This modernized and extended reimagining of the pied piper story draws many of its details from two main sources, “The Children of Hameln” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and mythology regarding the Greek god Pan. 1984, the year in which the piper appears in this version, is the first of many allusions to “The Children of Hameln,” which sets the piper’s arrival in 1284.
Often, multiple versions of a single fairy tale will share a number of phrases verbatim. This story follows that tradition, borrowing the words “a mysterious man appeared” directly from the opening line of “The Children of Hameln.”
This is the first reference to Pan, the Greek god of mountain wilds, shepherds and flocks, rustic music, and hunting. His name is thought to have come from an old Arcadian word meaning rustic.
Pan is said to have mainly resided in Arcadia, a region of Greece. There are a number of communities named Arcadia in the United States, but Arcadia, Tennessee, was chosen for the initial setting of this story due to its small size and rural aspect.
Syrinx was, in fact, a Canadian electronic music group from 1970 to 1972. However, in Greek mythology, Syrinx was a water nymph pursued by Pan. When Pan chased Syrinx, she transformed into a clump of reeds, from which Pan fashioned his famous pan pipes. Thereafter, his instrument was known as syrinx.
For this version, the piper’s famous pied cloak was changed to a patchwork poncho in order to make it better suited to 1980s fashion.
These are attributes with which Pan is often depicted or described.
This is another detail inspired by “The Children of Hameln,” in which the piper is described as “wearing a strange red hat.” However, it is also a subtle allusion to Peter Pan, another famous lurer of children connected to the Greek god Pan (by both name and his use of the flute or pipes).
In “The Children of Hameln,” the river is identified as River Weser. However, since Hameln, Germany, had been changed to Arcadia, Tennessee, the River Weser had to become North Fork Holston River, for the sake of consistency. Note that the most specific and realistic details center around the location of the town, suggesting that this town fully belonged to real world before the piper’s rats appeared and introduced aspects of the supernatural.
The skin he'd revealed when he raised up his patchwork poncho had been covered in thick brown hair, course as animal pelt, and on his feet, he work black wooden clogs that clicked against the stones lining the riverbank:
Pan was a satyr, with the tail, legs, and hoofs of a goat. This is the strongest indication that the piper shares not only Pan’s magical ability with pipes, but also his physical appearances (and perhaps genetic material).
Satan has often been linked to Pan, largely due to the goatish appearance with which both have been traditionally depicted.
Pan’s booming voice is said to have inspired intense fear in all around him. As a consequence, the English word panic comes from the Greek panikos, literally meaning “of Pan.”
This is another phrase taken directly from “The Children of Hameln.”
The earliest mention of the pied piper story is believed to have been on a stained glass window placed in the Church of Hamelin in the fourteenth century. The modern reconstruction of the window shows the abducted children wearing white, which is why the children wear white pajamas in this version of the story.
This is the same number of children the piper abducts in “The Children of Hameln.”
According to “The Children of Hameln,” the youngest child taken by the piper was four years old.
The names of the twelve children from Arcadia, Tennessee, who survived the initial journey with the piper were inspired by the names twelve of Pan’s children. Collectively referred to as the “Twelve Panes,” they were individually known as Eugeneios, Daphoineus, Xanthos, Phobos, Philamnos, Kelaineus, Omester, Argennos, Aigikoros, Argos, Glaukos, and Phorbas.
Reminiscent of the Cinderella Castle at Disneyworld and Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, the castle in miniature in which the piper resides pulls the abandoned twentieth century amusement park back into the realm of fairy tales.
This is the first direct reference to the figure of Pan, though his link to the piper has been foreshadowed throughout the story.
I was charged with smuggling the squalling infant away and leaving it in the woods near the edge of some town:
As a satyr, Pan was automatically associated with eroticism and rape in Greek mythology. Furthermore, this opens up the possibility that Eugene could literally be the piper’s son, abandoned at birth.
Pan was the son of Hermes, himself a patron of herdsmen, a guardian of flocks, and the inventor of reed pipes (also known as pan pipes and syrinx).