and all the people returned happily to Hamelin and celebrated late into the night, feasting and dancing and cheering and playing loud music on so many different instruments.

It was a full moon all through the night and for the first few hours into the next morning. The joys of the celebrations were particularly enhanced by unseasonably warm temperatures and refreshing gentle breezes.

Too many citizens drank themselves drunk, and danced wildly and garishly, stark nakedly.

The celebrations ended at midnight. Most of the citizens went to bed; too many were content to sleep and snore on the ground under the cloudless night sky.

The piper, silently and secretly and surreptitiously and slowly, walked into the City of Hamelin. He was out to punish the Mayor and all the citizens for breaking their contractual promise to pay him to rid the City of all those vermin rats.

He played a rollicking ditty on his pipe as he walked through the City. All the children awoke from their sleep; and joyfully followed the piper, dancing and singing to the ditty. He led them in the direction opposite to the forest. When he reached the Poppenberg Koppenberg mountain far outside Hamelin, a magical door opened. The piper continued playing his rollicking ditty as he led the happily dancing singing children into the mountain through the magical door. When he and all the children were inside the mountain, the magical door closed.

The Mayor and all the people of Hamelin never knew what had happened to their children. From all the footprints on the ground, they guessed the children had reached the Poppenberg Koppenberg mountain.

The Mayor and all the people never knew of the piper’s role in the disappearance of their children. However, in their search for possible explanations, they, nonetheless, offered the piper ten times the money they owed him, if he would help them find and return their children.

The piper never came forward to accept the offer of ten times the original sum of money.

Within a year, the Mayor and most of the citizens of Hamelin, were so overwhelmed by guilty remorse at having dealt unfairly with the pied piper, that they went insane and changed into rats and fled into the forest where there were wild animals waiting to devour that cheater of a mad Mayor, along with those cheater mad citizens.

That happening in the City of Hamelin in the country of Germany in the year 1284, is an unsolved mystery, to this day.

That happening in the German City of Hamelin was repeated, mutatis mutandis, 544 years later, far away in another country: Zululand in South Africa.

In the year 1828, on the west coast of the Indian Ocean, King Shaka was supreme ruler of Zululand, a kingdom he had created by ruthless wars over decades. He had united all the independent Negroid Nguni tribes into a single nation. He named his mighty nation, Zulu. The meaning of the word ‘Zulu’ was ‘Heaven.’

Shaka was the first king of the Zulus. Like Saul, thousands of years previously in the Middle East, the first king of the Israelites, Shaka believed in consulting Witches to help him rule his kingdom.

The name of Shaka’s Witch was Lwerng. The name of the Witch king Saul consulted, is unknown.

Lwerng was much, much older than Shaka. After serving him loyally for decades, their friendship suffered a setback because Shaka refused Lwerng’s request that he discontinue his practice of killing all the children of the tribes he defeated in his wars of conquest.

Shaka refused to spare the children because he said that when the children became adults, they would want revenge for the death of their parents; and that by then he, Shaka, would be too old to defend himself.

Lwerng’s request did not arise from compassion for children. Over the decades, the deaths of increasing numbers of children were having adverse effects on her necromantic spells and potions. She informed king Shaka that in order for her witch spells to be successful, the air in his kingdom needed to be filled with the innocent actions of blameless children. King Shaka did not believe her; instead, he laughed and smirked at her, and contemptuously waved her out of his royal presence.

Lwerng became desperate. When she learnt of Shaka’s preparations of war against a tribe, she secretly rounded up the children and their mothers in that tribe. She offered her help to the men of that tribe, too; but the men declined her offer because the men believed it would be shameful of them to follow a woman.

Lwerng led the children and their mothers to hide in the Drakensberg Mountains, far to the southwest of Zululand.

Lwerng fled to the mountains because years previously, she had uncovered, in one of the spells she had conjured up at his request to help Shaka, that he should stay away from mountains. She had informed him of this mountain curse against him.

Shaka subsequently won the war against the tribe from which Lwerng had rescued all the children and their mothers. His spies eventually discovered what had happened to Lwerng and the children and their mothers. Shaka, remembering that mountains were unlucky for him, did not try to look for Lwerng in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Nobody ever found out what happened to the children, and their mothers, and Lwerng, at the Drakensberg Mountains.

The year Lwerng set about rescuing the children and their mothers was 1828. It was the same year Shaka was murdered by assassins paid by his brother Dingane.

Both first kings in their deaths were treated with ignominy.

Saul’s corpse on the battlefield was deliberately decapitated by the enemy; his head was never found. His headless corpse was nailed to a wall inside a place of worship owned by the enemy, where it rotted for days. His throne was not inherited by any of his children.

Shaka’s assassins disposed of his corpse so secretly, that, to this day, nobody knows where and how they did it. One popular belief, popular because the probability was common practice among warring peoples in Zululand in those times, was that the king’s corpse was abandoned where wild animals could easily devour it. King Shaka had no children to inherit his throne.

The great Shaka was forty-two years old when he died in a most demeaning way in Zululand. In the United States of America, 149 years later, the great Elvis Presley died at forty-two years old, in a most demeaning way.

For many years after Shaka’s death, Zulus, here and there, claimed to have bought necromantic spells and magical potions from a witch named Lwerng.

In modern Zululand, there are daily news items regularly of corpses being found missing organs which, allegedly, were removed for “traditional” cures. Witchcraft is officially recognized in modern Zululand as included in “traditional medicines.”

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