Pied Piper (novel)

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First edition cover (William Morrow)

Pied Piper is a novel by Nevil Shute, first published in 1942. The title is a reference to the traditional German folk tale, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin".

Plot summary[edit]

The story concerns an elderly Englishman, John Sidney Howard, who goes on a fishing holiday in France after the Second World War breaks out, but before the fall of France. Entrusted with the care of two British children, and overtaken by events, he attempts to return to England and safety.

His journey is hampered by the unexpected speed of the Nazi invasion of France, and by the fact that he continually finds himself entrusted with the custody of more and more young children. Eventually, he is stranded in Nazi occupied France and he is fully aware that, as an Englishman, he is an enemy to the occupying forces.

While attempting to get passage on a fishing boat, he and his charges are discovered by the Germans. However, in a final plot twist, the German commandant allows them to escape on the condition that they take his niece with them and send her to relatives in the USA. His niece is apparently orphaned and had a Jewish mother.

The tale is told by an acquaintance he meets in a London club.


The story was filmed in 1942 and again in 1990 as a CBS made-for-television film, Crossing to Freedom. Howard was played in the 1942 film by Monty Woolley and by Peter O'Toole in the 1990 film.