This was originally written on Monday, January 12, 2009, as a fairy tale retelling for my creative writing class. I chose “The Pied Piper” as originally told by Robert Browning. The only rule was that it had to be told from a different character’s perspective.
Note: the italicized parts are from the original telling of “The Pied Piper”.
“The Pied Piper” – Originially told by Robert Browning
Hamelin is a town in Brunswick near the most famous of cities, Hanover, and on the southern side is the River Weser, broad and deep. It’s a pleasant place – or at least it was until the people of the town started to chase us ‘vermin’ out.
We rats aren’t so bad. You’d think that just because their dogs and cats attacked us and we fought back that we were the greatest criminals in the world. We were thieves too, but hey, a rat has to eat as much as anybody else does. But that didn’t seem to occur to those stubborn humans. They never stopped complaining about us. Every time us rats had a conversation we were squeaking ‘too loud’ and the humans couldn’t hear themselves think.
One day they must have really gotten tired of us, because all the townsfolk gathered up in a group and marched to the Town Hall. I watched from the front steps of the house my family had moved into and listened as they shouted at their mayor and their corporation.
“Tis clear,” cried they, “our mayor’s a noddy, and as for our corporation – shocking to think we buy gowns lined with ermine for dolts that can’t or won’t determine what’s best torid us of our vermin. You hope, because you’re old and obese to find in the furry civic robe ease? Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking to find the remedy we’re lacking, or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
I wasn’t worried, and neither was any other rat. Nothing they had attempted so far had gotten rid of us, and we weren’t going anywhere now.
Curious rat that I am, I snuck into the Town Hall and into the mayor’s office to eavesdrop on their newest half-baked plans. They talked and talked, but none of it was really relevant. (The mayor wanted to sell his ermine gown for a guilder, but who cares about those things anyway?) That’s when there was a knock on the door – and that’s when all of my poor people’s troubles began.
“Come in!” called the mayor, and I noticed then that he was a rather rotund man.
In through the door came the strangest figure I had ever set eyes on in all of my two years of life. He was dressed from head-to-toe in checkers of red and yellow, and though his skin was dark, his hair was blonde. His face was clean-shaven, quite unlike the rest of the people in the town, and his blue eyes were piercing though his face smiled. This stranger was tall and thin, and he was by far the oddest human I had ever seen. He was also the center of all our problems yet to come, little did I know.
“Please your honours,” he began, and then he told them that he was able to draw all creatures under the sun after him with a secret charm. I looked him up and down again noticed that a scarf, one that matched his bright coat, hung about his neck and tied to the scarf’s end was a pipe where his bony fingers kept straying.
“And I chiefly use my charm on creatures that do people harm, the mole, and toad, and newt, and viper, and people call me the Pied Piper,” I heard him finish.
This Pied Piper was bad news for me and all my fellow rats if he could really do what he said. I scurried out of the mayor’s office through a hole to warn my fellows, but before I had gotten halfway there, I saw the dreaded Pied Piper standing in the street, a smile on his face. Then, as I watched in fascinated horror, he raised his pipe to his lips and blew three shrill notes – and that’s when rats began pouring out of every house and every building.
There was a rumbling nise as all of the rats’ feet scampered over the ground, and I saw my very own brother go galloping past. I called out to him, but he didn’t turn back. I don’t think he ever even heard me. The Piper moved from street to street, still piping, and soon all of the rats in town were following him. The old, the young, the black, the brown, the big and the small trailed after him as if they heard nothing but the call of the pipe.
To me, however, the Piper’s music sounding like the grinding of a cider press, the scraping of a squeaky cupboard door, but the other rats ran after it without hesitation – and straight into the River Weser. That evil Pied Piper had drowned all of my friends, family and neighbors, and to make matters worse, the whole town set up in a cheer. They rang bells and yelled and hurrahed, and the mayor shouted, “Go and get long poles. Poke out the nest and block up the holes.”
I was mourning my family, my friends, and my whole people, when I heard that terrible Piper ask the mayor for his thousand guilders. That’s when the town’s troubles began, and a hint of a smile twitched my whiskers when the mayor and the corporation made up excuses to avoid paying their beloved hero.
“Come now,” cried the Piper. “I can’t wait. I have dinner in Baghdad tonight for having rid the Caliph’s kitches of scorpions.” His eyes darkened and his smile disappeared. “And folks who put me in a passion may find me pipe in another fashion.”
The mayor drew himself up at being threatened so and snapped at his seconds-ago hero, “You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst. Blow your pipe there ’til you burst!”
I watched as the Pied Piper stepped into the street again, and he piped another three shrill, sweet notes. And now from all the houses and alleyways, the townsfolk’s children came running, following the Piper’s strange music. When the Piper had gathered all the children around him, he piped them off towards the Weser, but just as he got there, he turned from the south to the west and to Koppelberg Hill.
“He never can cross that mighty top! He’s forced to let the piping drop, and we shall see our children stop,” cried the terrified parents, and I laughed a little to myself as a great cavern opened in the hill and all the children crossed inside.
Well – no, not quite all. There was one child, a lame one, who lagged behind and didn’t get to follow his playmates and the Piper into the hill.
Later on that poor boy would say, “It’s dull in our town since my playmates left! I can’t forget that I’m bereft of all the pleasant sights they see, which the Piper promised me. For he led us, he said, to a joyous land, joining the town and just at hand, where waters gushed and fruit trees grew, and flowers put forth a fairer hue, and everything was strange and new. The sparrows were brighter than the peacocks here, and their dogs outran our fallow deer, and honey bees had lost their sting, and horses were born with eagle’s wings. And just as I became assured my lame foot would be speedily cured, the music stopped and I stood still and found myself outside the hill, left along againt my will, to go on limping as before, and never hear of that country more!”
From that day forward High Street was renamed the Pied Piper’s Street, and no music was tolerated in that place nor merriment of any kind. It was a solemn kind of place. Anyone who played would face unimaginable punishments, I’m sure, but no punishment could be worse than the one I was left to endure alone.
I returned to Rat-Land after that disastrous occurrence to tell the tale to the rats in other places in case the Pied Piper made an appearance in their homes.
And so I told this story to my fellow rats. I said, “And, just before I left Hamelin, I heard one old man say, ‘So, Willy, let you and me be wipers of scores out with men – especially pipers. And, whether the pipe us free from rats or mice, if we’ve promised them aught, let us keep our promise.'”