‘The Grimm Variations’ Episode 6 “Pied Piper Of Hamelin” Recap & Ending Explained

Pied Piper of Hamelin, by Brothers Grimm, originally a Germanic folk tale, was either way supposed to be a harrowing story about honesty and integrity, but The Grimm Variations presents a darker rendition that resonates with us even in modern times. Episode 6 is a testament to the dual nature of traditional morality and strikes as a bold commentary on gender roles and freedom in an authoritarian system. The previous week, I had a conversation with an elderly gentleman who thought our generation lives in a utopian fantasy and is more into idealism than practicality. While I might disagree with what he had to say, for some strange reason, the story of Maria in this authoritarian village reminds me of my conversation with this man.


Spoilers Ahead

What’s the plot about? 

Maria is a curious young girl in a village cut off from the outside world. The village is governed with an iron fist by the Grand Code, Maria’s grandmother. The rules laid down by the Grand Code are absolute and must never be broken. The old woman doesn’t even cut herself some slack from these rules and strictly abides by them. The Grand Code has even disallowed outsiders into the village and believes that only through regulations and discipline can they maintain their way of life. Even the education that children receive in this village adheres only to the employable skills required to run the village. Moreover, as soon as an individual turns seventeen, they’re disallowed from going to school and are supposed to start the job they’re assigned for the rest of their lives. As for Maria, being a naive young girl, she has a lot of questions about the world. She is detached from this authoritarian environment created and upheld by her grandmother. Regardless of her curious nature, like the rest of the villagers, she gives a lot of importance to her grandmother’s wishes. However, Maria doesn’t understand social cues, and the villagers view her as being quite blunt as well. 


Is the teacher in love with Maria? 

Maria is to turn seventeen in a few weeks, and the law would forbid her from attending school after that. Even though Maria doesn’t like going to school as their curriculum is repetitive for her, the Grand Code insists on her going anyway. Her teacher at the school is an older and quite narrow-minded man in this conservative village, but as messed up as it is, he is secretly in love with Maria, a minor girl. Maria’s beauty is known throughout the village, and likewise, the teacher is captivated by her beauty as well. The teacher himself finds his infatuation with Maria to be inappropriate, as she is his student. After he learns that Maria has been betrothed to Lucas, the village brute, his feelings begin to turn into a full-blown obsession. 

Why does the teacher enslave the Traveler? 

On a rainy night, a mysterious traveler visits the teacher, who is unwelcoming to the stranger. The Traveler asks him for shelter for the night, but the teacher, suspicious of the Traveler, turns down her request. To make him change his mind, the Traveler offers him one of her prized possessions, a painted portrait of lovers. The teacher, seeing it as a vile expression, is disgusted at the painting. He shames the Traveler for possessing such material and orders her to leave. The Traveler complies and leaves the teacher’s house. It is revealed only later that instead of letting the Traveler go, the teacher enslaves her and seizes her possessions. Given his obsession with Maria, the teacher starts to descend into insanity. He believes that these rare possessions that the Traveler brings with her would be able to make Maria reciprocate to him, but little does he know who the Traveler actually is. 


What happens when the teacher shows Maria the painting? 

The teacher tries to manipulate Maria into breaking her betrothal with Lucas by showing her the painting of the lovers, which mesmerizes her. This painting opens her mind to an expression she had never seen before. Maria becomes curious as to how the teacher came into possession of such an item that has been prohibited by the Grand Code, to which the teacher reveals that it was given to him by a traveler who had asked him for a place to stay. For Maria, the Traveler is everything she has not known and might never even know if she continues her life in this isolated village, which is why she is determined to meet the Traveler. It is also hinted that Maria isn’t the naive girl she is thought to be. Her curiosity leads to her manipulate the teacher and persuade him to let her meet the Traveler. She knows that the teacher would do anything for her reciprocation and would be gullible to even an ounce of validation from her. As a result, the teacher offers to arrange for her to meet the Traveler if she agrees to marry him. 

What happens when the Traveler plays the flute? 

In his basement, where the teacher has enslaved the Traveler, he comes across the Traveler’s most prized possession, a flute. The Traveler explains how the music produced by this flute can mesmerize listeners, stir the hearts of people, and even make one long for another. Even though the teacher doesn’t entirely believe in her claims, he orders the Traveler to play the flute the next day when Maria is supposed to visit him. The next day, Maria arrives and informs the teacher that it would be impossible for them to marry. However, she ends up sleeping with the teacher so that she can meet this mysterious Traveler. Following their intimate encounter, the teacher holds up his end of the bargain and leads her into the basement, only to find the Traveler already gone. Maria is disappointed by the teacher for having lied to sleep with her and returns home. 


After returning home, Maria hears the sounds of the flute and sneaks out of the house to follow the music. Meanwhile, the Grand Code is surprised to hear the music, and before she realizes it, Maria is already gone. None of the villagers had ever heard music in their lives; it was a tool of expressionism, and like all such things, even music was banned by the Grand Code. The music leads the girl through the forest to a nearby mountain, where she finds the Traveler, revealed to be the Pied Piper. The sound of the music turns Maria’s world into something she has never experienced before. 

Maria asks the Traveler to let her experience more beautiful things in the world, to which the Traveler warns her that there are even more ugly and dangerous things out there. Maria replied that even the ugliness of the world could be wonderful. Convinced that Maria is indeed prepared to see reality, the Traveler reveals her true form and turns into a cosmic entity. One might even agree that the Traveler indeed showed her the world the way Aladdin did to Jasmine, except maybe on a cosmic level. What Maria does see is the entire universe, including the Earth and the world’s future (even the First World War). The teacher tries to stop the Traveler from taking Maria away, but the Traveler explains that Maria is coming with her out of her own free will and nobody else should have a say in deciding what she really wants. 


The Traveler merges with Maria, turning her hair red and her eyes blue like herself, and teleports her to a European city in the present age. In the aftermath, Maria tells her story to a young girl, who is intrigued to hear this tale of wonders. Maria’s character in itself has been quite an enigmatic one. Throughout the episode, she seems to be dissociating from reality and even grows distant from her humanity; but on second thought, it might just be a result of systematic indoctrination and a lack of autonomy. The only world that Maria knew was the one that the Grand Code created for her. The painting opens a door to a world that she felt she belonged to. Strangely, her character reminds me of Bella Baxter from Poor Things.

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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