THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
Some critics have said that the “Mr Tambourine Man” is about drugs, but Dylan has always denied that. Other commentators have interpreted it as a prayer to the singer’s muse for inspiration, his search for transcendence, or a reflection of the audience’s demands.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” has also been interpreted as a symbol for a bringer of religious salvation or for the Pied Piper of Hamelin. This is the protagonist of a German legend that dates back to the Middle Ages.
A piper, dressed in multi-coloured (“pied”) clothing, was hired by the town to use his magic pipe to move all the rats out from the town of Hamelin, thus saving the people from an epidemic disease. When the citizens refused to pay for this service, he used his instrument’s magical power on their children and led them away as he had done with the rats.
This story spread as folklore and has appeared in the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, and Robert Browning, among others.