There was a city named Hamel that was plagued by rats. The people had nothing to eat that hadn’t already been gnawed on by rats. They couldn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of the rats. A ratcatcher came to town. He was dressed strangely, in such a way that everyone would remember. He said he could get rid of all the rats. He agreed to the price of one gros per head of the rats removed.
He told everyone to stay inside that night and he played a melody on his flute. All the rats began streaming out of everywhere. They streamed into the river and then into a whirlpool. The last rat was a giant, white rat, old with age, and the ratcatcher asked the rat how many rats there had been. There were over nine-hundred-ninety-thousand rats. When the ratcatcher went to collect his pay the person in charge refused because the ratcatcher had not kept the rat heads. The ratcatcher said the town’s heirs would pay.
That following Sunday when everyone went to church, they came home to find all of their children gone. There were only three left who could not follow the others for various reasons. They said the ratcatcher had come back and played his flute. The children followed into a hole in the mountain, which closed up after them and no one in the town could find them again.
Many years passed and someone told of a town in Transylvania where the people only spoke German and said they had come from Germany, but they did not know how they came to be there. There were those who supposed that these were the descendants of the children who had been taken away by the ratcatcher.
What I liked
I’ve heard the story of the pied piper many times. I’ve actually reviewed it, but not this version. He’s not considered “pied” in this story, “pied” meaning of multiple colors, like a calico cat. In the other stories, if he takes the children, it just kind of seems like he shows up, gets rid of the rats, then makes off with hundreds of children like he’s the ultimate child predator. In this story, he takes the children because the people of the town didn’t pay their bill.
While taking someone else’s children is dastardly, they should have paid their bill. We don’t often consider humans as repayment in the event of defaulting on a bill, but in this story, it kind of makes sense. In real life, these people would have had their houses, horses, and carts repossessed by the bank, or ratcatcher, as the case may be, and their children wouldn’t have been touched.
It also doesn’t seem like the ratcatcher did anything bad to the children. He just took them away to live somewhere else. Heck, maybe they were better off there.
What I didn’t like
I get it–none of us like paying bills, but if someone renders us a service, we have to pay them. If we get electricity, we have to pay the electric company. If we get an exterminator to come and kill our bugs, we have to pay him. I think it was underhanded and dirty of these people not to pay for a very valuable service they received. I’m sure there were people who ended up without kids who would have gladly paid this bill and agreed to it, but they weren’t involved in the agreement process. There were bound to have been some hard feelings in this town for a long time. I think I’d just move.
Pay your bills.
How would you feel living with the people in the town of Hamel after this event?
Do you think the people of Hamel should have paid for the rat removal? Why or why not?